The Most Powerful Prayer Book

“King David in Prayer” (detail) Pieter de Grebber [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wished that someone might just tell you what the most effective prayer book is out there? Let’s acknowledge that there are literally thousands and thousands of published books on prayer, not to mention all the material one can find on the internet about prayer. But if we do not have time to read all those books, or even a handful of them, is there maybe one single book we could turn to that would give us all the guidance and insight we need to pray effectively? Thankfully the answer is yes.

But, before we reveal the big secret, let’s consider a few aspects about effective prayer. 

When we take the time to pray, one of the most important blessings we are seeking is simply to know Truth. Ironically it was Pontius Pilate who demonstrated to us man’s desire to know the Truth. For it was he who asked Jesus Himself, “What is Truth?” (John 18:38) We humans want to know the truth about the world, about eternal life, and most especially about ourselves. This is one of the most important reasons we seek the truth in prayer.

Now we are also well aware that the most powerful way for us to pray is to pray with the guidance of the One our Lord Himself promised to send after He Himself left us.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:7-8, 13)

So Jesus references in truth, the reality of sin, righteousness and judgment.

The Holy Spirit will convince us of our need for a Savior, and then He will show us the path of transformation and salvation through righteousness.

Before revealing the greatest prayer book of all time, we should also bear in mind the instructions, provided by the Apostles Paul and Jude, about how we are to make our prayer most effective. This is no surprise as it is exactly what Jesus has already told us:

“Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:20)

So now that we understand that the Holy Spirit is our guide if we wish to discover the truth, and that it is praying in the Holy Spirit that will provide us this insight about ourselves and our place in eternity, what book can we turn to in order to pray this way? 

The best book we could hope to find is the very one Jesus Himself used for His own prayers.

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7)

And just what prayers and supplications is Paul referring to—they are the Book of the Psalms.

For Jesus Christ Himself also prayed in the Spirit, and He did so from the very depths of His human experience. Yes, Jesus is God, but He was also fully human, and He experienced the full range of human emotion… desire, despair, fear and even the burden of sin, ours not His own.

We understand that the Psalms are largely attributed to David, but it would be a misunderstanding to see in them merely a collection of written poems or prayers. The Psalms actually represent the entire spectrum of human experience, and they are a constant cry to the Lord, whether in joy or in anguish, to reach out and save His people—namely us.

It is much more accurate to refer to the Psalm as cries of the heart, and this is the very essence of prayer. We are not always fully in touch with our greatest desires, and we seldom dwell in the depth of our Spiritual nature, even when we kneel to pray. But we are not to worry:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

To pray the Psalms then, is not about reading words, or about dwelling on our immediate circumstances. We must remember that all the circumstances in our life are both known by God and will ultimately be used as part of His overall plan for our life, whether they initially appear to us as good or bad. The greatest difficulty most people have with prayer is that they fail to see how every single event in their life is actually a spiritual event. Nothing is out of God’s constant work for our sanctification, but we must understand that even our trials are meant for our good. We need to start asking ourselves a different question in our prayers. Rather than praying: “God can you change this set of circumstances for me?” We need instead to pray: “God, how can I learn to love you more through this somewhat confusing set of circumstances?” 

Our growth and transformation in Love is the only reason we are here in this life, and we do ourselves a great disservice if we miss any opportunity to grow through all our circumstances.

Praying the Psalms is about allowing ourselves to experience and express the deepest desire of our heart, the desire to love, which is praying in the Spirit. Yes, we read the words, but they are an expression of something much deeper welling up from deep within us. They were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and they are the means the Spirit uses to pray though us, if we allow Him.

Here are just a few Psalms that might help us gain a deeper sense of how the Spirit might work to bring us to the truth about ourselves and about God’s unconditional Love and mercy.

Pray (slowly) Psalm 51 or 102 in the morning.

Pray (slowly) Psalms 90 or 91 in the afternoon.

Then, pray Psalm 23 in the evening.It is always good to identify Psalms that seem to fit the situation you are in at any given time. But be sure to take the time and make room in your heart to allow the Holy Spirit to pray these cries of the heart through you. You will be challenged to be a better person. You will find healing and comfort. But no matter what your circumstances, you will come to know the Truth.

God Bless

Copyright © 2019, Mark Danis





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About the Author

Mark Danis

Mark Danis, OCDS, is co-host of the weekly radio program, Carmelite Conversations, which aired internationally for six years on the Radio Maria network. The program focuses on the method and blessings of contemplative prayer practiced in the in our busy day to day lives. Episodes can be streamed at http://www.carmeliteconversations.com.

Mark's primary ministry is providing teaching and spiritual direction in contemplative prayer and removing the obstacles to prayer. He is grounded primarily in the teachings of the Carmelites, most especially St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

Mark is a popular speaker and often gives large-group presentations and retreats on Prayer and Carmelite spirituality. He also writes a weekly reflection on prayer for a large nation-wide prayer community, and he leads a weekly prayer group focused on the Teresian Method of Prayer. Mark's most recent appearance was at the 2018 OCDS Congress where he delivered a powerful message to more than 400 Secular Carmelites.

Mark attended St. Michael’s college in Winooski, Vermont, where he received his undergraduate degree in English Literature. He later received a masters degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

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