Psalm chapter 23
1The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
Part 1 – praying back God’s Word for myself
What you’ll see next is an example of what I often do in prayer – praying back to God what He’s said to me in His Word given to us. This is in no way meant to replace or even supplement Scripture but rather using Scripture as a means of facilitating prayer. Since prayer is what I’m commanded to do at and for all times and with and for all peoples, including myself (see Philippians 4:6-7).
The Lord is my Shepherd – O Father, thank You that You are my shepherd, not just their shepherd or even our shepherd – but my shepherd! Thank You that You see me here in the dust and know every detail of what is going on in my life. Thank You that You do provide for me and proclaim peace for me.
I have all that I need – Father, even though I know this to be true, I don’t really believe it all the way down to the soil of my soul today. Thank You that You extend loving-kindness and patience towards me even in my unbelief in how You have provided all that I need. Please help me conquer discontent and to trust You here while my mind tries to tell my heart that this will never be enough because I will never be enough.
He lets me rest in green meadows – Rest, Yes, Lord, that’s what I need right now here in the dust of all this swirling around me and threatening to overwhelm me in the pain and frustration – You tell me that You have rest for me, please help me to quiet my heart and mind and settle in here with You in this green meadow in the rest that only You can give. You have and You will provide what is needed when it is needed, I don’t have to be wearing myself out trying to make things happen. I trust You for rest now and trust You to help me keep resting later today.
He leads me beside peaceful streams – To be honest, Father, these streams don’t look very peaceful – they look dried up and gone to nothing but dust but I choose to trust You that You will give peace when I choose to abide in You. Thank You that nothing is outside Your control and command. Thank You that even the wind and waves obey Your voice – please help me to do the same, especially that still small voice whispering peace now to my heart and mind.
He renews my strength – O God, You’ve done this so many times for me already – thank You! And thank You that You know that I surely need fresh strength again today and then the hope of the same for tomorrow. Thank You that You don’t just leave me here in the dust to try and make it to the end of this task but that You stay and You strengthen in all ways. Your peace brings joy for strength in ways that nothing else can.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His Name. – Father, that You would have a plan and then guide me along it every single day – that’s more than I can understand! Thank You for steadily loving me, even when I don’t choose Your way. Thank You that all of this is for Your purpose, for Your honor. Please help me to make wise choices that do honor Your Name and help others to know You. Please help me to want nothing more or less than to honor You in all of my ways today and again tomorrow.
And onwards goes how I might approach praying back God’s Word to Him today from a set of verses. Of course, praying back verses to God will look different for each and every one of us because each and every one of us is uniquely crafted in His Image for His glory and the good of His people. Many times I’m surprised by how God speaks to me through His Word in the act of praying back verses, be they familiar verses or not. But the fact that conviction (and hopefully, confession and change!) always accompanies the act of praying back Scripture to God isn’t surprising. Yet it’s always comforting to know that the Holy Spirit is alive and at work – thanks be to God for such a gift of His dynamic Word powerfully used for good by the Holy Spirit!
Even now, I am surprised yet again by how much lighter everything feels to my heart and mind now from doing this little exercise for and with you. Our God is so very gracious and kind and all that my heart longs to know and rest in. He takes my little and returns it as much in His goodness which is where even the little came from in the first place!
Praying back isn’t reserved for Psalm 23 or for me or for today. It isn’t limited in any way except in whether I choose to do it or not. Rather, praying back gives freedom and forgiveness, rest and release, peace and (recognition of) provision, and all that which my soul longs for but can never obtain by itself. Because praying back realigns me to where I should remain – here in the quietness of sitting at Jesus’ feet where the world fades away and love flourishes.
Stay tuned for Praying back Part 2 – praying God’s Word for my friends and family
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Stay tuned for Good Ground, Volume 2 coming Fall 2022, also from Northeastern Baptist Press! (and for something else new also coming soon from Northeastern Baptist Press…)
Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022.