Remember Moses, Samson, and David? Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? These stories captivated us as children. They were ripping good tales. They captured our imagination and taught us morals.
But what value are they for us today? What help can they provide our youth apart from the role they played in their Sunday school years?
One answer is prayer. The stories of the Bible are ready material for confident and robust prayer.
I discovered this recently in a workshop with Lester Ruth, a professor at Asbury Seminary. He explained how a model for Biblical public praying always includes a retelling of Biblical stories. Often, before the request is made the prayer will recall the ways God has been active in the past. (E.g. Acts 4:24-30, Jeremiah 32:17-25, Nehemiah 9:5ff)
This retelling of Biblical stories, in a sentence or two, becomes the basis for the request. The story reminds the prayer of who God is and how he has worked in the past. It gives the prayer confidence that God – who is the same yesterday, today, and forever – will hear and answer.
For example, imagine praying for a troubled relationship. We might pray: God, you are a peacemaker. Just as you brought peace between Esau and Jacob – Jacob who deceived his brother and stole his birthright, we pray that you would bring peace in this relationship.
Or imagine asking for forgiveness: Gracious God, you forgave David after his sin with Bathsheba. Forgive us we pray for the ways that we have disobeyed you and hurt our family and friends.
Or imagine asking for God’s guidance: Faithful God, you led the people of Israel through the desert with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Guide us now by your Word and help us to follow you in the power of your Spirit.
This can be done with virtually every Bible story and most every request. (If you can’t pair up a request with a Bible story, chances are that it might not be an appropriate request.)
When we pray this way we see that we are a part of God’s grand story. We acknowledge that the God we worship and pray to is the same God who worked in the lives and situations of all the Biblical characters. Praying the stories gives us great confidence in God and assures us of his continued work in our lives.
In worship over the next few weeks, consider the prayers spoken. Think over the prayers that you lead with your youth. Are Biblical stories included? Do the prayers model this practice for the youth? When we include Biblical stories in our prayers we make the years of Bible lessons relevant and meaningful for today.