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This book was written to accomplish four goals:
- To encourage study of Jesus's words outside his story
- To show how to use his words to inspire prayers
- To provide a selection of prayers on different topics
- To offer a template for creating more specific prayers.
This work extends Pastor Rick Warren's 40 Days of Prayer concept for the specific purpose of studying Jesus's words. In his book, Pastor Warren suggested using the Lord's Prayer as a template for prayer in general. This book extends his idea by using all of the Savior's words in Matthew as a template for a set of prayers—based on my fifteen years of studying Christ's words in the original Greek. Unlike Warren's work, however, this book is designed both for study and for use as a prayer book. It offers you a guide to how you can use Jesus's own words to inspire your own prayers.
On this book's left-hand pages, I show each of Jesus's spoken words in the Gospel of Matthew. On the facing right-hand pages, each line of Jesus's words inspires a line in a prayer. The verses from Matthew are shown in their original order, chapter after chapter, without their narrative. While we normally hear Jesus's words in the context of his story, by taking his words out of that story we can hear them in a new way: as if they were addressed to us personally today, not just to those around him then.I separated these verses into forty days for easier study.
I used the chapter divisions and the logical breaks between topics within a chapter to create the separate prayers. Each prayer focuses on a specific topic. That topic was suggested by the content of Jesus's words. In the original story, his words may have addressed a number of different situations, but taken together they seem to offer a unifying theme. I used these themes to create the resulting prayers. Prayers average about a page and a half each. The shortest is one verse. The longest is three pages.
These prayers are just one way to interpret the Lord's words as prayer. They are generalized and written in the first person plural, like the Lord's Prayer itself. However, they are designed to inspire more specific prayers relating to your own unique situation.
These prayers can be used to give you words when you cannot find your own, or they can aid you in discovering your own words to express your own thoughts and feelings. This book can be used in several different ways. Each of these approaches offers different advantages.
- You can study the left-hand pages with Christ's words by themselves, ignoring the facing prayer. This approach allows you to rediscover what Christ said. By reading his words without their narrative, you can ponder his message for us today.
- You can read one verse of Christ's words and then the corresponding line of prayer. I think of this as the “call and response" method. Christ is calling to us with his words and we are responding directly to him with our prayer.
- You can also read one line of Christ's words, read a line of the prayer, and then imagine your own prayer: the “personal call and response." You are responding directly to him with your own words, beginning by changing the plural “we" pronouns to singular “I" pronouns. This book's format leaves plenty of spaces between lines and in the columns to write down your prayers if you so desire.
- Finally, you can use this work as a prayer book alone, concentrating on the right-hand prayer pages and using the index to find the prayer(s) you need. Using the book in this way, you or your prayer group will find that prayers adapted directly from Christ's words are powerful tools for addressing many different issues. There are prayers for healing, prayers for wisdom, prayers against self-deception, prayers for guidance, and so on.