Family Prayers from Proverbs
for Wisdom, Wealth, & Wellness
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
For decades, those who fear God and place their faith in Him have been under concerted attack on multiple fronts. Islam is infecting the world with its violence and hatred. Feminists and homosexuals deny reality and attack anyone who exhibits the slightest common sense or ability to perceive the terrible effects that their philosophies have on families, communities, and individuals. Moral relativists celebrate every perverse and destructive behavior, while decrying all moral standards as oppressive. Lawyers, marketers, and politicians corrupt the truth and build careers on finding new ways to manipulate people into making counterproductive decisions.
The list goes on, but by far the most effective attacker is the one we have been battling for millennia: our own evil inclination.
We are fallen creatures. As such, it is no surprise that we find it difficult to keep our thoughts on the pure and beautiful, that we are unable to discern manipulation from exhortation, when we are bombarded day and night by cultural sewage. Our flesh is more than willing to absorb it all and make it our own.
As I contemplated these problems, several needs became apparent in my own life and the lives of my family members:
This small book is an attempt to address these needs.
The church that I attended while growing up was informal in its worship. Apart from a few visits to Catholic mass with my grandmother, my first real experience with a formal liturgy was at a Messianic Jewish congregation in my thirties. Although I have nothing against the way my childhood church ordered its services, I found that structured prayer provided much-needed support for my reserved personality. Public prayer never came easy to me. Having a formal liturgy as prompt gave me direction -- and a little courage as well. Paradoxically, sometimes a good, strong fence brings more freedom.
This idea of freedom through structure lies behind this book. Rather than restricting the Spirit, the call-and-response format of this guide allows each person to pray from the heart; if one is not led to pray on anything in particular, the printed prayers provide an alternative focus. It is my hope that the expectation of participation created by the structure of this guide will bolster the petitioner's courage to speak without fear when necessary or when prompted by the Spirit.
Solomon wrote, "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."
The language of these prayers may seem stilted to some. Our modern ears have become accustomed to informal speech in almost every venue. There may be a place for referring to God as "Daddy," but our default attitude toward the Creator and Judge of Heaven and earth should not be casual. The example given throughout Scripture is of caution in the presence of the Almighty, for we indeed ought to be very careful in how we approach Him. Despite the common platitude of "God knows your heart," the Deity seems to be quite particular about the attitude with which we approach Him. By employing formal language in these prayers, I hope to inspire a sense of awe and respect for God, especially in young children who, by their exposure to the world around them, are most at risk of taking the Almighty too lightly.
Solomon's writings contain wisdom in its purest, most concentrated form. As you read his Proverbs, you will discover that this wisdom represents a complete regimen of practical spirituality, with very little pie-in-the-sky theology. He advised the reader to study, pray, meditate, speak, and act in righteousness. In doing these things, the reader experiences wisdom and is transformed by it. Of course, prayer alone cannot fully transform an individual heart or mind, let alone those of an entire generation; if it could, why should God have bothered giving us the Law, the Prophets, and the rest of Scripture? He could have simply told us to pray and left it at that.
Prayer is important. Like exercise, prayer always benefits us, but exercise alone will not serve to maintain one's physical health. One must eat nourishing food, get sufficient rest, and do a variety of other things in order to stay healthy. Our spiritual health likewise depends upon a variety of inputs and exercises, including prayer.
At one time my regular practice was to read a chapter from the Book of Proverbs during our nightly family prayer time. If we could embed the scriptural principles of wisdom deeply enough in our minds, I believed, much of the rest of life's learning would take care of itself. Unfortunately, as my son entered college, my wife started her own business, and my own time grew more scarce, it soon became very difficult to coordinate our schedules. Our nightly time grew shorter--too short for the prayers and Proverbs together. As I felt that prayer was by far the most important aspect of our family time, praying together became the center of our nightly worship period.
Still, I did not want to abandon completely our reading of Proverbs. Over time, I developed a structured series of prayers and readings which fit satisfactorily into our new, shorter schedule. The result is the guide you now hold. The prayers in this book are my attempt to combine family prayer with meditations on wisdom in a fashion that makes the best use of limited time.
I primarily used three terms for Jesus in this book: Messiah, Word, and Yeshua.
I have chosen to use the Hebrew Yeshua instead of Jesus, which is an Anglicized version of the same name, because Yeshua is the name which He would have heard spoken by His family and disciples. I do not believe He is offended by "Jesus" any more than I am offended when a Spaniard calls me Yay or a Russian calls me Dzhay. However, I prefer to call Christ Yeshua for two reasons. First, it seems to me more respectful to attempt an accurate pronunciation. Second, it helps to bring us closer to the Hebrew cultural and historical context of the Scriptures. I am not what some would call a "sacred name" adherent; I do not believe that God requires us to use one--and only one--pronunciation for the name of His Son. Rather, I believe that using the Jewish Messiah's Hebrew name is more helpful to us and more pleasing to Him.
Wherever you see "Word" capitalized I intend it to refer to both the written Torah (Law of God), which was spoken to the Hebrews at Mount Sinai, as well as to Yeshua, who is called the Word of God. Individual prayers may take on different connotations, depending on which meaning you emphasize at a given moment. For example, when you read a prayer one time, interpret "Word" to yourself as Yeshua. When you read another time, interpret it as God's Law, and reflect on what it means for Yeshua to be the Word of God made flesh.
I do not want to leave room for any misunderstandings: Yeshua is the Son of God, the King and Messiah of Israel, who was miraculously conceived by a virgin through the direct action of God. He lived a sinless life, obeying Torah (the Law of God) in every respect. He was crucified on Passover day and rose from the dead on Firstfruits. No one throughout history has ever earned eternal salvation by keeping a set of rules, by offering animal sacrifices, or by being a "good person." The only means of eternal salvation that God has ever made available to mortal man is His grace, enabled by the redeeming blood of Yeshua, to forgive those who humbly throw themselves on His mercy, begging His forgiveness for their sins and sincerely repenting from sinful behavior.
Most of the Proverbs do not lend themselves well to prayer in a direct manner, and simply reading a chapter of Proverbs in a prayerful manner did not seem to me to be a useful strategy. Nor could I incorporate every lesson that could be drawn from the Proverbs into these prayers. Such a prayer book would be lengthy and dense, with multiple prayers for every day of the year! Instead, I attempted to isolate a handful of key lessons from each chapter of Proverbs and formulate three to four cohesive prayers from these. Most of the prayers in this book address these multiple points and are intended to create connections--some more subtle than others--in the mind of the reader. I hope that these connections will inspire in you a deeper understanding of the intended meanings within Solomon's writings and their relevance to our everyday lives.
There are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs, which conveniently corresponds to the maximum number of days in a calendar month. Consequently, your family could pray one chapter for each day of the month, starting again at the beginning of the next. However, for many families, there are two major difficulties with this approach: First, chapter thirty-one gets short shrift, since half the months only have thirty days. Second, when life's inevitable complications cause you to miss a day, you will miss praying that chapter. For most families, therefore, I recommend simply beginning at Proverbs One, whatever day of the month it happens to be, and praying each chapter as you are able. When you have prayed all thirty-one chapters, begin again as often as seems appropriate to you.
Most families will probably find that it works best to pray in a predetermined order, whether by age, clockwise around the room, et cetera. I think it is important that each person pray audibly if possible. If anyone--especially children and teenagers--is allowed to pray silently, he will frequently not be praying at all, but letting his mind wander, missing most or all of the benefit of prayerful worship and meditation on the Proverbs.
All of Scripture tells the story of God's relationship with mankind: how He creates, teaches, and disciplines us, and, ultimately, how He redeems us. Everything within it, from the Law to the Prophets to the Gospels, is about God's desire for a loving relationship with His people. These ancient writings are filled with assurances of His love for us.
How astonishing it is that this singular and unimaginably powerful Being wants to know me! The mere thought makes me humbled and not a little fearful. Without the written assurances of God's love found in Scripture, I would not dare to approach One Whose mere glance could return me to the void. By reading God's Word, and by internalizing the obvious love for us which God has inscribed on every page, I gain the confidence needed to address the Almighty in prayer. "Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you." (1 Chronicles 17:25). It is my wish that these prayers and Scriptures give you that assurance as well.
I pray that you and your family will be blessed by this small book.
May your house be filled with peace.