Jim Shaddix

I Am Prayer!

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What does it mean to have your identity defined by a practice? Crying out to God regarding the oppression of his enemies, the Psalmist said, “In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer” (Psalm 109:4, ESV; emphasis mine). The footnote in my Bible says the phrase means “I am prayer.” I looked it up in the Hebrew, and that’s exactly what it means—I am prayer! In fact, the literal translation would be “I, prayer” suggesting an equation between the personal pronoun “I” and the noun “prayer.” The assertion that he is “prayer” is intended by the Psalmist to say that he takes refuge in God in prayer and commits his cause into His hands. The Psalter is evidence that the Psalmist was prayer. So what does it mean to be prayer?

What Does it Mean to Be Prayer?

To be prayer means to be so consumed by prayer that it permeates your very being. It grips you and you can’t get away from it. It enslaves you and you are its servant. Prayer has such a hold on you that you are at its bidding. You don’t use prayer; it uses you. You don’t practice prayer; it practices you. You don’t steal away to pray; prayer steals you away. To be prayer means that prayer controls you and your daily schedule. If and when your DNA is ever tested, the results indicate that you are a match with prayer.

To be prayer means to be so involved in prayer that people associate you with it. When your name is mentioned in a group, people think of prayer. As was the case with Praying Hyde, it becomes your first name. When people need someone to pray seriously and intently about some great cause or burden, they think of you. When people are searching for you, they look in the closet. When they see worn spots on the knees of your jeans, they know it’s not because you paid a lot of money to sport the latest fashion, but that you’ve been alone with the Lord.

To be prayer means to be so given to prayer that other priorities pale in comparison to it. It’s not merely the last thing you do each day; it’s the first. It’s not one among many things you do; it’s the thing you do. If you don’t accomplish anything else on your ‘to do’ list, you accomplish this. With King David you say, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4, ESV). For you, everything takes a back seat to prayer.

To be prayer means to be so abandoned to prayer that you lose yourself in it. Like David Brainard, you kneel early to pray only to rise and realize that the day is gone. While others get lost looking for a destination or reading a good book, you get lost in your closet. While others may become disoriented to their surroundings when they get up too fast, you become disoriented to your surroundings by staying on your knees so long. Lost, for you, is not a popular TV show or even an unanticipated state of affairs, but a destination defined by communion with God.

To be prayer means to be so dependent on prayer that it is more important to you than daily food. Your hunger pains are not satisfied with a quick snack, but a quiet place. While others spend their lives looking for three square meals each day, you spend yours with the Psalmist looking for three Gethsemanes: “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17, ESV). You never find yourself thinking you’re going to die if you don’t get something to eat, but only if you don’t get someplace to pray.

I want to be prayer.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at JimShaddix.com on August 12, 2020.

  • Jim Shaddix
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Jim Shaddix

Senior Preaching Fellow

Jim Shaddix (BS, Jacksonville State University; M.Div., D.Min., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ph.D., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, occupying the W. A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching. He also serves as a Senior Fellow for the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership, which exists to resource pastors in local churches. Jim has pastored churches in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Colorado, and also served as Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA. He is the author of The Passion Driven Sermon (Broadman & Holman, 2003), Decisional Preaching (Rainer, 2019), and co-author of Power in the Pulpit (Moody, 1999, 2017) and Progress in the Pulpit (Moody, 2017), both with Jerry Vines, 2 Peter and Jude (Broadman & Holman, 2018) with Danny Akin, Psalms 51-100 (Broadman & Holman, 2020) with David Platt and Matt Mason, both in the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series, and Expositional Leadership (Crossway, 2024 release). Jim and his wife, Debra, focus much of their attention on discipling and mentoring young leaders and spouses. They have three grown children and eleven grandchildren.

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