During the fall of 2011 through spring of 2012, I had the privilege of being on a pastoral search team. As the resumes came in, we prayed for each as a group as well as by ourselves at home. As I read each resume, and when I got to watch the person preach online, I asked the Lord how to pray for them from what he knew of them. He brought to mind Psalm 139, which has been a life psalm for me, because it reminds me of all that God knows about me, inside and out.

Then He would give me an idea of how I can pray for others in ways that reminds me of how he knows them in all the ways I cannot.

Because I am showing the method that was brought to my mind to use, I won’t present the whole psalm. There are, I think, six sections to the psalm:

  1. Introduction to God’s knowing me, vs 1-4;
  2. Impossibility of escaping his care vs 5-12;
  3. His creation of me, vs 13-16;
  4. His thoughts toward me, vs17-18:
  5. My hatred of wickedness, vs 19-22: and
  6. A request, vs 23-24.

So I will give the lead verse 7or each.

In order to facilitate the method, I wrote the whole Psalm 139 NIV, out like this: `

You have searched _____, Lord, and you know ____.
You know when ______ sits and when ____ rise[s];
you perceive ______ thoughts from afar.
You discern ______ going out and _____ lying down;
you are familiar with all ____ ways.
Before a word is on _____ tongue
You, Lord, know it completely.
You hem ____ in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon ____.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for ____,
to lofty for ____ to attain. Psalm 139:1-4 NIV

Where can ___ go from your Spirit?
Where can ____ flee from your presence? v 7

For you created ____ inmost being;
you knit ____ together in _____ mother’s womb. v 13

How precious to ____ are your thoughts, God!
vast the sum of them. v 17

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from ____, you who are blood thirsty! v 19

Search ____, God, and know ___ heart;
Test ____and know ___ anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in ___,
and lead ___ in the way everlasting. vs 23-24

Then I typed it out, changing the verbs from 1st person to 3rd person as needed (i.e., in verse 1 from rise to rises). I made multiple copies for my use as I prayed for the candidates. I also use it to pray for my family and friends, church staff, elders and missionaries. I write each person’s name in the first space on the first verse and sometimes elsewhere in the psalm, and use the appropriate pronouns in the other spaces.

I find now that I often start praying for people using this method, even if I don’t write their names on the form. I am reminded each time of all God knows about them – that I can’t possibly – and it frees me to commit them to his knowledge, care and love for them.  

I’ve also found that praying other psalms (even hymns that are written in first person), can be changed to the name of someone else.  Try it with Psalm 23. One of my favorite hymns for this is “Be Thou My (___) Vision”.  It’s a joy to sing it as a prayer for someone.