A few weeks ago, a friend from church plopped down on my sofa as we started our bi-weekly time of discipleship together. She recently came to faith and is still learning the basics of Christianity. It's always a joy to relive the excitement of the gospel through new believers, and I found myself getting so excited for her. There is so much of the Lord for her to discover and enjoy. What beauty and peace is ahead!
As she sipped her water, my friend explained that she doesn't feel comfortable reading the Bible on her own and has never prayed in public. I asked my friend if she had ever heard of praying through the Bible, and she looked at me with a blank expression. "Never," she responded.
Praying Scripture is not only one of my favorite ways to pray, it's also one of my favorite tools to share in discipleship. I firmly believe that whether you are a new believer or have been in the faith for thirty years, praying Scripture will bring life and power to your prayers.
What is it?
Praying Scripture is using the words of the Bible to inform our prayers. In other words, when we pray through the Bible, we speak God's Word back to Him. We see this done throughout the Bible, as men like Nehemiah and Jonah prayed Scripture in their times of trouble. We also see this done by Christ himself on the cross when He prayed Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (ESV).
Why pray through Scripture?
Praying through the Word gives us a greater understanding of Scripture as we slow down to meditate on it. It keeps us theologically grounded and gives us time to think on God's Word as it dwells deeply within our hearts. It helps us set our minds on things that are true, not on our ever-changing feelings (Philippians 4:8).
Often when we pray on our own, we pray for the same blessings, topics, and fears over and over again. The problem is not that we pray persistently; it is a sign of great faith to continually bring our needs before the Lord (Luke 18:1-8).The problem is that we get stuck in praying only for ourselves and our own needs. Our prayers begin to look more like mindless repetitions than communing with the almighty God.
When we use Scripture to pray, it not only gives us words for our emotions and leads us in truth, it also reminds us to pray for others–for believers in prison, the poor, and injustices around the world. Instead of praying based solely on the things we can see, we pray for God's glory and global mission through the lens of Scripture. In the Bible, we find a bountiful resource to pray through as it joins us with the prayers of saints throughout history.
How to pray Scripture
If you've never prayed through the Bible before, the book of Psalms is a great place to start. This is because the Psalms are, quite literally, prayers and songs to the Lord. To pray through Scripture:
- Pick a Psalm or section of Scripture to pray through. Read it all the way through. Look up any words that you don't understand, and make sure you know what the passage means. Use a trusted study Bible to help you understand what the passage meant to its original hearers.
- Read it again, this time more slowly.
- Pause after every section or verse to pray, using its words to inspire and inform your prayer. Don't rush onto the next verse, but spend time thinking about the verse. Look for ways the verse encourages you–to worship God for who He is, to confess your sins, to pray for a need in your own life or in the lives of those around you, or to thank the Lord for His Word and for the blessings found in Scripture.
Here is a case study using Psalm 67 as our example. We begin by reading the Psalm, making sure we understand its words, phrases, and ideas. Then we go back and read it more slowly, stopping regularly to pray.
"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah"
Lord, we love You. You are beautiful. In You, all blessing and treasure is found. Just as the Psalmist prays, would You be gracious to me and my family? Would You show us Your favor and shine Your face upon us?
"That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations."
God, may Your name and Your gospel be known to the ends of the earth. Lord, rise up and save the nations! Would You give me someone to share the gospel with? Send missionaries to the ends of the earth.
"Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you."
Lord, would You be praised within our home? Would You bring revival within our churches and cities? (Spend time praying that you would honor and praise God in everything you do. Pray for your family, local church, city, and nation.)
"Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth. Selah"
Lord, we joyfully praise You! May more and more people come to know You! You judge the world fairly. (Use this as a time of confession for unrepented sins.)
"Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!"
Again, we cry out to You Lord, this time on behalf of our unbelieving friends and family. (Spend time interceding on behalf of friends and family who don't know the Lord.)
"The earth has produced its harvest; God, our God, blesses us."
Lord, You have blessed us. Thank You for saving us. Thank You for providing food for me to eat and a roof over my head. Thank You for all the blessings You have provided. (Spend time thinking through specific blessings God has given you.)
"God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!"
Lord, You are good. You are a kind Father who longs to give good gifts to his children. You will bless us, and the ends of the earth will fear You. Use me to spread Your gospel to the ends of the Earth. We love you, Lord.
By using Scripture to inform our prayers, we use God's words and speak them back to Him. God promises that his Word never returns void, and praying Scripture is a beautiful way to know God's heart and pray in accordance with God's will. It guards our theology and helps guide our wandering hearts. May you be strengthened in prayer and in your love for His Word!
For more information and tools for praying Scripture, listen to Episode 55 "Praying Scripture" of the Daily Grace Podcast or the Praying Scripture resources from the Daily Grace Co.