Many people pray. Many people pray biblically informed prayers. Praying, or praying biblically informed prayers is different from praying Scripture.
Every Christian should pray Scripture. Unfortunately, most Christians, while they know how to pray, don’t know how to pray Scripture.
Praying Scripture is using God’s Word directly to inform and form the content of prayer. It’s praying the Scriptures word for word, praying the Scriptures word for word along with reflection on the words, or praying the themes of a Scripture passage in a manner that sticks close to the text. According to Christian spirituality professor, Evan Howard, “To pray the Scriptures is to order one’s time of prayer around a particular text in the Bible.”
Here are ten reasons why we should pray Scripture:
- Jesus prayed Scripture.
When Jesus was dying on the cross He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46. It’s a direct quote from Psalm 22:1 and illustrates how Jesus obviously read, understood and prayed Scripture as it related to His situation or circumstance.
- The Israelites and early Church prayed Scripture.
The people of the Old and New Testament times prayed Scripture and meaningfully applied it to their contexts (e.g. Nehemiah 9:5-37, Acts 4:24-26).
- It enables us to enter into the Story.
Praying Scripture personalizes the Word. When we personalize the Word, His Story becomes our story. As this happens, we find our parts in the drama which in turn enables us to act out the roles designed for our lives.
- It focuses the mind and heart.
Praying Scripture changes us. It captures our imagination, forms our identities, directs our desires, and shapes our habits. When we pray Scripture, we don’t have to ask, “What should I pray for next?” or “What words should I use?”
- It provides meaningful content for prayer.
Sometimes our prayers are trivial or trite – the same tired ritualistic phrases. Praying the same old prayers the same old way mummifies prayer. When we pray Scripture, it provides substance, form, and a wide range of subject matter for our prayers.
- It strengthens interaction with the Scriptures.
Reading Scripture and praying Scripture go hand in hand. Bible reading enables us to pray more vividly and expressively. The more you pray Scripture the more you’ll read Scripture, and the more you read Scripture the more you’ll pray Scripture. Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology Andy Naselli says, “But if we pray Scripture as we read through the Bible, that will force us to pray about a rich variety of issues in scriptural proportion.”
- It cultivates breadth and depth in our prayers.
To pray Scripture we must read and reflect on Scripture. The process of reading and reflecting on Scripture cultivates breadth and depth in our prayers. Left to ourselves, our prayers have a narrow focus, but the Scriptures open us up to many things we can and should be praying. As author and teacher, John Piper reminds us, “If we don’t form the habit of praying the Scriptures, our prayers … eventually revolve entirely around our immediate private concerns, rather than God’s larger purposes.”
- It kindles love for Jesus.
Jesus is the theme of the Bible. Praying Scripture draws us closer to Jesus. Love is fostered by proximity. The nearer we get to Jesus, the more we love Him. Ray Ortlund says, “I have learned to see the Bible as kindling for a holy fire. Scripture is meant to inform us, and thus to inflame us. It is meant to illuminate our thoughts of God, and thus to ignite our affections for God.”
- It aids Scripture memorization.
Praying Scripture involves repetition. Repetition is essential for memorization. As we pray God’s Word back to Him, it helps lodge His Word in our hearts and minds.
- It aligns us with God’s will.
We can’t go wrong when we pray Scripture. Praying Scripture is praying truth and praying truth unites our hearts with God’s heart. Therefore, when we pray Scripture we won’t be self-deceived because Scripture brings us in line with God’s will.
Are you in a prayer rut? Do your prayers lack life? Do you have the best of intentions to pray, then when you get started, your mind wanders or you fall asleep? You can pray for hours if you pray Scripture. Open your Bible to the Psalms, start reading, pause at each verse, engage your sanctified imagination, pray the verses back to God, and without fail, you will pray dynamically and productively.
Recommended Resource: The Abide Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2020. [This Bible includes prompts or sidebars to help you pray Scripture]
© Scripture Union Canada 2020
2 Corinthians 4:5