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Bible Engagement Blog


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Why Pray Scripture?

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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.

  1. 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?”

  1. 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.

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.

  1. 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


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Praying the Scriptures

Do you sometimes feel like God doesn’t hear your prayers? Are you praying the same hackneyed supplications over and over again? Do you lack confidence when you pray? Are you sometimes unsure about what to pray or how to pray in certain situations? Are your prayers mainly about your family, your friends, your health, your work, or your wealth? Would you like your prayers to be more effectual? Do you want to pray in line with God’s will? Do you want to release the power of Scripture into your everyday life? If you answered yes to any of these questions then maybe it’s time to broaden the scope of your prayers – to discover how your prayers can be renewed and revived through praying the Scriptures.

Praying the Scriptures is using God’s words to form our prayers. It’s praying His Word back to Him. Specifically, praying the Scriptures is using the words, phrases or themes of a Scripture passage to guide, shalarge_four-prayers-for-bible-readingpe and give language to our conversations with God. It’s done by praying a Scripture text word for word as one’s own prayer, by personalizing a Scripture text, or by turning our thoughts and feelings about a topic/theme of a Scripture passage into prayer.

Reading the Scriptures and praying the Scriptures should happen together. When we pray the Scriptures, we know we’re in alignment with God’s will. When we’re in alignment with God’s will, His Spirit directs and informs our prayers. Here’s an example of how one might read and pray Psalm 23 in a personalized way:

Scripture – The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Prayer – Lord, thank you for being Jehovah-Raah, my Shepherd. Because you’re my Shepherd, I don’t need a thing. You intimately take care of everything. Please watch over my life and the lives of my family members today.

Scripture- He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Prayer – Lord, thank you for giving me opportunities to rest. Sometimes I’m too busy for my own good and too preoccupied to see your beauty around me. Help me be still and know that you are God. Please rejuvenate me today.

Scripture – He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Prayer – Thank you Lord for your guidance. You steer me along the path of righteousness. True to your name, you keep me on the straight and narrow road that leads to life. And you do it all for your glory.

Scripture – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, l fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Prayer – Lord even in the bleakest circumstances you are by my side. What a relief to know that when I’m down, you are with me. So why am I anxious? There’s no need for me to be afraid because I’m safe and secure in you.

Scripture – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Prayer – Thank you Lord. I’m never forsaken. You faithfully provide for me, even in difficult times. It’s remarkable. You serve and honour me when I should be serving and honouring you! And more, you do it in front of my enemies.

Scripture – You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Prayer – Who am I that you are so mindful of me? I’m blessed from the tip of my head to the soles of my feet! Thank you, your blessings aren’t limited, day in and day out, they keep on coming.

Scripture – Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Prayer – Your love is amazing! Wherever I am and wherever I go, you keep on chasing after me. You are good and your love endures forever. Today, tomorrow, and throughout my life, your grace and mercy is with me. And when I leave this life you’ll still be there, loving me forever. Thank you, you truly are my Shepherd. Because of your great love, I have everything I really need. Amen.

Reading the Scriptures and praying the Scriptures should be a continuous cycle in our daily devotions. Why not do it now? The psalms are a great place to begin, or go to a portion of Scripture you’re presently reading, and pray it back to God.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Praying the Bible

Prayer, in most cases, has fallen on hard times. When a local church advertises a concert with a well known singer, the auditorium is full. When that same church advertises a prayer meeting, only a few show up!

Why do we struggle to pray? Maybe because when we do pray, we pray out of the natural desires of our hearts.

Prayer birthed in a me-centered heart does not touch the heart of God. For prayer to be effectual, we must pray what’s on God’s heart. And how do we know what’s on God’s heart? By reading/reflecting on His Word.

Prayer and Bible reading/reflection go hand in glove. “The Word is not only the centre of our listening; it is also the centre of our response” Mariano Magrassi. To pray right, we must pray the Word. There are no shortcuts to true prayer. Prayer that moves the heart of God is prayer that’s birthed, fueled and sustained by the Word of God.

Are you praying the Bible? If not, the scope of your prayers are limited by your feelings and perspectives. And prayer rooted exclusively in an individual’s experience may not be prayer at all.

Why do we struggle to pray? Maybe because we’re weak. Maybe because we don’t really know what to pray or how to pray (cf. Romans 8:26).

It’s a cyclical problem. We want to pray, but don’t know how to pray because we aren’t contemplating/meditating on the Word.

For prayer to take-off, it must first be grounded in the revealed Word. When prayer is grounded in the Word, it gives prayer wings to fly.

Tragically, for so many of us, prayer remains earth-bound because it’s tied to the vagaries of our carnal hearts. For prayer to take flight, the Holy Spirit needs to pray in us and through us. This happens when we’re praying the Bible.

Why do we struggle to pray? Maybe because our theme is so limited. We struggle to pray because it’s all about us.

When Christ died on the cross for our sins and we embraced His forgiveness by faith, we died to the old self. The old man/woman is now dead! “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” Galatians 5:24 (NIV). Why then, do we continue to pray self-seeking requests?

Here’s the good news for those wanting to grow in prayer: We cannot enlarge upon the prayer themes found in the Bible. Everything we need to be prayer warriors, is found in the Word! The scope and depth of God’s Word is beyond measure. Study the Word and you’ll have more than enough content to pray without ceasing!

Why do we struggle to pray? Maybe because we try to go it alone with our own thoughts and aspirations.

There’s a place for individual prayer, but not for individualistic prayer. Those who are in Christ are part of the Body of Christ. Our prayers are only tiny fragments of the prayer of the Church. And the fragments of prayer that make up the prayer of the Church is only true prayer when it lines up with the Word.

To pray selflessly, to pray the prayer of the Church, we must pray in the context of community. Prayer is effectual when we pray in one accord, i.e. in unity (cf. Matthew 18:19). That’s why there should always be another praying with us. And that other is Christ – the One who is the Word of God (cf. John 1:1-2).

Prayer is stimulated by the Word and inspired by Christ. Remarkably, God’s Word is something we receive and also return to God. How can this be? How can words that are not our own become our prayers? By someone else praying on our behalf. By the One who is the Word interceding for us!

All told, when we’re praying the Bible, we’re praying in the name of Christ. The Word belongs to us through Him. So when we’re praying the Bible, we’re praying prayers from His heart. And when we’re praying prayers from Christ’s heart, we delight God!

© Scripture Union Canada 2016


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Bible Engagement and Prayer

Bible engagement and prayer go together. We should read the Word with thought given to prayer and pray with thought given to the Word.

Maybe you’ve asked, “How do I pray according to God’s will?” When prayers are informed and fuelled by God’s Word, they will be consistent with His plans and purposes.

Here’s a simple three step method (the 3 R’s) to help you pray according to God’s will:

  • Read Scripture
  • Reflect on Scripture
  • Respond to Scripture (pray)

I’ve used the 3 R’s for decades and it works brilliantly. Once I’ve read a portion of Scripture and spent time digging into the text I take the truths that the Holy Spirit has illuminated and pray them back to God. When I do this I find my prayers come alive. There’s something special about praying God’s Word back to Him. It’s real and relevant – never rote.

When the Scriptures are the content of our prayers they guide the way we pray. Our natural tendency, when our prayers aren’t directly informed by the Scriptures, are to mainly pray “God bless me and my family” or “Please help me” prayers. But when the launch-pad for our prayers are the Word, they incline us to pray all manner of prayers: petition, thanksgiving, adoration, entreaty, praise, intercession, declaration, formation, celebration, spiritual warfare, healing, and more.

That’s not to say that the Bible is a “prayer book”. It isn’t. Nor is it to say that the Psalms or the many prayers in the Bible should be the main source for our prayers (even though they provide tremendous frameworks for prayer). But it is to say that when we read and reflect on the Word it gives us glimpses of God that help us to align our hearts with His heart. Then, when our hearts are aligned with God’s heart, we pray according to His will.

* Recommendation: Inspiring Prayer is a great primer for prayer – a 54 page Scripture booklet from SGM Canada, for less than a dollar!

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5