When asking Christians of different ages and spiritual maturity levels what they believe is the best way to grow as a Christian, a common answer is “pray and read the Bible.” That’s a good answer. Engaging the Bible and praying are the primary methods for developing a deepening relationship with God. While many tend to think of prayer and Bible reading as separate spiritual practices (e.g., first pray, then read the Bible), they can be even more powerful when combined into one practice of “praying Scripture.”
What do we mean when we say to “pray Scripture”? Evan Howard in his book Praying the Scriptures writes, “To pray the Scriptures is to order one’s time of prayer around a particular text in the Bible.” This can mean either praying the prayers of the Bible word-for-word as your own prayers, personalizing portions of the Scriptures in prayer, or praying through various topics of the Bible.
Are you ever unsure about what you should pray? Do your prayers become dull or repetitive? Do you feel like you’re praying “wrong”? Your confidence in your prayers will be strengthened when you pray God’s words. Praying the Scriptures allows you to use the words and emotions of the Bible to gain more confidence in your own prayers.
The Bible is full of prayers! From Genesis to Revelation there are biblical prayers you can pray to strengthen your spiritual life. These prayers express every kind of emotion and experience. The whole book of Psalms is a prayer book! By praying the prayers of the Bible, you identify with the biblical authors and are encouraged to allow God’s Spirit to shape you into the person he wants us to be. The prayers of the Bible, especially the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4), become your tutors to learn how to communicate with God. They are part of your conversation with God.
Not only can the prayers of the Bible be prayed, any part of the Bible can be used to communicate with God. As you read the Bible (stories, history, poems, parables, etc.) in the presence of God and pay attention to the Spirit, you will identify with passages that relate to your life, the world, and people you know. Over time, it will become natural to immediately turn these thoughts into prayer. Out of the thoughts you have as you read, you turn to God in worship, confession, thanksgiving, and petition for yourself and others. Your Bible reading becomes a conversation with God, a cycle of reading and prayer.
Another way of praying the Bible is to pray along the lines of a specific biblical or theological topic. You may feel like the Spirit is convicting you in a specific area of your life on which you need to focus your prayers. Areas could include worship, holiness, love, a life anxiety, a besetting sin, a need to grow in thankfulness, a desire to pray for someone who needs to deepen his or her spiritual life, a need to lament a deep loss. The topics, and the Bible’s ability to touch on those topics, seems almost endless. By looking up passages in the Bible on your specific concern and then praying through those passages over a given amount of time, you will find God’s Word working in and through you.