Praying the Word means reading (or reciting) Scripture in a spirit of prayer and letting the meaning of the verses inspire our thoughts and become our prayer. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find instances of God’s people “praying the Word” by quoting Scripture in their prayers.
Our life should be soaked in God’s Word, so it is only natural that our prayers be filled with it too. In doing so, we can experience numerous benefits to praying the Word. For example, it helps keep our prayers in scriptural proportion. “We may tend to pray about the same few issues over and over and over,” says Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology Andy Naselli. “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
To help you get started, here are four suggestions for how to pray using Scripture:
1. Recognize the Context
Read several chapters or verses before and after the passage to ensure you understand what the passage is about.
2. Select Applicable Passages
Some parts of a passage will be more useful for your own prayer than others. Consider, for example, David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 17:16 – 27. We’re not kings over Israel, yet like David we can say, “Who am I, LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” and “There is no one like you, LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears” (verses 16, 20).
3. Pray from Your Perspective
When we pray a passage, the perspective might differ from that of the original speaker or writer. For instance, David prayed, “You, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him” (1 Chronicles 17:25). While God has not promised to build us a house like David’s, he has promised that in his own house are many rooms and that he is preparing a place for us (see John 14:1 – 4). We have to be careful about twisting the texts in a way that transforms their meaning. But when we pray Scripture we can include our own context in a Biblical way.
4. Personalize Your Praise
One of the best uses of praying Scripture is to expand our methods for praising God. By personalizing a passage, we can make almost any passage of Biblical adoration our own.
Ways to Incorporate the Psalms Into Our Own Prayers:
One of the most obvious ways to pray Scripture is to pray the prayers found in Scripture. The Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible, are worthy of particular attention.
When it comes to prayer, a primary stumbling block is the idea that when speaking to God we should be original and impromptu, that our prayers should be spoken “from the heart” and done without preparation. But when we look in the Bible we find Christians praying the Psalms. For example, in Acts 4:24 – 26, the believers pray Psalm 2. Even Jesus himself prayed using the Psalms: His dying prayer on the cross was a quotation of Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (see Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
Use the “Three R’s” Method
Ben Patterson recommends an approach to praying the Psalms that can work for other Bible passages: Rejoice, Repent, Request.²
To pray using Scripture, ask the following three questions:
1. What about a passage gives you reason to rejoice, to give thanks and praise?
2. Is there something about this passage that reveals sin in my own life that should lead me to repentance?
3. Does the passage lead me to make a request of God for myself or others?
Pray with Jesus
The German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that when we pray Scripture, we are praying with Jesus: All prayers of the Bible are such prayers which we pray together with Jesus Christ, in which he accompanies us, and through which he brings us into the presence of God. Otherwise there are no true prayers, for only in and with Jesus Christ can we truly pray. If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ.³
Following the example of Christ and the early church, praying the Psalms can help us focus on God rather than on our own need for self-expression. Other examples are found throughout the New Testament, such as —
Ephesians 1:16 – 23; 3:14 – 19
Philippians 1:9 – 11
Colossians 1:9 – 14
1 Thessalonians 3:11 – 13
Hebrews 13:20 – 21
Revelation 4:8, 11; 5:9 – 10, 12 – 14.
Praying through Scripture can be a helpful way to ensure our prayers are shaped by God’s Word. Try using one of the above techniques the next time you are in God’s Word.
¹Andy Naselli, “12 Reasons You Should Pray Scripture,” Themelios, 38, no. 3 (November, 2013).
²Ben Patterson, God’s Prayer Book (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2008).
³Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Eberhard Bethge, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1970).
Article drawn from articles in the NIV Lifehacks Bible ebook
The NIV Lifehacks Bible ebook offers practical and achievable tools to integrate spiritual habits into our busy, technology-centric, 21st century life. Includes 365 common-sense articles on foundational topics such as prayer, self-reflection, character formation, and fasting, as well as advice and helpful tips for building habits around these disciplines. Learn More
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