I have heard that an effective prayer is born in heaven, passes through our hearts, between our lips, and goes back to heaven. We want to pray for the things that God desires to do and for the people and causes he loves and values. What better way to do this than to pray Scriptures as our own prayers? I know at least three ways to do this. These are good ideas for praying in small groups and teaching others prayer skills.
1. Pray Scripture as Your Words.
In this approach, you simply use a passage already written in first person that addresses God. You read and pray the words as if they are yours. Here is an example:
Psalm 119:65-72 ESV:
You have dealt well with your servant,
O LORD, according to your word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
All of Psalm 119 can be used in this way. I often use these stanzas in my praying.
2. Personalize Scripture.
In this method, you personalize a passage by replacing pronouns with “I,” “me,” “my,” and such. Or you can also personal by placing names of persons you are praying for into the passage. You are not re-writing scripture and you are not teaching the passage to someone. This is for your worship use. Here is want I mean by using a passage to pray for someone. As you pray this passage, replace “you” and “yours” with the name of the person for whom you are praying.
Ephesians 1:15-23 ESV:
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Wouldn’t you like to know someone was praying that for you?
3. Let Scripture Inform Your Prayer.
Recently Dr. Don Whitney of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary released a book about praying Scripture. The book is Praying the Bible. You can read and hear more about this approach from Dr. Whitney himself with five daily video clips that help you understand the concepts. You can sign up for those here.
Here is the gist of what Dr. Whitney is telling us: read a Bible passage slowly and devotionally, letting the text suggest prayer ideas to you. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will bring ideas related to the text to your consciousness. At other times, the Holy Spirit may prompt you with a prayer idea from the text that is completely unrelated to the text. Again, you are not teaching this text; you are using it for ideas for praying to God. I recently experienced this praying Psalm 23 in this manner.
Psalm 23 ESV:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
As I prayed using this approach, God used a word to remind me of two of my students who needed my prayers. One is a new believer and the other is a budding worship leader. Verse 1 helped me pray for my needs, not just my wants. I acknowledge that God has met every need I have ever had. With verse 4 in mind, I thanked him for giving me greater spiritual strength to face new challenges. I asked him to help me live fearlessly, regardless of my circumstances. I closed the prayer with verse 6, rejoicing that one day I will enter God’s heavenly presence to live with him forever.
This form of praying scripture has captured me. It has changed my praying and refreshed it. Every time I pray this way, God opens up new things to be praying for. My abilities to praise God and thank him have grown each time I pray like this. I recommend all these approaches but I encourage you to explore this one in particular.
Scripture: Read Psalm 119:105. If God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, what does this say about using scripture in our prayers?
Dig Deeper: Watch the videos with Dr. Whitney to learn more and read his book, Praying the Bible.
Walter H. Norvell is a resident fellow with B.H. Carroll Theological Institute and serves on the faculty of Williams Baptist College in the Department of Christian Ministries. He blogs The 1-Minute Sunday School Trainer at www.WalterNorvell.com.