Praying the Scriptures

Throughout my life, I have had seasons of rich prayer. God was working in my heart and I was seeing answers left and right. Prayer felt as natural and vital as breathing. I have had other seasons when praying felt impossible, in which “rich” is not a word I would’ve used to describe my prayer life. My mind would wander, and answered prayer seemed more like a myth. 

If I were, to be honest, I would have to say my current experience feels more like the second example. With everything that my wife and I are working through I find myself easily distracted and emotionally drained. To intentionally work through this, I have started to use a method of prayer that God has greatly used in my life.

Praying the Scripture

Praying through passages of the Bible, mainly Psalms, has been a method of prayer that has helped me. It helps keep my mind engaged and my heart fixed on Jesus as I pray. Practically speaking it’s pretty simple. You just read a line or verse of Scripture then pray about whatever comes to your mind. The benefits of using this prayer method are numerous, but let me list a few that I have personally experienced. 

Praying the Scripture Gives Words To My Heart

I am not a poetic guy. I often struggle to find words that express my heartfelt adoration of God. Enter the Psalms. Often my heart will be heavy and praying through a Psalm of lament (like Psalm 13) gives me the words to express what is on my heart. In his fantastic little book, Praying the Bible, Donald S. Whitney said “So basically what you are doing is taking words that originated in the heart and mind of God and circulating them through your heart and mind back to God. By this means his words become the wings of your prayers.” (Whitney, Donald S.. Praying the Bible (p. 32). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

Praying The Scripture Has Led Me To Pray About Different Things 

Praying through passages of Scripture has often led me to pray about things that are not right in front of me, but still need prayer. The other day I was praying through Psalm 53 and verse four says “Will evildoers never understand? They consume my people as they consume bread; they do not call on God.” This verse brought to my mind all of the people who are exploited, consumed, and persecuted and how desperately they need our prayer. So I prayed through prayer guides from the Central Valley Justice Coalition (they work to end human trafficking in the Central Valley) and Remember (an organization that works with persecuted Christians around the world.)

Praying The Scripture Has Led Me To Pray Differently About The Same Things

There are many needs I am confronted with (like the salvation of my children) that I pray for regularly. When we have regular things that we (rightly) pray a lot about, our prayer often sounds like we are reading God our spiritual grocery list and we become unmotivated to pray. But praying for the same thing in new ways can make your prayers come more alive. Psalm 145 was again helpful in praying for this oft-repeated request in a new way. Verse four says “One generation will declare your works to the next and will proclaim your mighty acts.”  So I prayed that I would faithfully declare God’s saving work to my children and they would call upon his name to save them. 

Praying The Scripture Has Helped Me Pray About Sin

In many Psalms, the writer is praying for victory in a physical battle. Ephesians 6:12 tells us we no longer wrestle with flesh and blood. So when I pray through a Psalm that asks for victory in a physical battle I pray for victory in a spiritual battle. When I read psalms like 68:21 that say “Surely God crushes the heads of my enemies” I ask that God would crush the head of my apathy. 

It’s important to remember that while we are praying through passages of Scripture we are not necessarily claiming Scriptures as promises that are not promises. We are simply using the language of the Bible to bring things to mind and inform how we pray. This is not a magic formula to get more answers to prayer. If you commit to praying this way, you will probably experience answers to prayer, but that’s because you are praying, not because using the language of the Bible unlocks an extra door in the floor of heaven. The primary goal of praying through Psalms is PRAYING, not Bible interpretation. (I am in no way downplaying proper Bible interpretation. That is 100% vital.) If something comes to your mind as you are praying through a Psalm that has nothing to do with the historical and grammatical context of that Psalm, it’s perfectly right to pray for it. Donald Whitney has another very helpful illustration of this in his book. Psalm 23:3 says “He renews my life…” The context of this is talking about renewal for a believer. But if God brings to your mind a lost person, it would be perfectly right to pray that God renews their spiritual life from life to death. 

Praying the Psalms has been one of the most transformative things I have done. If you would like to learn more about it, I can’t recommend Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney enough. If you feel stuck in your prayer life, or don’t even really have a prayer life, this is a great place to start. Just click the link and you can get a copy of it. He also has put together a helpful guide that breaks up the book of Psalms over one month. You can check that out here. 

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