How do we read the Bible? Pray it!
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18
Prayer is something that comes easy to me. My husband will be the first to tell you I over communicate. When he asks me the simple, “how was your day?” question, I’ll include every detail about what I ate for lunch, who texted me, and why I chose one coffee shop over another. With God, I think He wants us to communicate more than we think. He wants “all kinds of prayers and requests.” I’ve heard that people who pray for the little things tend to be more grateful. I’ve seen that to be true in my own life. When I pray for a shaded parking spot in the summer in Tennessee, I’m so grateful when I see God answer that prayer! Sure, it’s a small thing, but it instills gratitude in me.
There have been times in my life though, when I don’t know what to pray for. Maybe I’m overwhelmed with the complexities of life, maybe I’m unsure of what to ask for because I’m not God and I don’t know what to request. Maybe, the situation feels hopeless or uncertain, or maybe I just don’t know what words to say. You’ve probably been there too. This is when we turn to the Word of God to guide us into prayer.
Praying scripture can take on many more forms than we might think. There is more to it than just praying a passage of the Bible word for word.
There are times when a passage might really resonate, and we might use it as a guide for our prayers.
It’s easy to apply this concept to a psalm. Psalm 1, for example, says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” To turn this passage into a prayer, I might pray, “Lord guide my steps so that I don’t stand in the way that sinners take, protect me and help me to keep good and godly company, and Holy Spirit help me to delight in God’s way and will, direct my thoughts so that I meditate on His Word day and night.”
Prayer can be like this, but it can also be more specific and we can pray any passage in the Bible.
Here’s another example, but with a narrative styled passage. I’ve been reading through 1 & 2 Kings. 2 Kings 4 tells the story of Elisha instructing the widow to borrow vessels from her neighbors. Her husband had left her with a significant debt that she couldn’t pay, and she had been told her children would be taken as slaves to pay it. But God fills the vessels with oil supernaturally, allowing her to pay her debt, providing for her abundantly, allowing her to keep her children and restoring peace in her life.
After reading this passage, I think of God’s provision and how He is able to supply us with everything we need.
To turn this narrative passage into prayer, I would pray and thank God for ways He has provided for us. I might also ask for provision in a specific area in my life.
I also see God’s character to turn a hopeless situation completely around. I see His restoration power. This inspires me to pray for a situation I might think is hopeless, either in my own life or a situation my community is facing (I don’t know maybe like a pandemic or racial injustice…) and pray with the passage in mind.
Praying scripture doesn’t always mean speaking. Prayer is often speaking, but it is also listening and it is the rest we find in the space in between.
Sometimes, praying scripture might just mean sitting with the passage for longer than you normally would. Not every passage is going to spark your inner prayer warrior and propel you into battle in prayer. Some passages might make you ask a question, or provoke a feeling. Praying the passage can be simply resting in the Spirit, receiving from God, and allowing time for the process.
The Bible is also filled with prayers. When we feel like we don’t have the words to pray, we can go find them. We can personalize them or not, and either way just showing up and praying is powerful.
When we feel like we are leaving our time in the Word of God without an encounter with God, I think sometimes it’s because we’ve forgotten to invite God into it.
Of course, we all bring our own presumptions, questions, emotions and backgrounds to the Bible when we approach it. But to really encounter God in His Word, we have to start with prayer and simply ask Him to show up. He wants to meet with us, so we should invite Him to.
Before opening the Bible, just pray that God would speak to you in His Word. Be honest about where you’re at that day. Sometimes that means surrendering our expectations before we open up the Bible and start to read. It might mean we have to admit some tough emotions or thoughts we’re having before we get into the Word. Or maybe, it’s just a “Hey God, I want to hear from you today.”
It’s equally important to pray after we read the Word.
Ideally, we pray before we open the Bible, we pray through the Bible as we read, and we pray after we close the Bible.
Praying as we close the Word is a time to respond to what we have read, to ask God to change us, to ask His Spirit to transform us as we move into what He has for us next that day.
Prayer is a conversation. It’s relational. It makes the Bible approachable and accessible because as we get to know God through His Word, we get to talk to Him and hear Him speak. We get to respond to what we read, to ask questions, to sit with it, to allow the Spirit to illuminate the text to us and to transform us through it. Praying the Bible helps us to build a relationship with the God who made us.
How to Engage:
Below are 7 passages for this week. If you are using another Bible plan, you can stick with it and implement this tool there too. If not, look up these passages and pray them! Try to pray before you open your Bible, pray through the passage, and pray after you finish reading. Don't limit yourself to praying the passage in one specific way, allow the Spirit of God to guide you!
When you reflect on your prayer life, what does it consist of? Do you think of prayer as talking to God, resting in His presence, and listening to Him?
How have you allowed the Word of God to guide your prayers in the past? How could you use this as a tool in the future?
Do you pray before you read, throughout your reading, and after your reading? Which one feels the most challenging? Which feels the most comfortable?
Hey God, thank you for being a relational, intimate God who cares about all of our requests and who wants to hear from us on all occasions. Help us to boldly approach you in prayer this week, to meet with you in your Word, and to build deeper relationships with you through a conversational prayer life. Allow your Spirit to guide us and teach us to pray through your Word. Amen.