I Believe that every follower of Jesus must devote themselves to three primary spiritual practices or habits. I say primary because there are other spiritual practices that flow from theses three, which I call secondary. The three primary spiritual practices are: the Word of God (the Bible), prayer and living by the Holy Spirit. These are three practices, but they are actually practiced together. You can think about them as three sides of a multi-faceted diamond. When I am reading or mediating on the Bible, I do so prayerfully and under the influence of and in submission to the Holy Spirit. When I pray, I do so based on the truth of the Word of God and empowered by the Spirit. The three work hand in hand or they do not work according to God’s design.
Most of the posts in this blog have focused on the Bible, but prayer and the Holy Spirit are always involved. In this post I want to focus on prayer. Like the Word of God and the Spirit, prayer is primary for the believer in Jesus Christ. Prayer is the gift of God’s grace. We read in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us draw near the throne of grace with confidence, that we may find mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Drawing near the throne of grace is approaching God in prayer. Notice, it is called the throne of grace. It is the throne of God’s sovereignty and grace that allows us to draw near. And it is the grace of God that gives us help in times of need. This grace comes to us through Jesus. God is able to help us and he desires to help us.
Our prayer lives are to be a joy and a blessing. We have the honor of speaking with the Lord of the universe. He is the greatest possible being. He is filled with power, goodness, truth and love. The thrill and shock is that he wants to talk with us. Who are we that he should even give us a thought, the psalmist reminds us. So, our prayer lives should be rich, deep and constant. But the reality for most everybody is that their prayer lives fall woefully short of that ideal. We struggle with prayer. If we’re honest, we must admit that we struggle with prayer. If we don’t struggle, we have either given up or we are great prayer warriors.
Power in Prayer
How can we pray more often, more effectively and with more joy? How did the great praying saints pray? Many have discovered that praying the Bible is a way to deepen and enrich their prayer lives. Maybe you’ve heard the story of George Mueller. Mueller lived in the nineteenth century and was a pastor, started orphanages and was a great man of faith and prayer. But it was not always so. George Mueller struggled with his prayer life. He struggled with it for years and years until he came upon the practice of beginning the day by mediating on scripture, not for some public ministry, but for the nourishment of his own soul and to get himself into a happy condition. He found that when he began his day this way that prayers of all kinds would flow spontaneously form his soul. This dramatically transformed George Mueller’s prayer life. It can dramatically transform our prayer life as well.
Praying the Bible
How do we pray the Bible? What parts of the Bible can be prayed. Actually, all the Bible can be prayed, even the genealogies. But some parts of the Bible better lend themselves to prayer. Where do we start?
There are many prayers in the Bible that can be easily transformed into wonderful prayers. There is the Lord’s Prayer, the prayers of Paul in his letters, the lengthy prayer of Jesus in John 17, and many of the Psalms are prayers. The Old Testament is abundantly filled with many amazing prayers that can be easily prayed. And even the Psalms that are not actually prayers can be made into prayers. The great sayings of Jesus can be prayed, as well as the many promises in the letters of Paul. The entire Bible is a rich treasure trove of prayers! If we will only tap into this vein of spiritual gold, we will be greatly blessed.
How to Pray the Bible
How do we actually pray the Bible? We have all this treasure before us. How do we cash in and receive the blessings?
I have found three practical ways to pray the Bible. First, take a verse or even a phrase of a text and fashion it into a prayer as close to the original wording as possible. Then we proceed to the next verse or phrase through the entire text. If it’s already a prayer, that should be pretty easy. For example, the Lord’s Prayer begins with, “Our Father who is in heaven.” This can become a prayer something like this, “Heavenly Father I praise you that you are our loving, caring Father. It is by your grace that we can call you Father. Your Fatherly love is always attentive to our needs and you always know what is best.” From there we can pray about certain needs we have or the needs of others. The possibilities are endless.
If the text is not a prayer, it is just as easy to make it into a prayer. Everybody knows Psalm 23. It begins, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” A prayer on that verse would go something like this, “Thank you, Lord, that you are my shepherd. You are the good shepherd. You lay down you life for the sheep. You shepherd me through all the struggles of life and you lead me into the green pastures of your Word.” Each phrase and sentence of the text can in turn be made into numerous prayers.
A second way to pray the Bible is to take a number of texts and string them together into a single prayer. We can pray on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. Beginning with love we can thank God that he is love and what love is and how to love comes from him (1 John 4:16). Then we can pray thanking God that his love comes through his Son, Jesus (John 3:16; 1 John 3:116; 4:9-10; Romans 5:8). At that point we can ask God to help us love him and others in obedience to his greatest command (Matthew 22:37-40; John 13:34-35; 14:15,21,23). Finally we can ask God to help us love others with the qualities in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. At that point we can go on the the next fruit, joy, and do the same thing. What a rich prayer that would be praying through all nine fruit of the Spirit. Our lives would be dramatically transformed.
The third way to pray the Bible is to read a longer passage, maybe a chapter or more, and find the main idea or theme for the passage. We can then fashion our prayer around the idea from that passage. This works well in narrative historical passages, but can be used well with any passage. This is where praying a genealogy can occur, if anyone was so inclined. We can pray form Old Testament passages like 2 Chronicles 15, the revival under King Asa. Or we can pray from New Testament passages like John 10 where Jesus uses the metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep. Though, with every method we must be sure we do not take a text out of context or misinterpret the text in any way.
The Blessings of Praying the Bible
There are many blessings that come from using the Bible in our prayers. First, the struggle to pray will be greatly diminished. Straying thoughts, boredom or struggles with what to pray are almost extinguished.
Second, the joy of knowing that we are praying God’s Word gives us confidence that we are praying according to his will. If we pray according to his will we know that he will hear us. With such confidence we are eager to pray. It is not longer a chore that we feel guilty when we fail to pray.
Praying the Bible also nourishes our souls. All heart-felt prayer nourishes the soul, but more so the prayer of the Word. We find ourselves spending more time in the Word, consequently knowing God and his will better.
But the greatest blessing of praying the Bible is the unspeakable joy and glory that floods our hearts. We spend precious time with God in his presence. All that he is for us and all that he has done for us permeate every fiber of our being. For me, the only way to survive very painful experiences is to meditate and pray the Word of God. This will transform us at the root of our persons more than anything else.
I encourage you to take up this practice if you have not already. If you are praying the Bible, I encourage you to continue in it with great perseverance. It will bring blessing to you and others and glory to God.