Throughout church history, believers have prayed the Scriptures. There are a number of reasons why the Bible can be a particularly helpful resource for our prayers.
Scripture leads us into prayer.
Prayer is first and foremost a dialogue with God. He initiates the conversation, most frequently with his Word. And he often responds to our prayers by speaking to us through the Scriptures.
Scripture feeds our spirit.
As we draw near to God in prayer, he uses the Scriptures to nourish our souls. His Word revives us, makes us wise, gives us joy, and enlightens our eyes (Psalm 19:7-8). He communicates his love and care for us through passages such as Psalm 23 and Psalm 139.
Scripture evokes praise.
The Psalms (and other Scriptures) awaken us to God and stimulate our praises. The psalmist knew this, so when he felt oppressed by the enemy and downcast in spirit, he cried out to God:
O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy;
and I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God. (Psalm 43:3-4 NRSV)
Scripture provides a framework for prayer.
Using prayers recorded in the Bible as our own lets God set the agenda in our praying. For example, praying the Psalms teaches us how to come to God in difficulty, grief, victory, or confusion. The prayers of Jesus (e.g., Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 23:34; John 17), Paul (e.g., Philippians 1:3-6, 9; Ephesians 1:15-21), Mary (e.g., Luke 1:46-55), Hannah (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:1-10), Abraham (e.g., Genesis 18:22-33), and Moses (e.g., Exodus 32:11-14) train us to bring a wide variety of needs and concerns to God.
Scripture reminds us of God’s promises.
As we seek God in his Word, he guides our intercession, gives us promises, and answers our prayers. Jesus says to us: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit”(John 15:7-8). Examples of those who prayed God’s Word and believed his promises as they interceded with heartfelt prayers and fasting include Nehemiah (e.g., Nehemiah 1:4-10/Deuteronomy 30:1-10) and the early church (e.g., Acts 4:24-31/Psalm 2:1-2).
Scripture is a weapon in fighting temptation and spiritual warfare.
When Jesus, led of the Spirit, went into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the enemy, he defeated each temptation by quoting appropriate scriptures verbatim (e.g., see Luke 4:1-13 with Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:13, and 6:16). The apostle Paul urges us to “take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:17-18).
Here are some exercises you can try to begin praying using the Bible.
- As you come to prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you and give you a Scripture passage for the particular concern for which you will be praying. After listening and waiting on God, pray through the passage on behalf of that situation or concern.
- Have someone share a prayer need with you. Then wait on God and ask him to bring a scripture to mind to pray for that person. When he does, pray through that scripture for the person in light of the need they shared.
- Slowly pray through a psalm, such as Psalm 139, substituting your own name for the pronouns me and I.
- Intercede for a person or community you care about using one of Paul’s prayers (e.g., Philippians 1:3-6, 9; Ephesians 1:15-21; Colossians 1:9-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Resource: Lectio Divina