Scripture and Prayer

Throughout church history, believers have prayed the Scriptures. Praying through God’s Word opens our hearts, shapes our prayers, and deepens our experience.

Scripture leads us into prayer

Prayer is, first and foremost, a dialogue with God. Most frequently, he initiates the conversation and responds to our prayers by speaking to us through the Scripture.

Scripture feeds our spirit

As we draw near to God in prayer, he uses his Word to nourish our souls. It revives us, makes us wise, fills us with joy, and gives light to our eyes (Psalm 19:7–8). He communicates his love and care through passages like Psalms 23 and 139.

Scripture evokes praise

The Psalms (and other Scriptures) awaken us to God and stimulate our praises. The psalmist knew this. When he felt oppressed by the enemy and downcast in spirit, he cried out to God:

Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43:3–4

Scripture provides a framework for prayer

Using prayers recorded in the Bible as our own lets God set the agenda. 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) show us how 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 and gives us promises, which embolden our intercession (e.g., 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 by 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., Luke 4:1–13/Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:13, and 6:16). The apostle Paul writes that since “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil,” we are 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 6:12, 17–18).

Exercises to try:

  • Slowly pray through a psalm, such as Psalm 139, substituting your own name for the pronouns me and I.
  • When you pray about a specific situation or struggle, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to a passage. After listening and waiting on God, pray through that Scripture, keeping this particular need in mind.
  • 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).
  • Have someone share a prayer need. Then wait on God and ask him to bring a Scripture to mind. When he does, pray through that passage, interceding for that person’s request.
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