Scripture and Prayer

Throughout church history, believers have prayed the Scriptures. Praying Scripture opens our hearts and lets God inform the content of our prayers. Using Scripture can strengthen and deepen our experience of prayer.

Scripture leads us into prayer

Prayer is first and foremost a dialogue with God. He initiates the conversation, most frequently, with his Word. He often 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 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 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:

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 in our praying. 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. These promises 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 of the Spirit, went into the desert for forty 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” (Ephesians 6:12), 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 6:17-18).

Exercises to try:

  • Slowly pray through a psalm, such as Psalm 139, substituting your own name for the pronouns me and I.
  • 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.
  • 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 to pray for that person. When he does, pray through that Scripture for the person in light of the need they shared.
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