By Dr. Phil Collins, Crosswalk.com
I confess I have a prayer problem—sometimes my own prayers bore me.
So boring that my mind completely wanders away from God. At times, I’ve even fallen asleep while praying! Over the years, I’ve noticed that I tend to pray the exact same phrases over and over in a kind of empty way.
My prayers can be dull and repetitive. My mind and heart drift, and I feel like I’m just going through the motions instead of communicating with the Living God. This doesn’t exactly fit my image of a vibrant prayer life!
I think part of my prayer problem is that I’ve tended to think of prayer and Bible reading as separate spiritual practices. First pray (I talk), then read the Bible (God talks).
Fortunately, I discovered a simple solution that has made a profound difference in my prayer life. I’ve learned through reading and practice that I do better with both Scripture reading and prayer when I combine them into the one practice of “praying Scripture.”
What Does it Mean to “Pray Scripture?”
What does it mean to “pray Scripture”?
Evan Howard in his book Praying the Scriptures writes, “To pray the Scriptures is to order one’s time of prayer around a particular text in the Bible.” This can mean praying the prayers of the Bible word for word as our own prayers, personalizing portions of the Scriptures in prayer, or praying through various topics of the Bible.
The Bible is full of prayers! From Genesis to Revelation, we find biblical prayers we can pray that can strengthen our spiritual lives.
These prayers express every kind of emotion and experience. For instance, the whole book of Psalms is a prayer book!
By praying the prayers of the Bible, we can identify with the biblical authors and be encouraged to allow God’s Spirit to shape us into the people he wants us to be. The prayers of the Bible, especially the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4), become our tutors to learn how to communicate with God.
They can become the very core of our conversations with God.
Not only can we pray the prayers of the Bible, but we also can pray any part of the Bible to communicate with God. As we read the Bible (stories, history, poems, parables, etc.) in the presence of God and pay attention to the Spirit, we identify with passages that relate to our lives, the world, and the people we know.
Over time, I’ve found it is natural to immediately turn these thoughts that the Bible sparks in my mind into prayers. Out of the thoughts I have as I read, I turn to God in worship, confession, thanksgiving, and petition for myself and others.
My Bible reading has grown into a life-giving conversation with God, a cycle of reading that turns into prayer.
Use the Bible to Try Topical Prayers
Another way of praying the Bible is to pray along the lines of a specific biblical or theological topic. There are times when I feel like the Spirit is convicting me in a specific area of my life on which I need to focus my prayers.
Some topics that can be prayed using Scripture include worship, holiness, love, a life anxiety, a besetting sin, a need to grow in thankfulness, a desire to pray for someone who needs to deepen his or her spiritual life, a need to lament a deep loss.
The topics, and the Bible’s ability to touch on those topics, seems almost endless. By looking up passages in the Bible on specific concerns and then praying through those passages over a given amount of time, I find God’s Word working in and through me.
As I’ve explored the process of praying Scripture, I’ve found I’m no longer bored by my own prayers. Praying the Scriptures has allowed me to use the words and emotions of the Bible to strengthen both my emotional understanding of a passage and my personal engagement with the Author of the Bible.
It gives me a deeply engaging sense of God’s presence in my life as I pray his words back to him.
Praying Scripture Can Increase Spiritual Confidence
Praying Scripture also leads me to pray much more broadly. The Bible has a vast array of topics that I know I never prayed about previously.
As I pray about any given topic, I also know my prayers have taken on more depth and are more specific when I use Scripture to guide my prayers. I now pray for myself and others at a level that goes beyond the vague “bless me/them” way I used to pray.
This has given me an increased sense of spiritual confidence and allows me to pray bolder and more engaged prayers.
I wouldn’t claim that my prayer life is perfect since I’ve started praying Scripture, but I do feel much more alive in my relationship with God. I still pray my own prayers when I pray, but by adding Scripture praying to my prayers I have an increased sense that I’m communicating with God.
This is life-giving for me and motivates me to continue praying. What a better place to be than boring myself with my own prayers!
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Dr. Phil Collins is currently the co-executive director at Taylor University’s Training and Content Development at the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement (TUCSE). As a part of his work, Dr. Collins has lead workshops on how to effectively engage with the Bible and is the general editor of The Abide Bible (Nelson Bibles, February 2020).
This article is part of our Prayer resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.