One book that continues to resonate with me and impact my life, particularly my prayer life, is Donald Whitney’s book Praying the Bible. Even though I had prayed many Bible passages in the past, his book encouraged me to pray more from the Scriptures, especially the Psalms.
One of my goals for next year is to pray through the Bible as I read. I’d like to share with you what that will look like, give you some examples of how to pray passages of Scripture, and tell you about something new happening here on the blog next year.
Praying through the Bible
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about prayer and Bible study and shared how they are “The 2 Essential Means of Christian Growth.”
In that post, I said that while both require discipline, I believe one or the other usually comes easier for each of us and the other not so much. I confided that prayer is the one that requires greater discipline on my part. Perhaps that’s why I’ve read so many books on prayer and why Donald Whitney’s book Praying the Bible impacted me so greatly.
Even so, I have not used the principles he shared nearly as often or as faithfully as I would like. One of my goals for next year is to, with God’s help, spend more time praying God’s Word.
So, today I’d like to share with you some examples of praying the Bible and something new I’ll be adding to the blog in 2018. I’m excited about it because it’s partly selfish as it’s part of my plan to keep me on track and accountable. I pray it will be a blessing to you, as well.
Not My Will
We’ve all heard the adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” or the Christian version, “Be careful what you pray for.”
That makes me think about Hezekiah. He was one of Israel’s rare good kings. The Bible says he did, “what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 31:20).
He cleaned out the temple after his father, the wicked King Ahaz, had nailed it shut. He tore down the pagan altars, destroyed the idols, and reinstated the priesthood and temple worship.
When faced with destruction from the Assyrians, he prayed one of the most incredible prayers in the Bible. 2 Kings 19:15-19:
15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.”
God answered that prayer in a dramatic way.
But later in his life, Hezekiah became very sick. Through the Prophet Isaiah, God told him to set his life in order that he was going to die. Yet, when he prayed, God gave him another 15 years (2 Kings 20.1-7).
Unfortunately, the last 15 years of his life were marked by a lack of wisdom that cost the nation and his descendants greatly. He, also, fathered Manasseh, the son who succeeded him. Manasseh turned out to be the most wicked king to reign over Judah (2 Kings 20.12-19).
I didn’t share all that to imply, we shouldn’t pray for God’s mercy when faced with sickness or other trials. God certainly could have said “no” to Hezekiah’s request. But our prayers will always be imperfect and sometimes out of step with God’s best. So, it’s important to hold those prayer requests in an open hand and maintain the same attitude Christ had in the Garden of Gethsemane, “nevertheless, not my will but Yours, Lord.”
Praying God’s Perfect Will
Yet, when we pray God’s Word, properly understood, we can know that we are praying God’s perfect will. Isaiah said:
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Is. 55.11).
I say properly understood because even as we pray the Scriptures, we need to remember there are passages relating to specific people and circumstances that are not God’s specific will for everyone. No matter how much you pray for a virgin birth or for the sun to stand still, it’s probably not going to happen. Those were special moves of God’s hand in His story of redemption. So it’s important for us to understand a verse in its context.
But when we pray passages relating to spiritual growth and God’s principles for living, we can be sure we’re praying according to God’s will.
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 Jn. 5.14-15).
How to Pray the Scriptures
If you’ve never tried praying God’s Word back to Him, you may wonder exactly how to do it. I don’t want to imply that there are rules, but sometimes it helps to have some practical examples.
The Apostle Paul’s prayers for the church are some of the simplest passages to personalize. You might start with ones like: Ephesians 1:15-19, 3:14-21; Philippians 1:9-11; or Colossians 1:9-12.
Let’s take Colossians 1:9-12, for example:
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
You might personalize it like this:
Lord, I ask that I may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that I may walk worthy of You Lord, fully pleasing You, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; that I would be strengthened with all might, according to Your glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; and that I would be thankful to You, Father, in Jesus name, amen.
Or you can change the pronouns and put the name(s) of your loved ones in the blanks.
Lord, help me to not cease to pray for __________, and to ask that ___________ may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that __________ may walk worthy of You Lord, fully pleasing You, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; that he/she would be strengthened with all might, according to Your glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; and that he/she would be thankful to You, Father, in Jesus name, amen.
You can turn other passages of Scripture into prayers, as well. Romans 10.1-3 for example:
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
This is a great passage to pray for unsaved loved ones, especially those who are in non-evangelical churches.
You might pray it like this:
Lord, my heart’s desire and prayer for _________ is that they may be saved. They have a zeal for You God, but not according to knowledge. For they are ignorant of Your righteousness, and are seeking to establish their own, but they have not submitted to the righteousness of God. Please open ___________’s heart to the truth, in Jesus name, amen.
Or Acts 26:18. This is another passage to pray for unsaved loved ones:
18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.
You might pray:
Lord, please open __________’s eyes and turn him from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to You God, so he can be forgiven and sanctified by putting his faith in You.
You can pray passages like Philippians 2:14-15 for yourself and others:
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
You might pray:
Father, help me do all things, even endure difficult times, without complaining and disputing, so that I might be blameless and harmless, a child of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, so I might shine as a light in the world.
Now it’s your turn. As you read God’s Word for yourself, watch for principles, character qualities, or promises that you can pray. Then simply pray them back to God and ask that He do in your life and the lives of others what only He can do. Then expect great things.
New on the Blog in 2018
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I blog through the Bible each year by adding my thoughts about that day’s readings.
It started as a challenge to a group of women in our women’s ministry. My goal was to encourage them to read their Bibles more. I promised to send out a daily email sharing something I had taken away from my reading. But when my email list grew into the hundreds, I decided there must be a more efficient way to share. So in 2012 Soul Survival was born.
My goal is still the same. God in His mercy has given me a love for His Word and I want others to know the life-changing truths it contains.
But this year I’ll be adding something new. As I read, I’ll be looking for those passages that I want to pray back to God and that I think you might, too. I’ll be turning them into prayers that we can pray together for ourselves, our families and those God has put in our lives.
As we do, let’s expect God to work in powerful and miraculous ways. Let’s expect loved ones to come into the kingdom, life-dominating habits of sin (addictions) to be broken and replaced by spirit-filled living, marriages to be strengthened, and relationships to be healed. Let’s expect to walk in greater degrees of true prosperity and blessings. And, perhaps most important, let’s expect a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Let’s expect to know His character and to grow in our ability to trust in Him and see His glory.
I hope you’ll join me by signing up for the daily emails.
Here’s what is coming up this next week. We’ll talk about what our state of mind has to do with our relationship with God, look at Paul primary prayer focus, and talk about itching ears, false worship, and the queen of heaven, among other things.
Be sure to sign up so you won’t miss any of them.
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Today’s Featured Resources:
Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
When you pray, does it ever feel like you’re just saying the same old things about the same old things?
Offering us the encouragement and the practical advice we’re all looking for, Donald S. Whitney, best-selling author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, outlines an easy-to-grasp method that has the power to transform our prayer life: praying the words of Scripture. Simple, yet profound, Praying the Bible will prove invaluable as you seek to commune with your heavenly Father in prayer each and every day.
The One Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids by Nancy Guthrie
As parents we want to protect our children; we want them to move forward in life; most importantly, we want them to take hold of and grow in Christ. And while the advice offered by parenting experts can be helpful, at some point we realize there are no simplistic formulas or sure-fire methods. We need wisdom from God’s Word for this all-important task.
In The One Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids, trusted author Nancy Guthrie weaves together wisdom and insight from each day’s reading in The One Year Bible, providing encouragement through the triumphs and turbulence of parenting. Day by day you’ll find your dreams and desires for your children are becoming shaped more by Scripture than by the culture around you. Worry less, pray more, and help yourself to a daily dose of perspective, hope, and grace as you parent.