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Prayer. It is our way of communicating with God and pouring out our hearts to him. Yet I hear so many Christians say, “Prayer is the one thing I really struggle to do consistently.” Or “I don’t really know what to say. Everyone else prays so much better than I do.” Or “All the prayers I heard growing up were liturgical. I don’t really know how to pray on my own.” I have to admit, I’ve had some of these same thoughts myself. And then I stumbled across the idea of praying Scripture.
I am on the Youth Leadership Team at my church, and this year our youth director has us reading through the book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald S. Whitney. In the very first chapter, this idea of praying through Scripture jumped out at me. When describing how to use Scripture as a tool for prayer, Whitney says:
“After you read through a section of Scripture, pray through part of that same passage. Whether you read one or many chapters of the Bible per day, afterward choose a portion of your reading and, verse by verse, let the words of God become the wings of your words to Him.” (p. 27)
I had the opportunity to try this for myself when our pastor preached a sermon series on 1 John. Each week, I pondered the portion of 1 John that the pastor preached on, and I deliberately prayed through each verse. 1 John 1:9 has always been a favorite verse of mine, the one I could always count on to remember when I had to quote a random Bible verse from memory. It’s short and sweet but very meaningful. I’ll use that as an example of the process of praying Scripture.
1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
As I prayed this verse, I allowed the verse to speak to me and inspire my prayers.
First on the list, confession. I spent several minutes thinking through my life and finding areas of sin that I needed to confess.
Next, I praised God for who he is: for his faithfulness, his justice, and his ability to forgive our sins. I spent time elaborating on each one as I praised God.
Not only is God able to forgive our sins, he is willing to forgive our sins when we confess and repent. It reminded me of Psalm 103:12, which says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” I thanked him for this amazing gift.
Finally, I spent time thanking him for sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. This is the only way that we can be purified from our unrighteousness. 1 John 1:7 says, “and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Amen.
This was a very meaningful practice, and it’s something that can be done with any passage of Scripture. However, many people find the Psalms to be especially expressive when it comes to praying Scripture. Whitney said,
“The poetic, visceral, and spiritually transparent elements of the Psalms often combine in ways that send the soul soaring and inflame passion for God. They deal realistically with the full range of human emotions and can take you from wherever you are spiritually and lift you heavenward. Nothing so consistently renews my longings for God and catapults me into experiential communion with Him as praying through a psalm.” (pp. 27–28)
I encourage you to try it this week. For those of you who feel like you never know what to say, you can’t go wrong praying Scripture! God has already written the perfect words for you. You don’t even have to come up with your own words if you don’t want to. Just pray the words of Scripture from your heart.
I’d love to hear about your experiences praying Scripture. Feel free to comment below.
To help you process your thoughts as you pray through Scripture, a 1-page journal sheet is available. This journal sheet is designed to be used with any Scripture passage and can be used over and over again.
Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically.
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 Whitney, D. S. (2001). Do you thirst for God? In Ten questions to diagnose your spiritual health (pp. 15–28). NavPress.