Scripture Engagement/ Praying Scripture
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Praying Scripture

Engaging the Bible and praying are the primary methods for developing a deepening relationship with God. In fact, all other spiritual disciplines (e.g., fasting, study, simplicity, worship, confession, service) have their foundation in the disciplines of reading the Bible and praying. While many tend to think of prayer and Bible reading as separate spiritual practices (e.g., first I pray, then I read the Bible), they can be even more powerful when combined into one practice of “praying scripture.” Personally, nothing has been more enriching in my own spiritual life than this process of daily praying scripture.

Are you ever unsure about what you should pray? Do your prayers become dull or repetitive? Do you feel like you’re praying “wrong?” Your confidence in your prayers will be strengthened when you pray God’s Words. Praying the Scriptures allows you to use the words and emotions of the Bible to gain more confidence in your prayers. What do we mean when we say to “pray scripture?” Evan Howard (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 either praying the prayers of the Bible word-for-word as your own prayers, personalizing portions of the Scriptures in prayer, or praying through various topics of the Bible.

Praying Biblical Prayers

The Bible is full of prayers! From Genesis to Revelation there are biblical prayers we can pray to strengthen our spiritual lives. These prayers express every kind of emotion and experience. The whole book of Psalms is a prayer book! By praying the prayers of the Bible we identify with the biblical authors and we are 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.

Praying other Portions of Scripture

Not only can the prayers of the Bible be prayed, any part of the Bible can be used 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 will identify with passages that relate to our lives, the world, and people we know. Over time it will become natural to immediately turn these thoughts into prayer.  Out of the thoughts we are having as we read, we turn to God in worship, confession, thanksgiving, and petition for ourselves and others. Our Bible reading becomes a conversation with God, a cycle of reading and prayer. 

Praying Topically

Along with praying the prayers of the Bible and making prayer part of your normal Bible reading, searching for topical passages in the Bible is helpful. These may reflect your present emotional state, a specific need, the desire to worship, or the need to give thanks, confess, or to be encouraged. Maybe you need to pray for someone you love, to pray through some biblical promises, or pray to be challenged by God. To help you locate passages on a specific topic, you can look in a concordance in the back of many Bibles or in books on praying Scripture (see Praying Scriptures Resources).

Praying Scripture in other Scripture Engagement Practices

Praying Scripture plays a role in many of the other Scripture engagement practices as well. For instance, within lectio divina, there are four steps, one of which is oratio or prayer. Lectio divina is a practice that emphasizes the process of praying through a passage that you are reading and asking God to reveal his truth.

Praying Scripture is also inherent in the practice of writing out the Bible by hand. The goal is for you to interact with the Word while copying it down. You learn what a passage says with more depth than when you just read. As you allow the passage you are copying to seep into your thoughts, it will also impact your prayers.

Singing Scripture is another deeply meaningful way of praying Scripture. We don’t just sing or listen to a passage set to music for ourselves or for an audience. We sing or listen to a passage as an act of prayer to God.

Praying Scripture is a useful and valuable discipline for Christians of any age or maturity level. We need to engage Scripture to the fullest extent of its power. Praying the God-breathed words of the Bible is a fascinating way to engage with our Creator and Lord.

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© Phil Collins, Ph.D., 2014. This material was created in partnership with the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement.