Summary: One of the best ways to learn how to pray is to pray the Scriptures. It helps you to stay focused on God and pray with a biblical worldview.
In my last post, I talked about prayer and fasting and how these regular disciplines enhance our walk with Jesus. In this post, I will expand the idea of praying the Scriptures.
It’s hard to learn how to pray. The Bible talks about powerful and effective prayers (James 5:16). One of the best ways to learn how to pray is to observe the prayers found in Scripture. You can find these in the Old and New Testaments.
Everyone from Solomon, David, Peter, Paul, and Jesus show us how to pray. In a later post I talk about how to pray the Lord’s Prayer, which I call the Model Prayer. The disciples point blank asked Jesus how to pray and He taught them how to pray.
But in this post, I want to show you one way to begin your prayers and help you learn how to pray. In this approach to prayer, we use the prayers found in the Scriptures, and even the Scriptures themselves, to pray. Let’s dive in.
The Benefits of Praying Scripture
One benefit of praying Scripture is that your prayers are more effective and focused about pray on God’s purposes. The prayers found in Scripture and the concepts there help you to focus on God rather than yourself.
Many times in prayer we bring a laundry list of requests to God, expecting or hoping He will answer these prayers. But many of our needs are not based on God’s will. Praying something like, “Oh Lord, please give me one million dollars.” But why would God answer this prayer?
It seems like a selfish prayer, unless you will use the money to further Jesus’ Kingdom. Jesus promises that whatever we ask Him for, He will grant to us.
““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7–12, ESV)
This seems like a blank check for us to ask anything we want. There’s more to it than that. We need to make sure our prayers are in line with God’s purpose and will for us and others around us.
Are our prayers in keeping with God’s will and purpose? Jesus promises us that He will answer our prayers in His name. This doesn’t mean that we add “in Jesus’ name” to our prayers as a guarantee He will answer them.
John adds, “In My name” as a qualifier for asking anything from Him in our prayers (John 16:24). Our prayers need to be aligned with God’s purpose and will for our lives and the lives of others. This doesn’t namely need to qualify every request with “in Jesus’ name.”
It means we need to align our requests, the things we pray for, with God’s will. This seems like a lofty position to pray from. How do I know if what I pray for his aligned with God’s will? Praying along the promises He gives is a helpful starter.
God has revealed part of His will for everyone in Scripture. For instance, God wishes that none should perish but all be saved (1 Peter 3:9). So, praying for the salvation of everyone around you is a very biblical prayer. Jesus wills to heal everyone with sickness (Luke 5:13). So, praying for healing for someone is within Jesus’ will.
There are other promises of God throughout the Scriptures. We can pray these promises for ourselves and others. But you must make sure the promise is in proper context. If it is a promise to an individual in Scripture, it is meant for that person. Some promises are meant for the nation of Israel.
If we are careful to do our work in our study, we can apply some of these promises to ourselves. But many of the promises of Scripture are in keeping with our situation and can be prayed in our circumstance.
Another benefit of praying Scripture is that you can use it for intercession for someone else. We can pray Scripture for ourselves and for others. When we pray for requests for others and ourselves, we must make sure that we pray according to Scripture, according to the context of that scripture.
Each person we pray for has a specific need. We must pray God fulfills that need according to the Scriptures. When they bring their request to us, we can pray in line with God’s Word and His will.
I have had experiences where a person brought their need to me to pray for, and the Lord has told me He will not fulfill that need now. I either address the need itself or pray generally for that person.
Another benefit of praying Scripture is that your prayers come from a biblical Christian worldview and perspective. We do not want to pray for things that are selfish or are not in line with God’s character and purpose.
We can’t pray for things that lie outside of His will and purpose for our lives and for others. Praying Scripture ensures that our prayer request falls within a Christian and biblical worldview. We should also pray with a biblical perspective. We don’t pray for things that fit this world that is passing away. Instead, we pray toward the eternal benefit of ourselves and the people we pray for.
Why We Pray Scripture
Praying God’s Word gives us a springboard for our prayers. If you use the exact wording of the Scripture or if we personalize the prayer along scriptural lines, you want to use that as a springboard for your personal prayers.
I often use passages in Psalms to begin my prayers with the perspective of who God is. This helps me to realize He will answer my prayers. It shows me how big God is compared to my problems. I get a sense that God will answer my prayer because my problem is nothing compared to what God is concerned about.
When we see prayers in the Bible, it gives us a way to approach God. We realize we must come to Him humbly, but confidently. David’s prayers in the Psalms show us how to pray genuinely and often, not hiding our emotions or true motives. We pray how we feel and trust God can handle it.
When I pray, I get the pattern of Scripture that got here is my prayer, wants me to meet with Him, and gives assurance in my situation. The Scriptures tell us many things about God in our prayers. They tell us He is all-powerful. We must never wonder if God can answer our prayer.
They show us He is listening to our prayers. The Scriptures tell us God answers our prayers. My next blog post is on unanswered prayer. There may be clarification of God’s answer to our prayer. Use the Scriptures as a prayer starter for your prayers.
We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us pray. Paul tells us the Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26). He acts as a mediator between us and God. He helps us to pray within God’s will. But He also helps us to form our prayers according to Scripture.
The Holy Spirit guides us in our prayers. He speaks to us about our needs and God’s will. If our prayer does not align with God’s will and purpose for us, the Spirit provides a check in our spirit so we don’t pray the way we are about to.
Of course, we need to hear God’s voice. Prayer is two-way communication between God and us. When we hear His voice, we have direction in our prayers. We communicate with the right motives and see how those motives fit into God’s plans and purposes for us and others.
We can ensure we are praying according to God’s will. Prayers in the Scriptures are good examples for us to follow. They help us see not only what kinds of requests to bring to Him, but the manner of our prayers. We come before Jesus not demanding things but humbly asking Him, knowing confidently He hears our prayers and answers them according to His will.
How to Pray Scripture
Start by picking a passage using something from your daily reading. As you read your Bible every day, you will come across Scriptures people prayed to God. These are excellent places to begin your prayers.
When we pray according to Scripture, we must understand the context of the promises or prayers we use as our springboard. If we don’t understand the context of the Scriptures we use for prayer, we will wrongly use them and not get a favorable response from the Lord.
We need to study the passage we use as our prayer so we know the context fits our circumstance. We cannot pray a promise meant only for a person or situation that does not fit ours. So, we must always do due diligence before we pray the prayers of Scripture.
Ask the Holy Spirit why this passage sticks out to you. Many times when we read Scripture, the Holy Spirit impresses upon us that this Scripture applies to us and our situation. We must ask the Holy Spirit why it applies to us.
Sometimes the application is easy to see. Sometimes we are not sure if God will answer our request. Other times we will not know the direct application to us. We must ask the Holy Spirit to clarify why this passage sticks out to us.
Pray the Scripture using your voice, replacing the pronouns with your pronouns. When we know the Scripture or promise fits our situation, we can personalize our prayers by replacing this situation and person in Scripture with ours.
Use the Scripture to focus your thoughts and requests. The Bible helps us get a biblical worldview so we know our prayers are in line with God’s purpose for us and others. It helps us see God for who he is and us for who we are. It shows us the best way to pray for our circumstance.
Pray your prayer with Scripture in mind. When we pray along the lines of Scripture, we pray with the same goals and purposes Scripture presents. We have the same attitude Scripture shows. We know that our requests, praises and thanksgivings, and confessions line up with God’s Word.
Let’s use Ephesians 3:19-20, part of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians as our example.
“and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” (Ephesians 3:19–20, ESV)
We can pray for Jesus’ love in our situation. Though we don’t know what to do or how to pray, we know God is able to do much more than we can imagine. He has power to meet us in our need and help us. So don’t be afraid to ask God for big things.
Choose a Scripture the Holy Spirit is speaking to you or making it stick out to you. Pray with this passage in mind as you seek God for your situation or need. Start by praying the Scripture as it is written and springboard into the specifics of your situation.
Now that we have seen how to pray the Scriptures in our prayers, we turn next to how to handle unanswered prayer.