Chapter 14: Learning to Pray Scripture

“When we pray through a passage of Scripture, we are using the language of the text to direct our conversation with God“ – Miranda Mae Ewing

Explain the concept of praying Scripture and give examples from the Bible.

John Eldredge: Let’s start with a promise the Bible gives us: That if we ask anything according to the will of God, those prayers will be answered (1 John 5:14-15). This is so encouraging! How then do we know what the will of God is? Well—we have the Scriptures. Praying the word of God and the promises of God is a very powerful way to pray. There is a beautiful prayer in Ephesians 3 where Paul demonstrates for us, asking that God would fill us with his Spirit in our inmost being, that we would be rooted deep in love, that we would have his help in knowing the magnificent love of Jesus. The end of that prayer is the promise that we will be filled to all the fullness of God. I want to be filled to all the fullness of God! I think everyone does. Well then—pray that prayer! (Eph. 3:16-19)

What do we mean when we say 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 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.

The Bible is full of prayers! From Genesis to Revelation there are biblical prayers you can pray to strengthen your spiritual life. 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, you identify with the biblical authors and are encouraged to allow God’s Spirit to shape you into the person he wants us to be. The prayers of the Bible, especially the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4), become your tutors to learn how to communicate with God. They are part of your conversation with God.

Not only can the prayers of the Bible be prayed, any part of the Bible can be used to communicate with God. As you read the Bible (stories, history, poems, parables, etc.) in the presence of God and pay attention to the Spirit, you will identify with passages that relate to your life, the world, and people you know. Over time, it will become natural to immediately turn these thoughts into prayer. Out of the thoughts you have as you read, you turn to God in worship, confession, thanksgiving, and petition for yourself and others. Your Bible reading becomes a conversation with God, a cycle of reading and prayer.

Another way of praying the Bible is to pray along the lines of a specific biblical or theological topic. You may feel like the Spirit is convicting you in a specific area of your life on which you need to focus your prayers. Areas could 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 your specific concern and then praying through those passages over a given amount of time, you will find God’s Word working in and through you.

How Can We Pray the Bible (John Piper)?

Praying the Scriptures is so important in the Christian life. If we don’t form the habit of praying the Scriptures, our prayers will almost certainly degenerate into vain repetitions that eventually revolve entirely around our immediate private concerns, rather than God’s larger purposes

First, we should notice that the early church prayed the Scriptures in Acts 4:24 and following. In fact, they explicitly quote Scriptures. Threats had been made against them and it says, “They lifted their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.’” They are exulting in what they know from God in Scripture.

Here is a second thing. Don’t forget the obvious; namely, that many parts of the Scripture are prayers. So, simply to read them is to pray, if we are awake — if you are thinking about what you are doing. Paul has got numerous prayers that he prays for the people that he is writing his letters to. And every time we read that, we should pray with Paul. And a great portion of the Psalms are prayers, and Jesus gave us some prayers. I have used the acronym IOUS from the Psalms to guide how I pray the Scriptures:

I: Incline my heart to your testimonies (Psalm 119:36).
O: Open my eyes to see wonderful things (Psalm 119:18).
U: Unite my heart to fear your name (Psalm 86:11).
S: Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love (Psalm 90:14).

So, the Scripture models for us how to pray about reading the Scriptures and turning them into prayers.

The Scriptures either tell us something about God and Christ when we are reading so that we can praise him. Or, they tell us something about what God and Christ and the Holy Spirit have done so that we can thank him and express faith in it. Or, they tell us what God expects from us so that we can cry out for his help. Or, they tell us about something we failed to do so that we can confess our sins. So, it seems to me that virtually all the Bible is doing one or more of those four things: something about God, something about what he has done, something about what he expects, something about how we have failed, so that they naturally lead into praise to God, thanks to God, crying for help to God, and confession of sin to God.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Paul prays that they would know God.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,

  • May give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation: Paul prayed that the Father would grant the Ephesians the spirit of wisdom and that He would give them revelation. But these are not so they may see into the lives of others, have the ability to predict events, or do what we commonly think of as “prophet stuff.” He wanted them to have the spirit of wisdom and revelation simply so that they would have a better knowledge of Him (God).
  • In the knowledge of Him: Our Christian life must be centered around this purpose – to know God as He is in truth, as revealed by His Word, and to correct our false, idolatrous ideas of who God is.
  • The knowledge of Him: It is important for us to have an accurate knowledge and understanding of who we are. Yet it is far more important (and beneficial) for us to know and understand who God is.

Paul prays that they would understand everything God gave them in Jesus Christ.

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, The eyes of your understanding being enlightened: If the Ephesians will know all God has given them in Jesus, it will take a supernatural work. It will require that the eyes of your understanding be enlightened by God.

  • Paul used a great expression when he speaks of the eyes of your heart (heart is more literal than understanding). Too many Christian hearts have no eyes (places where they gain real knowledge and understanding), and too many Christian eyes have no heart – God wants both to be combined in us.
  • “The word ‘heart’ in Scripture signifies the very core and center of life, where the intelligence has its post of observation, where the stores of experience are laid up, and the thoughts have their fountain.”

Ephesians 3:14-21

The content of the prayer being offered is conveyed in Ephesians 3:16-19. Essentially there are four matters for which the author prays for the sake of his readers that they may have:

  • inner spiritual strength
  • the indwelling of Christ in their hearts
  • the ability to comprehend all the dimensions of spiritual realities
  • knowledge of the love of Christ

The third and fourth of these petitions beg for special comment. Ephesians 3:18 reads, “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth.” Most likely, the author is using a metaphor to speak of the wonders of a multi-dimensional God, who is a God of power (Ephesians 1:19), rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), lavish in his grace (Ephesians 2:7; 3:7), and rich in wisdom (Ephesians3:10). The NIV takes liberty to interpret the verse by adding words to it: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
In 3:19, the author speaks of knowing “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” The expression “the love of Christ” by itself is ambiguous, for it could mean either Christ’s love for us or our love for him. The phrase probably means Christ’s love for us. To know his love is greater than knowledge itself. The Greek word used here for “knowledge” is gnōsis, and it is likely that the writer is referring to the kind of (spiritual) “knowledge” that, Paul says, can sometimes become puffed up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Philippians 1:9-11

Paul’s great desire for the saints at Philippi was that they become rooted and grounded in the Word of truth, so that their love for God and their love for one another would continue to grow and multiply. His prayer for these brothers and sisters in Christ was that they would increase in knowledge and all discernment, as they became increasingly conformed into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus. “And this I pray,” he wrote in the opening section of his epistle, “I pray that your love may abound still more and more, in real knowledge and in all discernment.”

The love of God is as unfathomable as it is eternal, and yet the Lord Jesus commanded us to love as He loved, and Paul prayed that love would overflow in our hearts. His difficult trials and the chains of tribulation that constrained him did not cause Paul to become bitter in his attitude towards God. Rather, he recognized that in all things, God, in His gracious-love and tender-mercy, was using them for good.

And so Paul was enabled to pen godly insights and instructions as to the true meaning of abounding love. Paul knew that godly wisdom and spiritual understanding have their root in the love of God and his prayer is as much for us today as it was for the Christians at Philippi. Indeed, this should also be our continuous prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ – that our love increases and abounds, as we worship our heavenly King, grow in grace, and develop a more intimate knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:9-12

Paul’s prayer that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will does not mean that he wants them to know whether they should take a different job offer or marry a particular person. Rather, he’s asking that they might know God’s moral will as revealed in His Word. “Being filled” with this knowledge is a prayer that they would be controlled by this knowledge so that it would govern every thought, word, and deed. Since God’s moral will is a reflection of His holy character, Paul’s prayer is that these new believers would grow to know God Himself as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

The knowledge of God’s will leads to a walk that is worthy of the Lord. The result of all biblical knowledge should be godly conduct. And the primary motive for godly conduct is not that we can live a happier and better life (although that always is the result), but rather that we please and glorify the Lord.

How can you tell if you’re growing spiritually? There are many different ways. But here Paul shows that you’re growing if you’re learning more and more through God’s Word how He wants you to live. And you’re growing if, as His child, you’re seeking to live as He wants you to live in order to please Him.

Paul spent the first three chapters of the letter discussing God’s creation of a holy community by His gift of grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The members of this community have been chosen by God through the work of Christ, adopted as sons and daughters of God, and brought near to the Father through faith in His Son.

While Paul was not responding to a particular theological or moral problem, he wanted to protect against future problems by encouraging the Ephesians to mature in their faith.

Maturity yields benefits in believers’ moral lives, but it extends far beyond that as well. Increased maturity benefits the community at large, leading us as Christians to present a more consistent witness to the working of God in our lives as well as protecting us from the harmful divisions and quarrels that have plagued so many communities throughout history.

Chapter 14 Questions

If praying scripture is part of your daily devotional time, share scripture that you have used when praying scripture . Share your experiences.  Do not assume everyone in study is already doing this when they have their quiet time . There may be some women who are new believers that are looking for guidance on how to do a quiet time  !!

Read the following passages

  • Ephesians 1:15-23
  • Ephesians 3:14-21
  • Philippians 1:9-11
  • Colossians 1:9-12

After each scripture discuss the passage….what are Paul’s main points in each of the passages. How are we to apply these scriptures to our daily lives.

Share any insights/ thoughts from this chapter or the notes.

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