How to Pray Through Scripture4 min read

Lutherans love the Word of God!

As our Confessions famously say, we believe Scripture is the “only source and norm”[1] of our doctrine. But the Bible is not only the basis of our theology or our preaching or our daily lives—God’s Word is also the source of our prayers.

When you stand in church and pray, “Have mercy on me, O God,” you’re citing Psalm 51. When you sing in the car, “Great is Thy faithfulness…” you’re praying the words of Lamentations 3. When you say the Lord’s Prayer at bedtime, you’re praying the words of Jesus found in Mathew 6. Each time, it’s a prayer that is informed and prompted and drawing on the very words of Scripture.

How to Pray Through Scripture

But praying Scripture doesn’t have to limited to the actual prayers of Scripture. With just a few tweaks of phrase, you can pray through ANY section Scripture.

For instance, when Paul writes in Ephesians 1:18,

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…”

To make it a prayer, you would simply change the words from second-person to first-person:

“I pray that the eyes of MY heart may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which YOU have called ME…”

Or, when you read Colossians 3:12, say,

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

You can easily make Paul’s instruction to the church a prayer of your own,

“God, YOU have chosen ME to be holy and dearly loved. Help me clothe MYSELF with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Even a story can be made a prayer! For instance, if you read in Genesis 12:1,

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’”

You could easily pray,

“Lord, you said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’ Would you also lead me this day, God?”

The Power of Praying Scripture

But praying through Scripture is more than an interesting exercise. It deepens your experience with God’s Word in multiple ways:

Praying Scripture Broadens Your Prayers

When Christians hear “prayer requests,” they tend to think about prayers for sickness and surgery. And that’s fine, but God wants us to pray about so much more than Aunt Cindy’s upcoming procedure. When you pray Scripture, you break out of any rut you may have and start praying for the wealth of topics in His word—from prayers for God’s mission to prayers for God’s leaders, and the countless topics of prayer between.

Praying Scripture Increases Your Faith

God’s Word is God’s will! And 1 John 5:14 reminds us, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” So, when you repeat God’s word back to Him in prayer, you’ll find your boldness and faith to pray will also increase. After all, if God promises something, why wouldn’t we ask for it in prayer?

Praying Scripture Helps You Find the Words

Just like God’s Spirit intercedes in your prayers (Romans 8:26), so does God’s Word. When you’re at a loss for words, simply find a Scripture that speaks to the issue and then pray about it.

Praying Scripture Helps You Memorize Scripture

What we learn by heart guides our heart! It’s one thing to read God’s Word, to understand it, or to apply it to our lives. But when we pray the words of the Bible, we’re hiding it deeper in our heart (Psalm 119:11) and making it easier to recall later on.

Your Turn

The idea of praying through Scripture was my entire idea behind writing 25 Prayers to Christmas. The idea was to find 25 different prayers that could be prayed to prepare for the Christmas season using the words from Luke’s gospel account.

But you don’t need to wait until December to pray through Scripture. Simply go back to the most recent section of the Bible you read. Maybe it’s the section you heard at church last Sunday, or maybe it’s the verse you read this morning for your devotions. Whatever it is, read it again. But this time, rewrite it as a prayer. I think you’ll be surprised at how fun and how easy it can be to pray through Scripture.

I know so. I prayed Scripture for you that “at that time you will be given what to say” (Matthew 10:19).

[1] Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions © 2005, 2006, Concordia Publishing House.

Photo © Jantanee/Lightstock

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About the Author

Chris Paavola is the Senior Pastor of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Battle Creek, Mich. He is also the author of several books on prayer, most recently "25 Prayers to Christmas," that helps readers pray through the Christmas story. He and his wife, Ashley, have five children through adoption and have been married and doing ministry together for 17 years.

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