This past Sunday we started the section on prayer in our study of the Sermon on the Mount. Over the years, I have been encouraged by various people to pray the Bible, a practice that has been employed by Christians throughout history. One specific example would be Martin Luther instructing his barber, Peter, to pray in this fashion when Peter asked Luther for help in this area. Recently, Donald Whitney has written a simple book on the subject entitled, Praying the Bible. He says that Christians often get discouraged in their prayer life because they continually “return to that mental script (they’ve) repeated countless times” when they pray (pg. 15). Often this method of praying can become the thoughtless “empty phrases” our Lord warned us against (Matt. 6:7, pg. 17).
Whitney suggests that a more healthy method is praying the Bible. He says we can read through any passage and begin to pray the things that come to mind as we read. A good place to start, he says, is the Psalms. He offers this example from Psalm 23:1 on the Lord being our shepherd. He said reflecting on this truth could lead us to pray something like:
Lord, I thank you that you are my shepherd. You’re a good shepherd. You have shepherded me all my life. And, great Shepherd, please shepherd my family today: guard them from the ways of the world; guide them into the ways of God. Lead them not into temptation; deliver them from evil. O great Shepherd, I pray for my children; cause them to be your sheep. May they love you as their shepherd, as I do. And, Lord, please shepherd me in the decision that’s before me about my future. Do I make that move, that change, or not? I also pray for our under-shepherds at the church. Please shepherd them as they shepherd us. (pgs. 29-30, emphasis original)
Whitney says, from there you simply move to the next verse, reflect and pray. He later said:
By this means, the Spirit of God will use the Word of God to help the people of God pray increasingly according to the will of God. (pg. 37)
I would encourage you to incorporate this practice of praying the Bible into your prayer life. Over the past year, as a church, we have returned again and again to Ephesians 5:1-2 which says:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
How can you pray this passage for yourself and your fellow church members this week? How can you pray this for our marriages, singleness, parenting, church life, work/neighborhood relationships, and so on?