Every Christian experiences their prayer life going dull at one point or another. It simply is not an easy thing to do an activity on a daily basis without falling into bad habits. In particular, many Christians find themselves repeating the same things over and over when they pray. Usually without even realizing or intending it, believers fall into the trap of praying for a very narrow scope of issues, many of which are much higher on our own priority list compared to that of God’s.
How can we guard against this? One simple way to is to use a technique that Christians have used for centuries, known simply as praying Scripture. To pray Scripture simply means that you either use the exact words of a specific passage in the Bible and pray those words to God, or use the basic theme of a passage and pray on that given subject. Either way, the point is to let the Bible shape our prayer lives – what we pray for and how we pray it – rather than leaving it up to our own random thoughts.
Why Pray Scripture?
As I see it, praying Scripture has several benefits.
- It helps us commit Scripture to memory
- It helps us to connect the Bible to everyday life
- It develops a two-way time of prayer with God
- It keeps our prayers from becoming boring/mundane
- It keeps us from praying for only things that we care about
In other words, it’s a great habit to adopt!
The Three R’s of Praying Scripture
Kevin DeYoung suggests using the three R’s when it comes to praying Scripture. The three R’s are:
- Rejoice. If the passage declares a powerful truth about God, we can praise him and thank him for it.
- Repent. If the passage gives a moral command, we can confess our failure to live up to it and resolve to change.
- Request. We can ask that God give us what the passage demands of us (ex. greater faith, courage, etc.), or simply ask for something that is a godly desire.
You can use at least one of the three R’s to shape how you pray over any passage of Scripture in the Bible. In fact, with some passages you can pray using all three!
Let’s say we are using Psalm 51:10-12 as our portion of Scripture that will guide our prayers. The passage says:
 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
There is a lot here that can spark a very meaningful time of prayer. In fact, you could literally just read this word for word as a prayer! Or, you could use it more generally to shape how you pray. For instance…
Rejoice: Thank you Lord for your presence, and the Holy Spirit you have given to me. It is so comforting to know that you will never leave me, and that no matter what I face, you are there to help. I thank you for the gift of salvation, which I know I don’t deserve. You are worthy of praise!
Repent: God, I confess that my heart has grown dull to you. I know that you love me enough to have died for me, yet I do not honour you as I should. I no longer feel the excitement and joy that I once did at the thought of your grace. I know that my heart is still drawn towards sin, and I’m not living as I ought to. I am sorry for that; please forgive me.
Request: Please help me to know that you are with me! I ask Lord that I would be able to trust the promise of your presence. My emotions and the craziness of life sometimes get the better of me. Help me to stay rooted in truth. Please give me the power to overcome my sinful desires and draw closer to you. And would you give me a fresh sense of joy at knowing I am forgiven and adopted into you family.
Do you see what happened there? It is simply a matter of letting the content of Scripture shape what you pray for and how you pray it. When we apply this basic principle to our walk with God, inevitably we will find our prayer lives revitalized. We will discover that the scope of topics we pray about grows wider, and that the things that typically consume our prayers are perhaps not the things that ought to. When we allow the Bible to direct our time with God, we will begin to pray for the things that he values the most instead of what we value the most. And, over time, we likely will begin to adopt those values as more personally precious to ourselves.
If we were to be honest, most of us pray more for our own personal comfort than our own personal holiness. We pray that God would answer our prayers in a timely manner instead of asking for the patience to wait for his timing. We pray for safety rather than courage. We pray that our children would grow up to be successful instead of grow up to serve God…even if it means as a missionary in a dangerous environment. We pray for our spouse to change rather than ourselves to change. We rarely pray for humility, for a broken heart over our sin, or for meekness. Yet these are all things that God values according to his Word!
My friends, let’s not separate our Bible reading from our prayer time. Instead, let’s bring these two disciplines together and create the kind of fellowship with God that is truly biblical and blessed. Aim to read your Bible every day and to let it have an effect on your time in prayer. In doing so I am absolutely convinced you will become a healthier Christian, and a more joyful one at that.