It’s easiest to get into a conversation when someone speaks to us first. God speaks to us in His Word; and if we pray with an open Bible, we don’t need to think of words to pray to Him. We can simply respond to what He has said.
While praying Scripture doesn’t require a specific method, I recommend the 3-R method, which you can use with any of the Bible’s 1,189 chapters.
To pray using this method, first read a portion of Scripture and ask for God’s help with understanding His Word. Then recognize what God wants to communicate through the passage. Whether you read a single verse, an entire book of the Bible, or something in between, ponder how God wants to communicate
- a characteristic of Himself to behold
- a truth to believe
- a sin to fight
- a command to obey
- an example to learn from
Consider the overarching ideas of a passage, because they will usually harmonize smaller ideas and cause you to pray about something of greater importance. And don’t let a lack of confidence in the way you read the Bible intimidate you. You may mis-interpret it or make mistakes. Trust, though, that the God of the Scriptures will keep you anchored far closer to His heart than if you are left to your own devices when you pray.
Once you have read a passage in this way, you are ready to pray the three Rs.
- Rejoice. When the passage you are reading reveals something about God, His character, or the truth of His universe, rejoice in it! We can rejoice in any passage of Scripture, because God and the gospel of His Son are that good (see Phil. 4:4)!
- Repent. How does the passage show you that you have fallen short of God’s standard? Confess your sins—and acknowledge His glorious grace, which invites you to confess and to receive cleansing (see Ps. 32; 1 John 1:9).
- Request. In what areas do you need to ask God’s help, for yourself or for others, so that they can better obey what the passage teaches? Bring your requests before our Sovereign King.
The 3-R method gives us three simple prompts for turning Scripture into prayer, thereby fostering a proper response to God’s Word. As we grow in our understanding of His Word, through personal study and church participation, this method will prove more and more useful for both personal and public prayers.
This is an excerpt of my new book When Prayer Is a Struggle: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Obstacles in Prayer (P&R) from the chapter titled “I Don’t Know What to Pray.” Pick up a copy of When Prayer Is a Struggle for more gospel encouragement and practical tools for growing in prayer.
- This method comes directly from the way Ben Patterson recommends praying through the Psalms in God’s Prayer Book: The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2008), 20. Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung recommends Patterson’s approach and has said, “This simple tool has helped me pray the Bible more than any other single strategy. I’ve used [it] in my devotional times and have employed it often in leading others in prayer.” Kevin DeYoung, “How to Pray Using Scripture,” DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed (blog), The Gospel Coalition, January 4, 2013, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/how-to-pray -using-scripture/.
- Some portions of Scripture will be easier to pray than others. If you’re looking for good ones to start with, I find John Piper’s recommendation helpful: “[Pray] ethical portions of Scripture like Matthew 5–7; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5–6; Ephesians 4–6; Colossians 3–4; 1 Thessalonians 5; 1 John, etc.” John Piper, “How to Pray for Half-an-Hour,” Desiring God, January 5, 1982, https://www.desiringgod.org /articles/how-to-pray-for-half-an-hour.
- I often begin my Bible reading by praying two verses from Psalm 119: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (v. 18) and “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (v. 37). I like these verses so much that I have them on a Post-it note inside the cover of my Bible.