Years ago, when my wife and I worked with a small church youth group in California, I picked up a small-sized paperback book for kids called something like “Pocket Prayers.” The book was so simple, but the concept inside was brilliant, leaving a lasting impact on my life. Inside were paraphrases of Scripture verses with blanks left for the reader to insert people’s names. By extension, it became clear that the same techniques could be applied simply and effectively throughout Scripture.
What we pray for is important to God (James 4:3; Matt. 6:9-13). In other words, God is pleased when our requests mirror God’s desires. One way to do this is to frame our prayer petitions around the very words of Scripture. The things we ask for in prayer are an indication of our spiritual maturity. High-priority items with God should be high-priority items in our prayers.
One way of doing devotions is to read through a Bible book chapter-by-chapter, noting passages that stand out for their application to prayer and to our lives, and then turning them into prayers—praying them back to God.
It typically takes me about 10-15 minutes to do a devotion this way—but it can be extended with meditation on the key points of a chapter. This is not the only way to do a daily devotion, but it is a simple and effective method.
Here are some examples of prayers framed around the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 5), both in shorter and longer forms:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” - May _______ hunger and thirst for righteousness.
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works” - Lord, help _______ to let my/his/her/their light shine before men…
“You are the salt of the earth” - Father, may _______ be bold to live a distinctively Christian lifestyle, not caving in to peer pressure or conformity to the world.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” - Help [me/ _____ ], O Lord, to be poor in spirit—that [I/____ ] would recognize my spiritual poverty apart from Christ and the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I acknowledge my utter unworthiness before You, and I depend wholly on Your grace, through Christ, for my standing in heaven and my present privileges of salvation. May I always serve you eagerly—out of gratitude for what You have done for me.
“Blessed are the gentle” - Lord, help [me/ ____ ] to be gentle, especially when I’m tempted to react in anger, bitterness, or revenge. Help me to realize that Christ’s gentleness is the perfect pattern for my life, especially when I feel unjustly treated.
The chapters of Scripture are filled with ideas for prayer petitions. When praying through Scripture we are aligning our requests with God’s will—which brings honor to Him. We can be assured that God is pleased when our fervent desires in prayer are the accomplishment of His plans for ourselves and others.
Praying through Scripture also gives us specific details for which to worship God. Rather than just repeating short, commonly uttered worship phrases, we can praise God for items explicitly mentioned in the portion of Scripture we are reading.
Praying through Scripture also helps us to identify and pray for application to Biblical principles. In this way, it also helps us to implement the teachings of God’s Word into our daily lives.
The idea of incorporating Scripture into prayer is not new. It can be seen in both the Old and New Testaments. One of many examples is Mary’s “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55). Notice the infusion of Scripture passages in this prayer:
“His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him” (compare this with Ex. 20:6; and Psalm 85:9)
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm” (compare this with Ex. 15:6-7; Ps. 98:1; Isaiah 40:10 and 52:10)
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble” (compare this with 1 Sam. 2:4; Psalm 113:6-8, 147:6; and Job 5:11-13)
• Look for the commands/precepts of Scripture to become a basis for petitions in prayer (in addition to petitions for specific needs and other general prayer items)
• Look for the descriptions/deeds of God in Scripture to become a basis for worship in prayer
Idea for Devotions
Read through a book of Scripture, one chapter a day, looking for 2-5 verses that have special relevance to your life. Make these verses the focus of your attention and the fabric of your prayer. Extension: Use one or two of the verses as the basis for a time of meditation afterwards.
As with anything else, the more we do this, the easier it gets. Over time, the principles in every Scripture passage we encounter will present themselves to us as prayer points, and we will be collecting fuel for the fire of our prayers—all to the glory of God!