Prepared by Colette Williams
The Bible is a book unlike any other. It is the written word of God, penned by people who were writing under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit.[i] It is one of the main ways God uses to communicate with us, and contains ultimate truth that we can rely on in a world of shifting values and perceptions.
The writer of Hebrews describes the word of God as “living and active (productive, busy, at work). Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”[ii] These are not dead words on a page. The word of God accomplishes things.
When we pray in the words of scripture, we acknowledge the Bible as God’s revealed word to us, and we honour God by believing him and responding accordingly. Praying scripture is communicating with God in his own words. We know we are praying with his mind and within his will, and therefore we have the confidence to ask God for things that he has already endorsed.[iii] Accordingly our attitudes are right, because they are his attitudes.
Praying God’s words into our lives has the power to overwrite any negative self-talk that may have driven our lives for years. God’s words are positive and affirming, not condemning![iv] By praying scripture we are reprogramming our minds and attitudes with God’s mind and attitudes,[v] as the words of scripture seep into our hearts and take root.
There is power in the spoken word of God, so it is advantageous to pray the words of scripture out loud. God spoke the universe into being, using the creative power of his word.[vi] Hearing the word causes our faith to rise within us,[vii] as with confidence we speak out God’s strong, affirming truths which we claim for ourselves by faith.
In the description of the armour of God found in Ephesians[viii], we can see that the only offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit; all the other items mentioned are defensive. A correct rendition of that passage reads, “… the sword of the Spirit, which is the spoken word of God” (rhema). Whenever we are faced with the lies, temptations or accusations of the Enemy, we can wield the sword of the Spirit by authoritatively quoting scripture. Jesus used precisely this strategy when dealing with Satan during his temptation in the wilderness.[ix] Every proposition the devil put to Jesus was countered effectively by the spoken word of God.
So often we do not have the words to adequately express our thoughts, emotions and feelings in prayer, so we can borrow the words of scripture to give voice to our own scattered thoughts. This is not to say that any sincere and heartfelt prayer, however faltering and clumsy, will not be heard and accepted by God; it will. However, sometimes we want to praise and worship the Lord in words that are worthy of him, and the words of scripture can give wings to our feeble efforts. It is doubtful that many of us could have come up with the description of Jesus found in Colossians 1:15-20. Try substituting the words “he is” with the words “you are” and using them in your own prayer of praise to Jesus, and feel your spirit soar!
The Psalms provide a treasure trove of prayer opportunities for us. The psalmist expresses every possible emotion, from joy to sorrow, hope, fear, trust, despair, persecution, thanksgiving and praise. Whatever emotion we are going through, there is a psalm for us! Check out Psalms 23, 29, 51, 91, 139 & 148 for starters. They also cover various aspects of our prayer life – praise, confession, and thanksgiving.
Most of the Psalms are written in the first person, so we can pick them up and use them just as they are. However, many verses, especially in the New Testament letters, can be personalised by making small adjustments. Ephesians 1:17-19 could be paraphrased like this:
“I ask you Lord, to give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know you better. I pray also that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened to know the hope to which you have called me, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for us who believe.”
We can also pray for other people by inserting their name into the passage. 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 would become:
“I pray that Sam would stand firm and hold on to the teachings that were passed on to him… May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage Sam’s heart and strengthen him in every good deed and word.”
The above passages, along with Ephesians 3:16-19, would be wonderful verses to pray for our children or grandchildren. Just add their name and mix with prayer!
So how can we add this aspect of prayer so that it becomes a regular feature of our devotional life?
Firstly in our regular Bible reading, after thoughtful study and reflection, we can respond with some of the words we have been reading, where applicable. This would be most suitable when reading the New Testament letters, as seen above.
But sometimes it is necessary to have a selection of verses that we have memorised, or at least know roughly what they are and where they can be found, so that we can use them when we need them. The psalmist says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, so that I might not sin against you.”[x] If we have hidden God’s word in our hearts, the Holy Spirit can bring it to our minds at just the right time, so if we are faced with temptation for instance, we can wield the sword of the Spirit just like Jesus did. All this takes discipline, an intentional attitude, and a plan.
If a Bible verse inspires you to praise or prayer, or resonates strongly in some other way, write it down. It may be helpful to start a notebook of such verses, divided into sections on various themes, e.g. doubt, anxiety, fear, assurance etc. A concordance or Bible dictionary could be helpful here. Then, if you are plagued by anxiety, you can find the relevant scriptures and pray them until the peace of God seeps back into your soul. Likewise, if your heart is full of praise to God but you cannot find the words, turn to the section on praise and worship – you may even end up writing your own praise songbook!
When starting your collection of verses, make sure you check their context, particularly if a verse starts with “So,” or “Therefore…” There may be pre-conditions that you’ll need to take into account. A search of the internet or a visit to a Christian bookstore could supply you with lists of scriptures suitable for prayer.
Imagine the possibilities as together we pray the mind of God – what faith and power will be generated
[i] 2 Timothy 3:16
[ii] Hebrews 4:12
[iii] 1 John 5:14-15, John 15:7
[iv] Romans 8:1
[v] Romans 12:2, Isaiah 55:8,9
[vi] Genesis 1:3,6,9 etc.
[vii] Romans 10:17
[viii] Ephesians 6:13-17
[ix] Luke 4:1-13
[x] Psalm 119:11