Praying scripture can be a fantastic way to enrich your prayers. Specifically, following scripture can move you to pray about things you normally wouldn’t, thus broadening your prayer life. Also, praying scripture can help you focus and pray for longer periods of time.
Two simple techniques for praying scripture are: 1) Using scripture as a topical guide and 2) Paraphrasing Psalms. Here are some example…
1. Using Scripture as a Topical Guide
Recently, scripture guided my prayers as I was sewing baby quilts and praying over them for the next generation. I sew for about 30 minutes which can be a super long time to focus on a single topic. I was struggling to keep praying until the Sermon on the Mount came to mind. Last year I had memorized the Sermon on the Mount during Lent and while I don’t remember it word for word, large chunks and the overall flow of the sermon have stuck with me.
I leaned on the Sermon on the Mount as a guide by selecting topics from it to inform my prayer. For example, Matthew 5:14-16 says,
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
So I prayed something like…
Heavenly Father, may the next generation clearly understand the gifts you have given them. May they use these gifts in bold ways to glorify you. May they live as Godly young men and woman whose lives are witness that leads other people to you. Do not let them be like the hypocrites who stand on streets so that other people will notice them. Instead I pray that whatever they do, that it is done to your glory.
Note: I could have used this same technique even if I hadn’t memorized the passage. Don’t think memorizing scripture is necessary to use these techniques, but I will address at the end of this post how memorization can be extremely beneficial.
Here’s another example — if you were reading 1 Peter 3 and ran across this passage:
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.
You might pray something like…
Lord, anoint our church with your Holy Spirit so that we would have unity. Help us to be understanding of each other. Lord, I confess that I tend to lack sympathy at times and pray that you would soften my heart to the needs of others, so I would be quicker to understand and slower to judge. Help me see my own sin and failure so that I am of a humble mind.
Be more pointed in your prayers if a scripture addresses a specific issue you are dealing with. For example, the 1 Peter passage may bring to mind a conflict you are having with someone. So, you might prayer something like:
Lord, Jan frustrates me. She seems to always be complaining and negative. I have little or no sympathy and patience for her. Please soften my heart. Help me to be gracious in my responses and more understanding. I know that as blessed as I am, I frequently complain about my situation and yet you graciously love and continue to provide for me anyways. Teach me, O Lord, how I can be a blessing to Jan. Even when she mutters behind my back about me, anoint me with your Spirit so that I do not return evil for evil.
You get the idea. Praying scripture by extracting topics from passages is particularly easy with passages which are teaching segments. The Psalms are also well-suited as an inspirational source for prayer.
2. Paraphrasing Psalms
I first learned the power of writing paraphrased prayers when I was using the spiritual classic, A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, as my morning and evening devotional guide. This little book, offers a morning and evening prayer with a blank opposing page for you to write on. I found Baillie’s prayers so much richer than my own. He thought of so many concerns to pray about that never crossed my mind. So, to broaden my prayer vocabulary I read his prayer and started using the blank page to write a similar prayer but in my own words. I grew tremendously by essentially imitating his prayer life.
This same technique of imitation can be used with the Psalms. Simply select a Psalm and then write or speak the Psalm in your own words. You will likely find, as I did following Baillie’s prayers, that the Psalms will push you to pray in ways you’ve never considered. Slowing down to put a Psalm in your own words will also deepen your understanding and appreciation of God’s Word.
Praying Scripture and Memorization
Scripture memorization and prayer can be mutually beneficial. Memorizing scripture as I mention in my first example, can serve as prayer inspiration. Conversely, praying scripture will increase your memory of it. Consequently, memorizing scripture while actively working to pray scripture are great companions. They feed and strengthen one another.
To help you memorize scripture I have put together a brief cheat sheet of scripture memorization tips along with a list of suggested scriptures to memorize to get you started. Even if you think you can’t memorize, check out this sheet. I learned late in life through participating in local theater that memorization is a skill that anyone can develop and at any point in life. I never thought of myself as a good memorizer, but I’ve used the techniques laid out on the cheat sheet to memorize entire scriptures and passages as long as the Sermon on the Mount. If I can do it, you can to.
That said…you don’t have to go crazy memorizing big passages for memorization to be beneficial. Learning a few verses regularly can have a transformative impact on your discipleship as your internalization of God’s Word compounds.
Click the button below to get your copy of the “Scripture Memorization Cheat Sheet”