This particular season of ministry has been at times very difficult for me, and I’ve found that this is typically a result of not being focused on my prayer life. For me, praying in general has always seemed like a chore. I know that you do not want to hear that from a pastor or theologian, but it is true. Prayer has always bored me, not because I find talking to God—the Creator of Heaven and Earth—boring, but because I always bore myself with my own prayers. I find myself praying to God about the same old things over and over and over again, to no avail. I find myself very boring and believe that God must think me to be a very boring individual, because I have nothing creative or intelligent or otherwise different to talk to him about besides the same old petitions, requests, and pleas. Praying became a chore and a bother to me because I felt like I was bothering God, now I know that is borderline heterodox at best, but that is how I felt and I’m positive that it is a sentiment felt by many people at some point in time in their lives.
I tell you this though, my fellow Christians, God does not grow weary from hearing from you, and He most certainly does not get bored by what you are talking to Him about. While you may grow weary and feel inadequate in your prayer-life, the God of Heaven and Earth loves to hear from you. I discovered a way to pray, however, that has brought passion and meaning back to my prayer life. I have discovered a way to talk to God as I am talking to you all right now. I have discovered a way to enjoy my conversations with God and how to “liven them up”, if you will, in such a way that no longer bores me and makes me feel that a conversation is actually occurring.
You’re probably saying to yourself, “Wow! This is great! A new way to find joy in praying!” Well I hate to tell you this, but it’s not a new way to pray. In fact it’s a way to pray that saints have been doing for centuries, if not for the past 2000 years. It’s sadly only new to me because I never once considered doing it beforehand. For many of you it is probably going to be new too, and you’re going to think, “Why didn’t I think of this before?” What I am talking about is praying the Bible back to God, or simply this praying Scripture. I cannot begin to tell you how radically different my prayer life has become ever since I started practicing this spiritual discipline. I have found joy in praying. I have found that my prayers have more depth and meaning. I have found that, in praying Scripture back to God and using Scripture to influence my prayers, my prayers carry more weight and significance in my life. I have found that, while plumbing the depths of Scripture as I pray, the Word of God becomes more alive to me and resonates in a way like never before. In praying Scripture I find that I am conversing with God how the saints of old did. I find myself hearing from God and responding to God’s Word in a way that I never did beforehand.
Joni Eareckson Tada summarizes exactly how I feel about praying to God what He has already spoken to me in His written Word, by saying, “I have learned to season my prayers with the word of God. It’s a way of talking to God in his language speaking his dialect, using his vernacular, employing his idios…This is not a matter simply of divine vocabulary. It’s a matter of power. When we bring God’s word directly into our praying, we are bringing God’s power into our praying. Hebrews 4:12 declares, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” God’s Word is living, and so it infuses our prayers with life and vitality. God’s word is also active, injecting energy and power into our prayer.”
By seasoning my prayers with the vocabulary of God I find myself praying for people, events, and things in my own life more fulfilling than before. I find myself opening up to God in ways that I had never imagined before, because I’m allowing Scripture to pluck at my heart, cut deep within my soul, and give light to the issues and problems I’m facing on a daily basis. Conversing with God in this way only makes sense to me, and I am so very glad that I picked up a copy of Dr. Donald Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible, when I did, because in all honesty his book saved me from spiritual depression and ministry burnout. It was through his book that I “discovered” this way to pray; and it was his exhortation to pray through the Bible and allow the very words of God to influence my prayer life that revitalized my faith and conversations with God. The key things that I really gleaned from his book are as follows:
- Pray with your Bible open.
- Pray while reading your Bible.
- Pray the Bible back to God.
- Pray for whatever comes to your mind when reading a chapter, verse-by-verse.
- Pray with urgency; don’t pray complacently, pray actively.
- Pray knowing that the God of Heaven and Earth literally can hear you.
- Pray to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Pray to the Holy Spirit.
- Pray as if you’re standing face-to-face with God, having a conversation with Him.
- Pray in such a way that expresses your theology of God, Christology, and your pneumatology, so that through your prayers, your love for God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit is deepened.
Don Whitney has this to say about praying the Bible: “If people will pray in this way, in the long run their prayers will be far more biblical than if they just make up their own prayers…the Spirit of God will use the Word of God to help the people of God pray increasingly according to the will of God.” I can attest to this that it is true. Not only has my faith and love for God deepened, but my faith has been strengthened and I’ve developed an urgency like never before to pray without ceasing. I love to pray now. I love to deepen my study of Scripture through prayer. I love that, through my own prayers, God is building me up in the most holy faith and giving me a passion for exhorting other people to pray in this way. It is a simple way to pray and a means by which you can experience the grace of God as if you are born again all over again. John Piper puts it this way, “Open the Bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer.” It’s as simple as that.
Christian, if you were once like me, struggling through your prayer life and feeling bored with the idea of saying the same old things to God over and over again, then I encourage you to just open your Bible and start reading it, and then pray to God what you’ve just read. In doing so you will find that God will bless this reading, bless this time of prayer, and in no time you’ll find that you’ve spent the past hour or so talking to God without having said the same old things like you did before. Your prayers will be filled with passion and joy, and your heart will be filled with the love of God all the more if you just but pray to God what he has already said to you.
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.