Pray and Read

Conversation is a two part process that involves speaking and listening. A conversation with God requires the Christian to speak to God and to listen to Him. The only way to hear the voice of God is through the Word of God. One way to keep a two way conversation going is to read Scriptures while you pray. In other words, make the Bible your script, your cue card and your prompter for your prayers. When you pray, pray with an open Bible.

To read while praying requires a little preparation. I find it easier to pray the Word when I have already identified and understood Scriptures that pertain to my prayer requests. This does not mean you have to do a word or topical study of the entire Bible for every request on your prayer list. Preparing to pray the Word does not require an exhaustive knowledge of everything the Bible says. It does not even require an exhaustive knowledge of everything the Bible says about a particular topic.

Most of our prayer requests fall into a small number of broad, general categories. If you understand the Biblical principles regarding a broad category of prayer you will be prepared to pray the Word for every specific request within that category. Any prayer for illness will be shaped by the same Biblical principles regardless of whether that illness is cancer, coronavirus, congestive heart failure or the common cold. The Bible guides our prayer for the sick when it speaks to concern for the health of the person (James 5:14-15; 3 John 1:2), the work of God in the person through illness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and the eternal perspective that physical suffering is intended to produce in us (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

As an example, praying for someone who lost his job may apply the principles of Proverbs 13:4; Philippians 4:19 and Philippians 4:6-7 in a prayer that looks something like this. “Please help George to quickly find a job. Give him a diligent spirit in his search for a job and give him a diligent spirit in whatever tasks are given to him in the meantime. Especially, give him and his family Your peace while they wait on You. Help them to remember that you are the one who supplies all their needs. Assure them of Your faithfulness to your promises to provide for their needs. Help them see how this trial of their faith is for their good so they will know better Your provision, Your power and Your love for them.”

At first this kind of praying may seem wooden and unnatural. In a sense it is. You are learning a new language. You are learning to speak the language of Scripture in prayer. Just like any other new skill or new language, it takes time and practice. Persevere in praying in this fashion and you will find the language of God’s Word comes more easily to your heart and mouth.

In prayer we are often dealing with difficult issues that are bewilderingly complex. But do not feel like you have to present a theological dissertation on the nature of disease and suffering to properly ask God to heal someone. (But, if lengthy dissertations are part of your natural conversation, then dissertate away.) Let the Bible shape your requests, but you have the freedom to speak naturally, simply and briefly. You do not have to explain every passage or give a three point outline on a portion of the Bible to properly pray Scripture. Pray the text. Pray your understanding of what it means. Pray how you think it applies to the current situation. (Proper understanding of the Word is important, but that is for a later conversation). Pray like you would talk to a friend.

In closing, you do not need to pray every applicable passage every time you pray. Our conversations are usually simple. We say what is on our heart or what is appropriate to the situation at the time. Formal prayers have their place, but so do conversational prayers. Simple prayers are not less effective with God than complex prayers. Some Christians seem to believe complexity and longevity in prayer is the essence of spirituality or is essential to answered prayer. It is not. Vain repetition can be found in the chants of the pagans, in the hurried recitation of ten “Our Father’s” or in the heavily embellished verbosity of pontifical praying. God is not impressed with your knowledge of theology or your command with language. God is impressed by your love and obedience to Him. Pray like you are talking to someone you love. Pray with simplicity.