By Richard A. Burr
Several years ago I was privileged to speak at the Greek Evangelical Bible Conference in Leptokaria, Greece, located on the beautiful Aegean Sea at the foot of Mount Olympus. During this five week period of ministry, God in His providence allowed my life to intersect with a beautiful (both inwardly and outwardly) Greek woman, Anastasia Ioannidou, who was the director of nursing at a mission hospital in Thessaloniki.
After a few months of courtship, along with much prayer and counsel, I sensed that the Lord was calling us together to be husband and wife. I remember so vividly that New Year’s Eve when I asked her to marry me. Naturally, it was an emotionally charged time with much rejoicing over the thought of our spending the balance of our earthly lives together. But after many tender moments, she responded with an answer I never expected.
“Richard, for me to marry you I must have a Word-oriented command from God that this is His will and not just mine or yours.”
I must confess that I was somewhat startled by her answer. But after much conversation we committed this to the Lord, asking Him to speak to us – particularly to her, for I was certain God was in this!
She had three major questions that needed God’s affirmation:
1. Was her ministry to her own people over?
2. Who would care for her elderly mother?
3. Was I God’s man for her?
Obviously, these were very serious and legitimate concerns; if we made the wrong decision, there could be catastrophic consequences.
Fortunately, she had developed the practice of systematically praying through Scripture, particularly the Psalms. So, it was only natural for her to lay those issues before God and wait patiently for His direction. This process of Scripture praying had made her mind so consumed with the Word and her heart so attuned to the Holy Spirit that when God gave His answer, she would know with certainty that He was speaking directly to her without the fear of deliberately taking the Word out of context to satisfy personal ambition.
Over the next sixty-eight days my constant question to her was, “Has the Lord spoken to you yet?” And her answer would invariably be, “No, but I sense He will answer soon.” I tried to convince her that His silence indicated His affirmation, but her resolve was steadfast. “No, we must wait for His direction.”
Finally, on March 9 I received the phone call for which I had been anxiously awaiting.
“Yes, yes, Richard! The Lord has heard my request and has answered my questions by speaking through His Word. I will marry you!”
She then proceeded to explain how she had been praying through Psalm 45 that very morning and when she got to verses 10 and 11, the answers were given:
Listen, 0 daughter, consider and give ear:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
The king is enthralled by your beauty;
Honor him, for he is your lord.
Note that all her questions were answered in those two verses: (1) Her ministry to her people was finished; (2) He would provide and care for her mother; and (3) I was the man to be her husband. That answer affirmed for us the second most important decision we have ever made in our lives – the first being our respective decisions to acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives.
I share this personal illustration as an introduction to what I believe is the most powerful way one can pray: Scripture praying. It is truly the perfect method of prayer!
Scripture praying is the practice of using God’s Word as the foundation for our communion with Him. The Word and prayer are inseparable. When one engages in prayer without the Word it can lead to mysticism; when the Word is used without prayer it can lead to legalism, intellectualism and coldness of heart.
I recall a well-known pastor teaching on prayer and making the following disclaimer: “I am sophisticated in doctrine, but I am superficial in prayer.” Scripture praying neutralizes this potential danger by placing equal emphasis on both the Word and prayer. Among the numerous reasons for praying this way are four principal benefits which make up the acrostic P-R-A-Y.
P Is for Purposes
Engaging in Scripture praying always brings you face-to-face with the purposes, priorities and goals of the Almighty. It exposes you to His will. Our Lord’s core values are always folded into His Word, forming His nonnegotiable message to mankind. This message, when prayed through, leads you away from self-centered and superficial praying by directing you into the central purposes of our perfect God.
For example, you may be questioning the extent of your relationships with nonbelievers. If you happened to be praying through Psalm 1, you would discover in the first verse the blessing that comes from limited association with sinners. “Blessed [spiritually prosperous] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” By internalizing and applying this instruction, the petitioner will be led in the direction preferred by the Master.
Scripture praying is like using the Word as a “road map” for our pilgrimage here on earth. As regenerated believers, we know that our ultimate destination is heaven; however, it is the decisions and directions between here and there that give us concern. As we pray through the Word, it not only guides us through these uncertainties, but it also brings our value system into harmony with the perfect will of God. All this makes the quality of our ride to heaven most pleasant, in spite of a little turbulence along the way.
R Is for Rhetoric
Rhetoric (the proper use of speech or language) is another area of concern when it comes to prayer. How do I address a holy God? What words do I use to express my desires and concerns without compromising the holy reverence He deserves? Many times our prayers become short-circuited because we ask wrongly. James verifies this: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss” (James 4:3, NKJN). Scripture praying allays this fear by allowing the believer to commune with the Lord through the words in which He has chosen to speak to us – the Bible.
We mentioned before that prayer is intended to be a dialogue – that is, talking and listening to God – not just a monologue. Through Scripture praying, we not only use His Word to properly format our prayers, but this same Word is used by God to nourish, encourage and instruct our souls. The Word of God is living and active; it pierces and quickens one’s heart; it exposes and judges our thoughts and motives; it lays bare our hearts in preparation for becoming pure; it prepares us to become recipients of His mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:12-16). It is absolute truth, and by using it properly we will not ask amiss.
A Is for Attributes
When you practice Scripture praying in your devotional time, it constantly exposes you to the attributes and characteristics of God. By praying through and focusing on these true representations of His divine nature, you will grow in the knowledge of God and develop intimacy with Him.
Even though we will never come to a perfect comprehension of God on this side of heaven (Romans 11:33), we can develop a personal and intimate relationship with Him. This is accomplished by immersing our minds in Scripture, for it is through the Word that God has chosen to reveal Himself to man.
In the Psalms alone there are more than 200 different attributes and characteristics ascribed to His name. For example, the unfailing love of God is mentioned twenty-six times in different settings and contexts. If you struggle with the thought of whether He loves you or not, consistently praying through the Psalms would lead you to the assurance that His love is infinite and unfailing. This assurance opens the door for a stronger, more intimate relationship with the Lord.
Y Is for Yoked
Practicing Scripture praying also causes you to become yoked with the great saints of the faith. Praying through their letters and prayers helps you identify with their struggles and celebrations of life. And from them can be gleaned truths, principles and methods that will enhance your relationship with the Almighty. Over time, this leads to imitating their lives. As the writer of Hebrews instructs us, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7, emphasis added).
In essence, by praying through the Word, we take these ancient writers of the Old and New Testaments into the closet with us and they actually disciple us in prayer through their writings. And in the process we come to reproduce their passion, praise and perseverance in our prayers.
Also, we must be mindful that we are to be yoked with our Redeemer. This means that we are to live in joyful submission, not reluctant surrender, to His authority. All too often we resist His yoke, thus forfeiting His promised rest. The Lord exhorts us in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
By praying through Scripture I am constantly reminded of my position in and with Christ: I am a child of the King; He is my Master and I am His servant. And by His grace I will grow into His likeness!
Observe, Interpret, Apply
Whenever we use Scripture, we should be concerned to arrive at its proper meaning. Even the most sincere believers can mishandle the Scriptures if they don’t practice discernment. All too often, careless observations lead to faulty interpretations and improper conclusions. This can be avoided by a simple three-step process: observe, interpret, apply.
1. As you pray through Scripture, observe the context and to whom it is written. Try to “climb into the skin” of the writer and see the scenes and personalities through his eyes. Take note of the words, phrases and sentences – what they are saying and to whom they are directed.
2. Next, through the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit, interpret the text by determining what the writer specifically meant in this historical setting and for what purpose. At this point, we are not interpreting the Word for our personal use, but are looking at it from the author’s viewpoint.
3. Finally, after observing and properly interpreting the Word, apply it personally by allowing the Word to formulate your thoughts, shape your prayers and determine your actions.
The following illustrates the concept of Scripture praying by using selected verses from Psalm 25.
“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God…No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.” (25:1-3)
Father, this morning I lift up to You my mind, emotions and will – the totality of my being. It is in You that I anchor all my trust, hope and faith. Thank You for this incredible promise that as I place all my hope in You, I never will be put to shame!
“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (25:4-5)
Lord, cause me to be conscious of Your guidance as I encounter multitudes of choices throughout this coming day. You know the issues that are before me. Help me maintain the upward look, that my eyes will see the paths that You have ordained for me. Be my Mentor and Guide and grant me a teachable spirit to follow Your designs for me this day. Again, I acknowledge that all my faith, trust and hope is placed in You, for apart from You I can do nothing.’
“Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.” (25:7)
Lord Jesus, I praise You and thank You for enduring that excruciating pain and shame at Calvary for my past, present and future sins. Thank You that I’m a forgiven saint by Your shed blood. So, may You always remember me according to Your unfailing love and not by my failures and rebellious ways. Therefore, I praise You and thank You for Your unmerited grace. Thank You for Your divine forgiveness and the grace You give to extend it to others.
Have you caught the concept and simplicity of this style of praying? Then try it out yourself – go to your closet and apply these truths by praying through David’s entire prayer in Psalm 25.
When you engage in Scripture praying, you can be certain that the Word and the Holy Spirit are always in harmony with each other … never in opposition. For the Spirit rides best in His own “chariot” (i.e., the Word of God). And one of the principle functions of the Holy Spirit is to take the truth of God’s Word and providentially instruct, guide, convict and nourish your soul and to meet your present needs. If your heart’s desire is to truly worship and serve Him, this method of praying will always lead you into the will of God. It eliminates the staleness of rote praying as it illuminates your mind with nuggets of biblical truth you may never have discovered before. Scripture praying will also create a hunger within your heart to plumb the depths of God’s Word
Article “Scripture Praying” excerpted from “Developing Your Secret Closet of Prayer”. Written by Richard A. Burr.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”