Each day as I read the scriptures, I am reminded that the words in the bible are living and active, and powerful when applied to our lives. Combining the words of scripture with prayer is ‘like tying two sticks of Dynamite together’ (I’ve heard Beth Moore say). The image implies that we are tying two powerful and impacting forces together when we pray scripture. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. And don’t just take my word for it.
Here are some more reasons to pray scripture:
1. God’s people in the OT and NT prayed scripture.
For example: In the OT, when the Israelites confess their sins in Neh 9, the Levites lead the people in a prayer that was scripturally informed and quoted Scripture (Exod 34:6). They apply that Scripture to their specific context.
In Acts 4 (in the NT) we read that the early church lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ . . .” (Acts 4:24–26). Here they are quoting Ps 2:1–2 and applying that Scripture to their specific context.
We can all learn to quote scripture in our prayers when appropriate to the situation. To do that, we need to read Scripture, correctly understand Scripture, meditate on Scripture, and then apply Scripture to our specific situation. God’s people have been doing that with the Psalms for thousands of years (even Jesus did that!).
2. Jesus prayed scripture.
The Gospel’s according to both Matthew and Mark record that Jesus prayed to the Father when he was dying on the cross, saying: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). That quotes the first line of Ps 22.
Jesus was unique in fulfilling Scripture, but we can all learn to apply scripture to our specific situations in appropriate ways.
3. Praying scripture glorifies God the Father.
Jesus told his disciples in John 15:7–8, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” When we pray Scripture, we demonstrate explicitly that Jesus’ words are remaining in us and when we internalize Jesus’ words, we will make scripturally informed requests, and God will answer them.
4. Praying Scripture helps us pray confidently.
Since Scripture is entirely truthful, we can pray confidently when we pray Scripture. It’s firm ground. We don’t need to wonder, “Is this a good thing or a bad thing to pray?” Scripture expresses God’s will, God’s character, and God’s promises. So, if we are praying Scripture, we don’t need to worry about being self-deceived or praying self-focussed prayers like praying to becoming a billionaire overnight. Obviously, we need wisdom regarding how to pray Scripture with reference to specific people and circumstances, especially in light of Jesus’ extravagant promises about what we ask for with faith (see Matt 21:22; Mark 11:24), but praying Scripture helps us pray in line with God’s will when done appropriately.
5. Praying Scripture helps us understand Scripture better.
When we pray Scripture, we must think carefully about what we are saying. In order to pray Scripture, we need to have an idea of what Scripture means in its context. The process of praying Scripture forces us to ask questions about Scripture that we might not ask if we were simply reading it. To apply scripture, you need to understand what it meant in its original context, and what significance that has for you now.
6. Praying scripture helps us focus on what is most important.
We can so easily drift into praying lists of requests that concern mainly issues such as sickness or anxiety or money or wisdom for decision-making (and it’s good to pray for our needs and the needs of others), but what about praising God? And exulting in glorious truths about God and his world? And thanking God for specific blessings? And asking God to forgive us? Praying Scripture helps us do this and keeps our focus on what is most important.
The above list of reasons to pray scripture is not exhaustive and this coming Sunday we will consider more on this topic. This will be the last message in our series on different kinds of prayer.
This week I am praying for you using these words from Phil 1:9–11: This is our prayer: that our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Amen.
What a wonderful prayer gathering we enjoyed last Sunday evening; communing together with God. We remembered that God has done great things and put our hope and trust in Him to continue to do more great things in the future. In preparation for Him to use us in a mighty way, I believe we need to repent of all that holds us back from doing his will (sins of omission), and of the sins we commit.
Repentance is different to Lament which we covered last Sunday morning. It is also different to remorse, feeling sorry for ourselves, and expressing sorrows that others have been hurt. This kind of sorrow can lead to repentance and salvation, and leaves no regret (see 2 Corinthians 7:10), but sorrow in itself is not repentance.
Repentance begins with being aware of and sorry for our sins. Jesus Christ tells us to confess both the sins we commit and our sins of omission (See Luke 11:4). When we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from unrighteousness. We then must choose to turn from those sins and walk in the newness of life through faith in Christ. There’s no point returning to our sins and slavery. Rather we need to walk in righteousness and freedom as the people of God. May we all live in this freedom and be shining lights for Jesus. I will continue to pray this prayer this week and lead our church in corporate repentance on Sunday.
In the lead up to that, you may like to take these steps for personal repentance, taken from Peter Adam’s Reimagining Repentance:
Last week, as I prayed for you, I included the words from Philippians 1:9-11: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
This week I continue to pray for you with some more of Paul’s words from Philippians chapter 2. I pray Christ encourages you, and that His love comforts you, and His spirit unites us all together (as if the whole of this church were only one person). I pray he continually increases our love and concern for one another (Phil 2:1-3). I also dare to pray that each of us "may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation, so each of us will shine among them like stars in the sky as we hold firmly to the word of life.” (Phil 2:15-16)
May all of us who profess Christ's name, bear true witness to Christ and guide others to Him, like a lighthouse light guides a ship in to shore. While we aim to live blameless lives before others, be assured God will still use each of us, even with our failures and brokenness.
In this last month I've seen a man whom I took along to his local church about a month ago, continue to go to church each Sunday and continue to seek the Lord. This week he asked his new Pastor to read the bible with him so he can learn to understand it. May he find Christ as Christ has promised (As we heard last Sunday; "seek and you will find” Matthew 7:7).
This coming Sunday we will be looking at “Prayers of Lament”. Lament is something modern churches rarely do. Sadly, I think we need to practise it today more than ever. We need to lament in our personal sorrows, the sorrows of the Church, and the sorrows of the world. To lament is to grieve all that is “wrong” (though not feel guilty about everything), as opposed to feeling sad and guilty when we sin which ought to lead to repentance. Repentance and Lament are two different things, and we will look at repentance next week. But for this week we shall learn to Lament together. In the lead up to Sunday, you might like to pray this prayer I've adapted from “Peter Adam” - Reimagining Lament.
Like Hannah who poured out her soul to the Lord (1 Sam 1:15), we pour out our souls in grief and lament for this world. We grieve with all who are oppressed, all caught up in war, famine or drought, all suffering under totalitarian, corrupt or incompetent leaders, all who are homeless or hopeless, all who are lonely, all who are sick in body or in mind, all who are bereaved, and all who live without Christ. We grieve at these human tragedies, at the suffering of individuals, societies, nations, and the world. We lament that so often those in power do not act effectively to end war, end oppression and corruption, care for those who are vulnerable and in need, and bring justice health and hope to all. We grieve too when your church in any place is corrupt, confused, sinful, selfish, self-satisfied, abusive, or alienated from the society in which you have placed it. We lament our own personal wasted opportunities, failed relationships, our sins, mistakes, and weaknesses.
We thank and praise you that in the midst of all this, you are a gracious and powerful God, and that we can turn to you, pray to you and hope in you. We pour out our souls to you in prayer, asking you to act in justice and mercy in this world. Bring down tyrants, oppressors, and corrupt leaders. Protect and rescue those in any kind of distress or need. Raise up wise and good leaders in every nation and frustrate the plans of those who plot evil. Bring justice and peace to this world. Make the gospel of Jesus Christ known in every place, and bring many to trust and follow him. We pour out our hearts to you in prayer for your church, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, your people, redeemed by the blood of your Son. May your people in every place know your power, grace, forgiveness, compassion and kindness. May they serve you, serve each other, and serve their communities with wisdom, grace, and love, We pray especially for our own church, Mount Eliza Anglican Church, that you would make us holy by your truth, and protect us from the evil one.
And gracious Father, we pour out our prayers for every member of MEAC, young and old, that you would make us people of strong faith, persistent love, and constant hope. Help each of us, to follow Jesus, to rejoice in his death and resurrection, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to live for your glory, and to count all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Saviour and Lord. Enrich our fellowship, use our daily lives at home, school, work, and in all places for your glory, and bring us safely home to you for eternity.
For the month of July, Bishop Paul has encouraged all churches to have a special prayer focus. (You can watch his short video HERE) Over the next four Sundays we will focus on: the importance of prayer, prayers of lament, prayers of repentance, and biblical prayers to help us draw closer in relationship with God.
I am beginning this month with a prayer retreat. As I write I am sitting in my house in Hurstbridge with the woodfire going, enjoying intimate fellowship with our amazing Lord; leaning into this beautiful relationship and seeking His wise counsel. It’s easy to do that here as I was completely dependent on the Lord back when I lived as a single parent raising my three children in this house (many amazing memories!). It’s a place where "I know the Lord" and "He knows me". It's also easy to pray here as there are no distractions. No T.V. No washing machine. No lawn mower. No cooking apparatus. Just lots of time to spend drawing close to the Lord. I wonder if there’s a place you can go to get away from it all and spend time with your loving father who longs to draw close to you, as you draw close to him.
Of course, you don’t need a special “place” to go to draw close to him, as I am reminded today: God is present everywhere in his power, grace and compassion. God says, ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ [Jer 23:24].
'Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast'[Psalm 139:7-10].
He is always with us and always hears our prayers, answers and guides:'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.' [Matt 7:7-8].
‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’ [Mark 11:22-24].
Therefore we always ought to pray in faith, just like our Lord Jesus did:
'When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’ [Luke 3:21,22] … But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed … Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God …' [Luke 5:16, 6:12].
Jesus is our perfect role model. Other great role models, examples and instructions for prayer are all through the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters.
E.g: 'We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you … For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.' [Col 1:3,9]
'… We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.' [1 Thess 1:2]
' … I thank God … as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.' [2 Tim 1:3]
'… Epaphras … is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.' [Col 4:12].
With all these great examples, let us be encouraged to pray! Keep praying for one another and for me. Pray using our prayer postcard, our prayer lists, using other resources, and join us for prayer before, during and after our Sunday services, and on Sunday 16th at 5pm for a special prayer gathering.
'Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests … Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful, and pray for us …' [Ephes 6:18, Col 4:2,3].On my prayer retreat today, I am praying for each of you by name.
May the Lord Bless you,