Praying Scripture Back to God
We’ve already seen one example of this in the Lord’s Prayer. The discipline of this kind of prayer comes from familiarity with Scripture. Christians don’t just read the Bible to know more about God. They read the Bible to become more like God, and prayer is a chief means of grace. It just makes sense, then, that as you and I “age” in Christ, that the phrases of Scripture become like a second language to us. Not that we’ve got everything memorized exactly, but that it is natural for us to recall certain passages and verses.
When we pray Scripture back to God, we have internalized it. It has become real to us. I can honestly think of no better way to pray than to let Scripture permeate our petitions and thanksgivings. We allow God to hear His words, and He knows that we haven’t just sought to understand them—even though this is extremely important—but also seek to see them come alive in our day. The things He has wanted for us, we now want. And so we tell Him using the familiar words of the psalms, the instructions of Paul, and the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus and all of his people regularly prayed and sang the psalms. The psalms of ascent were recited every year at Passover as Jews traveled to Jerusalem. When Jewish men wrote what became Scripture, their minds were ablaze with the imagery and thought life and phrases of the Old Testament. It had become such a part of their lives that there was no other way to write about Jesus.
Look at the topics they cover. Then ask, “What would our prayer lives be like if we only got to pray these words?” Lots of lamenting–crying out to God in
Psalm 1 Wisdom
Psalm 2 Messianic and Royal
Psalm 3 Lament of an Accused Person
Psalm 4 Lament and Song of Trust
Psalm 5 Imprecatory
Psalm 6 Lament/Psalm of Sickness
Psalm 7 Lament
Psalm 8 Hymn of Praise of Creation
Psalm 9 Praise
Psalm 10 Lament
So how might we do this? Our Bible reading can be a springboard for prayer. When we read, we can pray through that passage. If it is a narrative, we might pray about how we are like or unlike the people in the story. Or ask God to do for us what He did for them.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation.” Bonhoeffer had the men enrolled in his seminary start their days with a half-hour silent meditation on Scripture.
As we read Scripture, we cannot skip over the boring passages, or the ones that we deem to have little application for us. For example, we cannot read the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and simply thank God that we are not in his spot. We are in his shoes. Like Abraham, we are all asked to sacrifice that which is most precious to us, that which we believe God gave to us. Like Abraham, we come away from our decisions to surrender all to God with a new understanding of what it means to be completely His. I believe that praying Scripture back to God moves us in this direction.