Learning to Pray Using Scripture
Recently I was “assigned” the task of writing one or more articles about prayer. That’s a painful way to discover just how bad your prayer life is! But let me share with you the benefit of my ignorance, and maybe at the same time help myself!
So how should you pray? The key is more in attitude than method. Why are you praying? Are you trying to get something from God? Are you in trouble and need help? Is a friend or family member ill? Are you facing a big test or a difficult situation? Those are the times when we usually pray.
Or, are you praying simply because you want to get to know your heavenly Father better? Bear in mind that your heavenly Father wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to know you, and He wants you to get to know Him. But that kind of relationship requires conversation, not monologue.
Huh? How do you do that? I mean, you’re not going to sit there and listen to God talk to you, right? True in one sense. But in a very real sense, we can hear God talk to us—through His written Word, the Bible. This takes a little time, so settle in to a quiet place with your Bible in hand (and a notebook so you can write down what you hear Him say to you).
Rather than trying to pick a chapter or verse at random—which can go badly wrong if you are looking for specific answers—you might consider using a “read through the Bible” guide. It doesn’t really matter what the schedule it is (Whole Bible, New Testament and Psalms, Chronological,….) The point is to have a starting place. The whole Bible is God’s Word. The whole Bible is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). So where you begin doesn’t matter.
But, if you are just starting to practice prayer, let’s make it a bit easier. Looking at a whole chapter or several chapters may seem overwhelming. Let me suggest starting out with a smaller bite, an amuse-bouche, if you will. I subscribe to a “verse of the day” feed, so every morning a verse appears in my email. The one for today is Galatians 6:9, so let’s pray that back to God using the well-known acrostic A C T S (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication).
Before you begin, ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to learn about Him and about yourself. If you have a specific need, ask Him to speak to you through the verse(s) that you read. Pray for a heart that is open to hearing those promptings as He brings them to your mind. All you are doing at this point is opening your heart and mind to God: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Adoration. What can we learn about God in that verse? Pray/praise those things back to Him: He gives strength to the weary; He rewards those who persevere; He is our strong tower—helping us not to give up… (remember, though, this part is about HIM, not about you!)
Confession. Oddly enough, the more we get to know God, the more we see where we fall far short of His glory. As those shortcomings, those sins, reveal themselves to you, confess them. Ask God to forgive you. We do grow weary. We give up. Tell God about it. He knows anyway, but He wants to hear you acknowledge them.
Thanksgiving. How have you seen God work in your life to help you keep going when the going was really hard? What blessings can you think of that you have received from God? How have you seen Him turn even difficult situations into victories? Tell Him about them, and thank Him for what He has done.
Supplication. Now that you have firmly in your mind who God is, you have confessed your own sins, and you have gratefully acknowledged how God has worked in your life, you are ready to present your specific requests. This is where you pray for whatever comes to your mind. God cares. He wants to hear about them!
You may want to circle back to adoration one last time before you close your prayer. Praise or thank Him for something specific you have learned during your time of prayer. You might even want to memorize the verse so you can meditate on it throughout the day.
 I can hear you object, “How can I possibly expect to get something relevant from some dry old chapter in the Old Testament?” Read my article “Praying for Answers” for a specific example from my life where God did exactly that—from Ezekiel of all places!