Praying the Scriptures

"Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for this day. Thank you for [insert daily event here]. Please bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies, and our bodies to your service. In Jesus Name, Amen."

That's what God heard from me for about fifteen years. When it was my turn to pray at family dinners, that's what I came up with. On special occasions, I would read the cross-stitch prayers that hung behind our dinner table to mix things up a bit, but for the most part I stayed true to the original prayer you can read above.

I meant it too - every word of it. Throughout my growing up years, I knew God was the Most Gracious Heavenly Father. I was truly thankful for the day, and the day's events. And I hoped Mom's meatloaf would bless my body, because it evidently hadn't blessed the body of the person who ate it before me.

I prayed that prayer for years and years. It was heartfelt, sincere, and to the point. But it was also a habit.

I didn't realize it until I was asked to pray for a Bible Study I was attending, and I accidentally slipped in the "bless this food" part at the end. There were doughnuts and coffee at the Bible Study, so nobody else cared, but it hit me hard.

This is the Sovereign God of the Universe Who spoke the Universe into existence, and I come at him with cliche? Something was wrong. If I stepped back and thought about it, I meant what I said. But I had to step back to consider it. My sincere prayers had become trite formulas, and that was a problem for me.

So I started reading. I read every book on prayer I could get my hands on at the small Christian bookstore near my apartment. But nothing flipped the switch. I loved to study the Bible, but couldn't quite get my prayer life going.

One day, I mentioned my quandry to one of the interns at the church where I was working. He showed me something I've been using off and on ever since. Maybe it will be useful to you as well.

He called it "Praying the Scriptures," and the premise is simple: You attach your prayers directly to the Bible Study you're doing. This way, the Bible Study (God talking to me) and prayer life (me talking to God) are intermingled like a conversation I would have with someone sitting across the desk from me.

It's especially easy with the Epistles, but can be done with any book. Here's how it works:

First, I read a short passage of Scripture I've been studying. Say I'm reading Ephesians; I might start with Ephesians 1:1, where I read:

"From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. "

After reading the verse, I begin to pray chunks of the verse at a time like this:

"Lord, thank you for the ministry of Paul and for the lives he touched while he ministered on the earth. Thank you for gifting Him as an apostle. Help me to understand and implement my own spiritual gifts as Paul did. Just as he was an apostle by the will of God, I know that it is Your will for me to serve You using my gifts as well. Lord, Paul mentions that the Ephesians were faithful in Christ Jesus. I want to be like that. Help me to be faithful to you above and beyond anything else in this world; that's my desire."

Then I would move to verse two, and so on.

For the most part, it has helped me break out of the "habit" of praying, and has allowed me to view prayer for what it truly is. This month, as you might guess from my previous blog, I'm praying through 1 Samuel. Today my prayer was that my ministry would be protected from the selfishness that plagued Saul, and that I might have a heart like David's.


~Cammi Angel~ said...

Hi Chris. :) Thank you so much for this post on Praying the Scriptures. Actually I had just done a Google search for "Bless, O Lord, this food to our nourishment" and Google keyed on your post. I really needed to hear what you had to say today. I pray lots of times memorized prayers from childhood and feel a need for greater creativity. So your tip on praying the scriptures will help me greatly in my daily prayers and in my Bible study. Thank you for being God's tool today and for being out here on the net for me.