What to Say When You Pray

A goal any seminary student should have is to spend as much time as he can with his favorite professors. It was a habit I practiced frequently when I was a seminary student, spending time with my professors in their offices, in restaurants, on the basketball court, and at baseball games. One of my most beloved professors regularly invited students to his office during the lunch hour to talk and pray. We would eat and chat briefly and then spend most of the hour in prayer. I credit that experience as the most important "class" on prayer I've ever had as I listened to our professor pour out his heart before our God.

What struck me as odd as I listened to him pray was that it all sounded rather familiar, like when you hear the instrumental version of a song that you know you know but just can't place. It took me a few minutes and then I realized what my professor was doing. He was taking our prayer requests, shared over our lunch chit-chat, and was paraphrasing verses from the Bible to suit each request as he prayed to God on our behalf. Each request ended up being a beautiful, woven prayer of three to five Bible verses, prayed with sincerity. It was in that office, surrounded by dusty books and an aging professor, that I learned the most important part of practical prayer: when you pray, pray the Bible back to God.

This shouldn't be new to you if you're a regular attendee of Christ Covenant. We use this method to shape all the different prayers in corporate worship. But you may be wondering how you might grow in praying this way, especially if you don't have access to a beloved seminary professor. In addition to simply opening your Bible and beginning to pray, here are three resources you can take advantage of to learn how to pray the Bible.

  1. The Lord's Prayer - Jesus gave us the Lord's prayer not only as a prayer to pray but also as a pattern to pray. Pray slowly through the Lord's Prayer, stopping at each request theme, offering your own requests interspersed.
  2. Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer - Henry was a renowned pastor and theologian who is most known for his commentaries on the Bible. But he also wrote a book on prayer that consists of pulling together different passages of Scripture into prayers categorized under different topics. Our friends over at the Matthew Henry Project have done us a great service making Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer available for free online and in the ESV. 
  3. Don Whitney's Praying the Bible - Praying the Bible is a book that was published last year with the express purpose of helping Christians pray the Bible, especially the psalms. It would be a great addition to your theological library.

Upcoming

  1. This Sunday - This Sunday we'll take a look at Psalm 22, one of the most heavily quoted psalms in the New Testament and a psalm that Jesus drew on to describe his own crucifixion.
  2. Potluck - Our next potluck is September 18th. Mark your calendars.
  3. New Members Class - We're taking enrollment for our next New Members class. Let Joe know if you're interested.