I love praying scripture. I love engaging with the Bible as a way of cultivating relationship with God. This has been true for me from my earliest days as a follower of Jesus. When I went forward at a Seawind concert in Sacramento in September 1978, I prayed to welcome Jesus into my heart. (It’s hard to believe that was nearly 40 years ago). I was then given a little green Gideon New Testament to read.
Unfortunately, Matthew 1 is a genealogy, which I didn’t find all that interesting. So it took a while before I decided the Bible was going to be of much interest to me. (It probably would have been good for someone to catch that little detail so they could warn us newcomers that the whole thing wasn’t a long list of names!)
Thankfully, I soon moved on to the story of Jesus, and then the story of the church, and then to letters written to the churches. It felt like ice cold water on a long hot Summer’s day. Refreshing!
It didn’t take me long before I realized there was something unique about this book. Something alive and dynamic. Before anyone told me I should, I found myself translating what I was reading into conversational language with God. I was praying the Scriptures. I still often do this today. Here, for example, is a recent journal entry in which the first few verses of Philippians guided my prayer one morning.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
And so I prayed:
Today, I remember that I am a servant of Jesus the Christ—the Messiah. I am a member of God’s holy family in Christ here in Orange county, California. I have been called to serve as a deacon, and soon as a priest in my Anglican family. (I was just ordained as a priest on Sunday, March 4). I am blessed to receive, together with all of God’s people, grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not alone on this journey.
I join Paul in giving thanks, always, for everyone and in everything. Gratitude is the atmosphere of the kingdom. Gratitude is exhaling the grace I inhale. And it feels so right! Enable me to breathe in your every generosity today, Father. Show me how to receive everything good so that I might be a blessing to others throughout this day.
I also want to walk through this day prayerfully. I so easily get caught up in my own stale, curved-inward thoughts. One of the ways I could enjoy freshness of mind and heart today is by living this day prayerfully. As always, prayer is not just a task I accomplish or a project I take on. Prayer is a Person with whom I am in loving, trusting conversation.
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” Pray with joy. I have sometimes prayed with boredom. I have sometimes prayed half-asleep. I do this when I forget what I’m doing and with whom I am speaking. Forgive me, Father.
The partnership I enjoy with other sons and daughters of God inspires me to pray with this sort of joy. I am living this day and doing my work in community. What a great gift!
Grow Paul’s confidence in me. Grant me courage, hope and resolve that all that I am doing—that we are doing together—is a fruit of Your good work in and through me. It is a work that You have not and will not give up on. There will come a day when I will be with you face to face and this good work will actually have been completed. I pray that day might come in good time!”
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When I pray scripture like this, I feel the words come alive in me. I experience the grace these lines offer. I come to more deeply trust in and believe the truth of what they say. I hope you’ll give this little exercise a try yourself.
Is there a passage you’ve recently read and appreciated that might guide you in conversation with God? Why not take a few moments to personalize those Scriptural lines into a personal way of praying scripture?
If you don’t know where to start, you might try these biblical prayers. They’re already in prayer language, but you could put in your own name, or the names of people you care about in your life.