Book Brief: “Praying the Bible”
“Since prayer is talking with God, why don’t people pray more? Why don’t the people of God enjoy prayer more? I maintain that people—truly born-again, genuinely Christian people—often do not pray simply because they do not feel like it. And the reason they don’t feel like praying is that when they do pray, they tend to say the same old things about the same old things.”
And so begins the most practical and useful book on prayer that I have ever read. For years, I’ve struggled with too many “God be with so-and-so”s” and “bless this and that’s”. My prayers have seemed either too me-focused or far too unfocused. I’ve had that niggling thought that surely somewhere in my spaghetti of words I’ve overlooked something vital or said something stupid, that I’m boring God or worse, offending him.
I know in my head this is not true, and I am forever grateful to Romans 8:26,
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself interceded for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Why Are We Bored by Prayer?
In Praying the Bible, Don Whitney asks, why can we be talking to the most fascinating Person in the universe and be bored to death?” Answer: because we “say the same old things about the same old things.” The author’s solution is to use God’s language, his words, to form and guide your conversations with him. In just 89 pages, Whitney lays out a prayer method utilizing the words of Scripture to give meaning and clarity to your prayer life.
As believers, the Spirit prompts us to pray (Rom. 8:15), but our experiences in prayer are often moments when our minds wander or we are stuck repeating scripts from past prayers. This is often followed by guilt because we know that Christians are supposed to pray and that there is power to be found in prayer. Because God’s invitation to pray is to all of his children, Whitney posits that prayer must be essentially simple. Praying through a passage of Scripture, particularly a psalm, is a simple solution that keeps you on track, provides vocabulary and settles the question of boredom.
Praying the Bible: The Psalms
Ever practical, Whitney teaches his method using Psalm 23. He demonstrates how to read a verse and then pray anything that comes to mind as you consider the words. When nothing else comes to mind, move on to the next verse. He cautions against limiting what you simply because it doesn’t seem to fit with the verse. If your mind goes there: pray it! Helpfully, he draws a distinction between Bible study with proper hermeneutics and praying with this method. As you pray, Bible intake is not the primary activity; rather it is turning Godward and praying about every matter that occurs. The Bible is the prompt. Basically, you are “taking words that originated in the heart and mind of God and circulating them through your heart and mind back to God.” How beautiful is that?
Praying the Bible: Narratives, Genealogies, and More
What about narratives, imprecatory psalms, genealogies, and other more difficult passages of Scripture? Whitney addresses these and other issues but assures is that praying the Word of God not only gives you fresh words and language but also inspired words. Hebrews 4:12 declares, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.”
If God’s word is living, it infuses our conversations with God with life, energy, and power.
A Prayer Method that Works
I can testify that using this prayer method has helped my prayers to be more God-focused than self-focused; more engaging with time passing quickly; more conversational; and I am praying with more assurance that I am into the will of God.
John Piper agrees, “Some people wonder how you can pray longer than five-minutes because they would lose things to pray for. But I say that if you open the Bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer, then you can pray all day that way.” Amen.