The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 225)

Why Pray Through God’s Word?

Christian Living

God’s Word is Powerful for Prayer
For Christians, the Bible is not some ancient, irrelevant book. “‘Is not My Word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Jer 23:29). Scripture is mighty and explosive, for life and godliness, for evangelism and discipleship.

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). The Bible is despised by non-believers, but for us Christians, it is the ongoing power of God for life, not just a one-off power for our conversion. In 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, Paul wrote, “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” Our faith, is not founded on the wisdom of men, but on divine power through God’s Word proclaimed. All our Christian lives should be anchored on the Word – and that should include our prayers.

God’s Word is Profitable for Prayer
Scripture is not only powerful, it is also useful. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Scripture is profitable, advantageous, for training in righteousness, and that includes building and deepening our prayer lives.

The Word of God is able to thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work; and that must surely include the good work of prayer. “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1 Thes 2:13). God’s Word is effectual, it performs, it works effectively in us and so it should thus also have a powerful impact on our prayers.

How often have we found our prayer lives stagnant, and we babble repeated prayers without meaning them? Neither do we have the least concern for the things we are bringing before God. If you find your prayer life lethargic or listless, God’s Word is able to reinvigorate it! “My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word” (Ps 119:25). Our prayer lives are a reflection of our spiritual lives, if we are weak in our prayers, it is because we are weak in our walk with God; and God’s Word can revive both! “I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me” (Ps 119:93). The Word of God revives the soul, it can surely energise our prayer lives too, softening our hearts to pour forth praise, igniting our intercessions and petitions for others and ourselves.

Our prayers should be informed by Scripture, influenced by Scripture, motivated by Scripture. We should strive to have our prayers saturated with Scripture and sustained by Scripture. The Bible is essential to the whole of Christian life, but it is especially crucial to prayer. We often study the Bible, but little do we bring God’s Word directly into our prayers. We should learn to pray Word-enriched prayers. The Bible should not just be the foundation for our prayers, it should be the substance of our prayers too.

How Does God’s Word Enrich Our Prayers?

God’s Word Stimulates Prayer
When you pray Scripture, you will never run out of things to pray. I had a friend who had a teenage son in National Service, and she found that they were spending less and less time together and their relationship was becoming distant. So, she decided to make an appointment with him, to sit down with him and have a heart to heart talk. Her son agreed and so, one evening, they both sat down together. There was an awkward silence and then the son said, “Ok, mom, talk. Talk to me. Talk. I’m here. What do you want to talk about? Come. Talk.” When I heard this, I laughed as this is so typical of teenage sons. Unfortunately, many of us never seem to outgrow prayer adolescence and our prayer lives remain immature, stunted and even infantile.

But when you pray Scripture, God sets the agenda for the conversation, and we simply respond. God’s Word is authoritative over us and this means that we have to make an appropriate response:

- where God’s Word reveals some aspect of God’s character, our response is praise;

- where the Bible tells us something that God has done, our response is thanksgiving;

- where the Word of God commands us in some way to obey, our response is a commitment to submit to His Word, beseeching God to grant us the strength to obey;

- where the Spirit convicts us of sin in our lives through the Word, our response is repentance and confession, and pleading with God to deliver us from evil.

Hence, we find the Word of God rich in material so as to stimulate our adoration and worship. It thoroughly reflects God’s holiness so as to provoke repentance and confession. It demands our sanctification and service so as to spur supplication and intercession. And it shows us clearly our feebleness and faithlessness so as to stir our petitions. Hence you will not run out of things to pray if you pray the Bible.

God’s Word Sanctifies Prayer
Not only will we not run out of things to pray, our prayers will also be much different, because they are now God-centred, because they are Word-saturated. So, how do we make sure that we pray sanctified prayers out of a sanctified heart? “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). The Son answers prayers in His Name. Jesus promises again, “whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (John 15:16). The Father answers prayers in the Son’s Name. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you” (John 16:23). Repeatedly, Christ stressed the importance of praying in His Name.

But what does it mean to pray in Jesus’ Name? This is not a magic formula to close our prayers. To ask in Jesus’ Name is to ask on Jesus’ behalf, to ask for His sake, to say to the Father, “God, I plead with You for this, because the Lord Jesus wants this”. One Christian author suggested that perhaps we should begin our prayers in Jesus Name, by saying, “In Jesus’ Name, Father, I would like to ask for this … and that”. That would be very awkward if we are going to God with a whole list of selfish requests. Praying in Jesus’ Name means – you want something, and you ask God for it, but the reason why you want it is because the Lord Jesus Himself would want it.

Ultimately, praying in Jesus’ Name is the willingness of the one praying to submit to God’s will. Asking in Christ’s Name is not arm-twisting God to do exactly as we ask, but praying in utter confidence that God will do what glorifies His Son most. Such prayers are offered out of motives that are pure, out of hearts single-minded for God.

After all, James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures”. You cannot ask God for anything with selfish motives, for God is not pleased to answer those kinds of prayers. How do we ensure that we pray out of sanctified hearts? By praying God’s Word. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). As we pray through the Bible, God’s Word shows up our hearts and discerns our motives. The Spirit wields the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God – to sanctify us as we pray Scripture.

There is also another way in which praying the Bible guides us to pray according to God’s will. The Bible reveals the will of God, and so when we pray according to biblical revelation, we know that we are asking according to God’s will and that we are truly praying in Jesus’ Name. For example, where Scripture articulates the promises of God, we can plead those promises, and know that we have what we ask for. Where the Bible commands our obedience in certain areas, we know it is God’s will that we obey Him, so we can pray with confidence that He empowers us unto obedience.

So, here are a few examples of prayers that are in accord with God’s will:

- Lord, please grant me wisdom; this is based on James 1:5, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him”.

- Lord, I want to deepen my knowledge of Your Word; this is based on Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law”.

- Lord, I want to fear You, and worship You in holiness; this is based on Psalm 96:9, “Worship the LORD in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth”.

All the above are prayed in Jesus’ Name; that is, they are what the Lord Himself wants of us.

God’s Word Strengthens Prayer
Prayers offered in faith are prayers that God answers. “Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (Mark 11:24). This is the promise of the Lord Jesus Himself. The prayer of faith when a Christian asks, believing, is a powerful prayer before God.

The epistle of James stresses the importance of faith in prayer. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8). James 5:15 says, “and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him”. The degree to which we believe God and His Word, and apply our prayers in faith – that is the degree to which God pours out His power in answer to our prayers.

God moves mountains, and faith in God moves God to move mountains. But that faith does not arise out of nowhere, and that faith must be anchored on God’s Word. Faith is a response to God in what He has said, you cannot believe in something God never said. You cannot say, “I am going to pray that God will let me strike the lottery this time round, and I have faith that He will let me win this big money”. Well, God never promised that, and to believe you will win the lottery is superstition, not faith.

What is faith? It is believing what God has said, taking God at His Word. To pray earth-shaking, mountain-moving prayers, you need to base your prayers on God’s Word. How does such faith for powerful prayer come about? “So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Here we have yet another reason for mingling reading the Bible and praying the Bible – for it is in reading the Bible that we strengthen our faith in God, and then we pray prayers of faith.

I want to encourage you to develop the habit of praying Scripture, of putting the Word of God into your mouth and praying them back to God. As you read the Bible, pray in response to its divine revelation. You will find this sweet, refreshing, and nourishing to your prayer life.

Tan Soon Yong
- Tan Soon Yong is a pastor of The 'Fisherman of Christ' Fellowship and an editor of Fishers.

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