Using the Bible to reimagine your prayers

Peter Adam

Charles Spurgeon was once asked ‘Which is more important, to read the Bible, or to pray’? [Silly question]. Spurgeon replied, ‘Which is more important, to breathe in, or to breathe out?’

I don’t know if Spurgeon intended this point, but we breathe in the Scripture and breathe out our prayers. We can think God’s thought after him, and pray God’s words back to him. This does not mean that we cannot use our own words to pray to God. We can. But it is also good to use God’s words, because they include his words to us, his promised, his warnings, and his words which describe how we should live.

Here are some ways in which can use the Bible in our prayers, breathe out God’s words.[1]

  1. We can pray prayers included in the Bible.

Here are some New Testament prayers. What do you notice about them? How do they compare with the prayers we usually pray for Christian people, for churches? Try praying them now.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones [1 Thess 3:12-13].

 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God [Phil 1:9-11].

2. We can adapt the New Testament, turning instructions into prayers.

Philippians. I pray that I may: Believe in Christ and serve him. Trust that you will bring your work to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Yearn for other believers with the affection of Christ Jesus. Be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. Be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to your glory and praise. Preach Christ, speaking the word without fear. Live for Christ that he may be honoured in my body, in life or in death. Desire to depart and be with Christ, and also be willing to work for him in this life. Live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Suffer for Christ and contend for his gospel. Have the mind of Christ in service, humility and obedience. Seek Christ’s interests, and the interests of others, not my own. Rejoice in the Lord always. Count everything as loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Gain Christ and be found in him, having the righteousness that comes through faith in him. Know Christ and the power of his resurrection, share his sufferings, and be like him in his death, that I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Press on towards the goal for the prize of our heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Eagerly await the coming of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body. Stand firm in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always. Do all things through Christ who strengthens me, so that I can be content in any and every circumstance. Trust that you will fully satisfy my every need according to your riches in Christ Jesus. Know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in all of my life and ministry.

2 Timothy. Please help me to: Fan into flame the gift for ministry you have given me; Not be ashamed, and share in suffering for the gospel; Guard the truth, the pattern of sound words, with the help of the Holy Spirit; Be strong to raise up, train and teach faithful people who will be able to teach others also; Present myself to you as an unashamed worker, correctly handling the word of truth; Cleanse myself to be your instrument for special purposes, made holy, useful to my Master, and prepared to do any good work; Flee evil passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace; not be quarrelsome, but be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful, and able to gently instruct those who oppose me. Avoid evil and corrupt teachers; Follow Paul’s way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance in persecutions and sufferings. Know the Scriptures which are able to make me wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus; Be equipped for every good work by the Bible; Preach the word, with all patience and teaching; Be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill my ministry; Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith; Take my part in the gospel team, that the message may be fully proclaimed, and all the nations might hear it.

3. We can create prayers in response to our Bible reading.

If you don’t know what to pray after reading the Bible, then you won’t know what to do! And if you do know what to do in response to the reading, then you should pray that first, before you do it! I encourage young Christians to get into the habit of turning their Bible reading into a prayer.

Preachers can also turn the Bible passage they are preaching from into a prayer, using words from the passage, they pray it at the start of the sermon, and then get the people to pray it together at the end of the sermon.

Luther wrote a letter to his barber, in which he encouraged him in prayer.

‘Interestingly, he encourages each line of the Ten Commandments and the Creed to be fashioned into a garland of four strands: first the command or instruction, second a relevant thanksgiving, third a relevant confession, and fourth a relevant petitionary prayer.’[2]

Here is an example:
Mark 2

 1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” NIV11

Here are some possible prayers:

Thanksgiving: for this report of Jesus’ ministry, for the power of Christ’s words, for Christ’s power to heal, for Christ’s power to forgive, for the example and enterprise and faith in Christ of the friends of the paralyzed man, for the faith of the paralyzed man, for his complete healing and the complete forgiveness of his sins.

Praise: to Jesus the Son of Man, to Jesus the healer of our sickness, to Jesus the one with authority to forgive sins, and to Jesus who gave his life as a ransom for many, and shed his blood for our forgiveness.

Repentance: that faith in Christ is so rare in our community; that knowledge of Christ is so rare in our community, that cynicism about Christ and his church is so common in our community. May God forgive his church, and enable and empower us to trust in Christ to heal and to forgive, and to help others learn of him and trust in him.

Lament: that there is so much sickness in our world, resulting in poverty, exclusion, and death, that medical resources in needy nations and among refugees are so stretched. That there are so many people in the world who have not yet heard of the Son of Man who forgives sins.

Intercession: for those who are sick to turn to Jesus; for those who are sinners to receive forgiveness from Jesus, for God to provide us with good friends in our time of need, that God would help us to be good friends to others in their times of need, or all who are ill, and for those who care for them, for all who are damaged by sin, that they would forgiveness in Christ, for God to raise up gospel messengers for all nations.

  1. This is an Anglican tradition! Henry Ives Bailey, The Liturgy Compared with the Bible (London: SPCK, 1840), shows that the prayers in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are largely comprised of quotations from the Bible.

  2. Mark Earngey at, accessed 10/05/2023.