A guide for developing a deeper relationship with God through prayer
By Karen Barber
Standing in the Gap in Prayer
How to pray effectively for others who are in need of help but who are unable or unwilling to pray for themselves is called standing in the gap. Standing in the gap is a form of intercessory prayer where our prayers bridge the gap between God and people who are cut off from God’s helping presence. When we stand in the gap in prayer, we pray for God’s help, mercy, intervention and/or forgiveness on the behalf of individuals, groups of people or nations.
Examples of the kinds of situations where you might need to stand in the gap in prayer include:
- Praying for those in a crisis situation who don’t know God and/or who may not know how to pray or who don’t believe in prayer.
- Praying for those who are living in opposition to God through their unhealthy lifestyle, pride or rebellion.
- Praying for communities, institutions, churches or workplaces where factions are battling for control.
Praying for Direction
Praying for direction for your life is something that can change your present and future. Part of knowing the right direction to go is in having good discernment, or the ability to see the big picture. Praying for discernment is the act of asking God to help you clarify the truth about your life. Once you know the truth, acting on it can change your life.
How to Do This Prayer Practice
1. Clarify the difference between direction and discernment.
Praying for discernment is a bit different than praying for direction. When you are praying for direction, you’re asking God what course of action to take or you’re making a choice, or you’re trying to decide on going somewhere, answering a mission call, etc.
Discernment means asking God to help clarify and sort things out in your life, whether it is getting to the root cause of problems, or gaining spiritual insight into your situation, or seeing more clearly what’s going on in your relationships. It’s more about finding the truth. The Bible says, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32 NRSV
2. Ask God “Why?” about your life situations.
When we pray for direction, we ask “who, what, when, where, and how?” You ask God, “Who should I partner with? What should I choose? When should I do it? Where should I go? How should I go about doing it?”
In praying for discernment we ask “why?” Why am I feeling so angry right now over such a little thing? Why isn’t my marriage working out? Why do I keep making bad choices? Why is my child rebelling? Why do I feel so alone and fearful? Why do I feel like I’m not getting anywhere when I pray? Why do I keep putting off applying for a job?”
3. Get in touch with your feelings that you’re missing something to alert you that you need to pray for discernment.
Usually, people that are enjoying the way things are going in their lives don’t think to pray for discernment. By and large the people who usually pray for discernment are those who feel like their lives are out of whack, full of turmoil and heartache and conflict, not those who like things as they are. If things don’t feel right in your life, take it as a sign that it’s time to pray for discernment.
It is a fairly brave and bold thing to pray for discernment. Jesus describes it this way:
“And this is the judgement: Light has come into the world, people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds will be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21 NRSV)
4. Ask for the spiritual gift of discernment.
Discernment, especially spiritual discernment, is a very big deal. First of all, it is necessary, so we’ll know the difference between good and evil. In this context, discernment is a quality that grows with an individual. For instance, a child cannot discern the danger of a busy roadway like an adult can.
Jesus talks about discernment when he says that the religious leaders know how to interpret the color of the sky to determine the coming weather. (Matthew 16:3) He contrasts this human ability of the Pharisees and Sadducees with their spiritual inability to discern who Jesus is.
Ezekiel 43:23 says about those who minister: “They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” Ezekiel is talking about seeing the underlying spiritual qualities of things. This verse doesn’t tell the leaders to make a clearly defined list of everything possible in the world and then rate it as good or evil. Unfortunately, the Pharisees actually attempted to do this by writing rules about everything. It didn’t work because there were too many rules to remember.
Instead this verse tells the spiritual leaders to teach people how to distinguish between things for themselves. Is this sacred or selfish? Good or bad? God-serving or self-serving? Healthy or dysfunctional? Freeing or imprisoning? True or false? Helpful or hurtful? Unifying or partisan?
5. Pray for Wisdom
Solomon prays for wisdom and God says in 1 Kings 3:10-12 NRSV “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked for this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before.”
It actually pleases God greatly when we ask for discernment! What makes it more interesting is that the things God lists that Solomon could have asked for are exactly the types of things we typically pray for: good things for this life – strong bodies, provisions and wealth, relief from enemies and troubles.
Perhaps there’s an ascending order to the worth of things we might pray for. Perhaps on the lower rung are our prayers for provisions for this life. This passage leads us to believe that God is pleased when we climb to a higher rung when we ask for something more useful in the Kingdom, like wisdom or discernment.
6. Expect the answer to come.
God directly tells Solomon that his prayer will be granted. This doesn’t happen often when we pray for things like getting a book published or getting into a certain college.
7. Ask for a discerning heart.
God doesn’t say that he will give Solomon a wise and discerning mind but rather a wise and discerning heart. Intellectual discernment might be more closely related to the ability and think, reason and grasp. The discernment of the heart seems to operate in a different sphere – the more spiritual center of a person’s life purposes, desires, hopes and dreams.
8. Use discernment to heal.
Discernment is more like a diagnostic tool than anything else. In the Bible it mentions the naming of spirits, and when we pray for discernment God helps us put a name to a truth about our lives so we can then proceed to deal with it. Discernment is more like the uncovering of things we weren’t aware of at first glance, things we’d rather not become aware of, something like “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
There is also another related Biblical facet to this that is listed as the spiritual gift of “discerning of spirits.” 1 Corinthians. 12:10 NRSV lists the gifts of the Spirit, “to another the workings of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues…”
Today as in New Testament times there are those who practice deliverance by naming the evil spirit being cast out. For instance, an evangelist might pray that a spirit of fear or infirmity or alcoholism might leave a person. Psychologists work in much the same way, uncovering the root causes of our emotional problems.
9. Test out what you think you have discerned.
1 John 4:1 NRSV goes a step further talking about spiritual discernment. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”
John tells us that we even need discernment in our own churches to sort out the true spirit of Christ from other things that look similar, but are rooted in other things such as materialism, self-centered individualism, political power plays, science and logic, sensationalism, voyeurism, judgmental tendencies, ego, jealousy, pride, greed and the like.
10. Act on what you discern.
Discernment leads us onto a healing path. If the answer to our prayer for discernment has uncovered a fault or problem, it leads us on the action-oriented path of repentance or confrontation of evil. Once something bad has been named and uncovered, it has to be dealt with. Now it’s time to pray for the strength and guidance to know what action we need to take!
Develop Your Prayer Life
Christians have been asking how to pray ever since the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1 NRSV)
When we ask how to pray we want to know what to say in prayer and we want to learn the best prayer methods to use. We are longing to find practical ways to form a closer prayer connection with God. Since prayer covers all subjects of our physical and spiritual lives, what to say in prayer and the prayer methods we use vary according to our needs, our spiritual missions and our current life circumstances.
1. View learning how to pray as an active process based on our relationship with Christ
There are many remarkable principles of Christian prayer. However, these principles are not sterile formulas that we simply plug in to get what we want. Learning how to pray is done within the context of a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Through prayer we deepen our love for and our trust in Christ. We learn how to hear from Him and receive vision and daily guidance. We receive forgiveness and the power to change. We enjoy golden moments of praise, thankfulness, peace, joy and rest in God’s presence. And we gain empowerment to pray for others as well as the help we need to become productive and effective in doing God’s work here on earth.
Prayer is an active process through which the Holy Spirit helps us develop God’s unique spiritual prayer path for us. Our individual prayer path is suited perfectly for us based on where we begin, our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses, how quickly we learn, how adaptable we are to changing circumstances, our vision, what resources are available, our motivations and on finding mentors and encouragers along the way.
2. Develop your God-given prayer talents
Christ is eager to develop a lifelong partnership with us. When we become Christians one of the most wonderful gifts is our potential to develop a supernatural talent for prayer. Learning how to pray is simply asking God to show us how to develop our prayer talents which enable us to operate in the spiritual realm. Prayer soon becomes a rewarding, life-long career. To begin developing our prayer path we need to use:
|Encouragement and support from others
|Determination to overcome prayer obstacles
|A willingness to ask for help when we need it
|Knowledge of the Scriptures
|The natural ways we best communicate
|Honesty and openness
3. Look for ways of praying that work in your world today
Using these we are ready to start putting together our own personal “how to pray” plan that is practical enough to work in our daily life. Too often we try to be exactly like someone else whose prayer life seems incredible. We soon find that out copying someone else’s prayer plan is nearly impossible and we become discouraged. Since everyone’s life is quite different, we need to choose ways of praying that work best for us.
Here are some of the basic elements you’ll want to incorporate as God helps you put together your personal prayer action plan.
4. Develop practical daily prayer habits.
Prayer often gets crowded out by everything else that’s on our busy schedule. Prayer requires concentration, time and space.
Pathway praying, or praying while you’re driving, walking or jogging, is one of the easiest ways to develop regular prayer times. While on the move we can pray for others, thank God for blessings, praise Him for who He is, pray for ourselves and confess our sins and faults. Learning to pray on the go helps us develop good prayer instincts useful when we need to say quick on-the-spot prayers during the stresses and temptations of our day.
At the same time, we need to also set aside a quiet prayer time away from distractions when we can meditate, go more deeply and hear what God is saying to us. Mornings are usually the best time before our minds are immersed in finishing up our daily “to do” list. It helps us to keep on track by designating a comfortable chair, a spot at the kitchen table or another place in their home for “quiet time”.
5. Pray in a variety of settings
In addition, prayer times also benefit from a variety of settings, including regular visits to places of prayer such as chapels and prayer gardens, group prayer meetings and praying with a prayer partner.
6. Learn how to find prayer answers
One of the reasons prayer falls by the wayside in our daily lives is because it’s sometimes hard to see answers, especially in situations where things don’t change for the better. Prayer is meant to an interactive partnership with God. God always responds to our prayers. We simply need to sharpen our ability to discover His responses.
The word “answer” has three different meanings that apply to prayer. The first is a resolution, which is a change of events or action. These few-and-far-between action answers to prayer are often the only type of prayer answer on our radar screen. However, answer also means a response. God more often than not responds to us by being there with us, sending us a sign of His presence and care and by giving us the strength and courage to go on. And finally, God also answers through a reply by giving us an idea, plan or insight into what to do next.
7. Make time to meditate and learn how to hear from God.
As we expand our definition of prayer answers it is apparent how vitally important it is to set aside daily time for meditation so that we can be still and quiet enough to gain the answering, guiding and strengthening insights God has for us. God speaks to us in a variety of ways, including through outside sources such as the Scriptures, trusted friends, books, our past experiences, etc. God also speaks to us through what can be called the inner voice which is the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking truth into our lives. We can recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit in our thoughts because He doesn’t sound like our usual self-involved ways of thinking. The inner voice of the Holy Spirit often brings a Bible verse to mind that applies directly to our needs or poses clarifying questions that leave us little wiggle room for rationalizing our actions.
8. Use Scriptures.
The Bible is an absolutely vital prayer tool in meditation and hearing from God. Reading a short scripture passage and meditating on it by asking its personal meaning and application is an excellent avenue of prayer. Using the words of Scripture in prayer is a very powerful prayer tool as well. There are countless promises in Scriptures that can help us pray with confidence. Scriptures can also be used to pray for hope and trust, to thank God for who He is, to be assured of forgiveness and salvation and can enable us to find words to express our love to Him.
9. Don’t let requests overrun your prayer time.
When we say the word prayer many of us immediately think of intercessory prayer or praying for others going through a crisis such as an illness, family difficulties or financial problems. This is a wonderful gift of support because our prayers for others are highly effective. However, these days it’s possible to become overwhelmed with the number of requests we get via prayer chains and email from all over the world. If your prayer time is extremely limited, trying to handle too many requests may use up all of your time and you won’t be able to meditate or receive God’s directions for your day or enjoy His wonderful peace and presence through praise. It’s wise to set an intercessory time to pray your list of requests for others that doesn’t interfere with the precious prayer time set aside for interacting with God about the direction of your life.
10. Include and enjoy all of the wonderful parts of prayer.
As we’ve just discussed, there are many different parts of prayer that bring us different spiritual focuses, and all are essential to enjoy a balanced prayer life. These include:
- Praise for who God is.
- Thanksgiving for what God has given us and done for us.
- Adoration of God’s majesty and love as seen in His incredible spiritual and physical handiwork.
- Confession of our sins, fears, and failures.
- Listening for God’s daily directions.
- Meditating on God’s words and applying them to our lives.
- Asking for the things we need.
- Praying for others.
- Expressing our sorrow, anger and hurts so God can lift us up.
- Receiving physical and mental healing.
- Getting help in overcoming harmful attitudes.
- Seeking and following God’s vision of where He wants us to work in His Kingdom.
- Resisting temptation and fighting spiritual battles.
- Receiving refuge, rest and protection.
11. Try different ways of praying.
Since there are so many uniquely powerful things to do in prayer, it makes sense to choose a prayer method and setting that best connects you to the kinds of prayer you are doing. For instance, taking a walk through the magnificence of nature is a perfect setting and a perfect way to pray prayers of adoration. However a nature hike is probably not the best setting for serious prayers of confession and repentance. Confession feels safer prayed in private with a box of tissue handy while you tightly grip your Bible open to reassurances that God removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12 NRSV)
Other prayer methods lend themselves more to group settings such as prayers for healing which can incorporate the power of human touch to help connect us with greater feelings of God’s healing presence among us. (See James 5:14,15 NRSV) Intercessory prayer is another prayer method that works well in group situations where everyone can cover several of the needs so that no one has to muster the mental energy to tackle all of them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum meditation requires a very specific setting where there are no interruptions, noises, electronic gizmos or distractions. Some special periods of meditation are facilitated by removing ourselves to more remote settings or going on silent retreats.
We can use symbolic objects to make prayer more tangible. We might hold a cross or touch beads while praying. We can use different postures such as standing or kneeling or raising our hands. We can express ourselves through tears of joy or sorry. We can sing or dance. We can paint or write prayers in a journal.
12. Visit places of prayer.
A very powerful way to enhance your ability to sense God’s presence in prayer is to regularly visit places of prayer near your home or while you’re traveling. Because prayer chapels, gardens and rooms have been designed according to someone’s unique understanding of the elements of prayer the setup of the space, the symbolism, the artwork and lighting all enhance and uplift our prayer perspectives. In various places of prayer you may find yourself contemplating a life-size crucifix, tying a knot on a prayer shawl, listening to God as you listen to a fountain, kneeling at a rock or lighting a candle.
In such places we also can sense an intangible atmosphere of prayer. It’s very hard to explain but surrounded by symbols of faith and knowing that others have been there before us praying. We feel reverence, holiness, majesty and presence in places of prayer that isn’t felt anywhere else.
13. Don’t ignore obstacles and difficulties you’re having with prayer.
It seems like something as amazing as prayer would always come easily to us. However, everyone goes through times when prayer is far easier to avoid than to do. The reasons for dry spells and aversions to prayer are normally due to a variety of factors. These include stress, neglect, depression, oppression and crisis periods that leave us little mental energy left with which to pray. Other times inner struggles might keep us away from prayer such as guilt, hopelessness, feelings of unworthiness and rebellion. Deep life disappointments such as the death of loved ones, abuse, or a family member caught in endless addiction can also cause us to question whether prayer is effective or worthwhile.
Oddly enough in these cases the problem is actually the remedy. Prayer thrives on honesty. God knows our hearts and our situations. We don’t have to pretend that we feel great about our lives right now or even that we’re O.K. with our disappointment that God hasn’t intervened. On the cross Jesus cried out in prayer, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46 NRSV) Prayer is sometimes the place where we struggle. Even this is a part of prayer.
14. Use prayer resources.
Prayer resources such as traditional church prayer books, books on how to pray, stories of true prayer answers, journals, prayer music, special prayer services, prayer retreats, seminars, pastors, speakers, ministries, prayer fellowships including those online, prayer groups and prayer partners can be instrumental in our quest to learn how to pray.
15. Pray with others.
Some of the most powerful prayer times are experienced when we pray with others. Jesus says, “Again, truly I tell you if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matt. 18:19,20 NRSV) Praying with others multiplies the power and broadens our limited thoughts about what to pray and what to ask for. It also gives us the opportunity to listen to God as a group and affirm what God seems to be saying to us.
When we start out praying, we all have a tendency to shy away from prayer groups worrying that we might be called upon to pray out loud. Obviously, the God who loves us intimately isn’t interested in the eloquence of our words. He’s more interested in their sincerity. Being willing to pray with others is a huge steppingstone in prayer and well worth the effort. You might try a small step approach by beginning by praying with a child. Or try praying with one other person who knows you well. Or come prepared with a written prayer ready to read in a group.
16. Use the principles Jesus teaches us how to pray
To learn how to pray it’s always best to start by listening to and observing the Teacher. Jesus walked the earth as we do and faced the same challenges of developing an effective prayer life. Jesus never is seen praying because it is a ritualistic obligation. Instead, His prayers thrived on life as it happened, always with an eye to doing what God wanted to do or was already doing.
We’ve put together a list of Jesus and prayer. It can be used in a number of ways to help you learn how to pray.
- You can quickly skim it to get an idea of the many ways Christ prayed which will encourage you to broaden your subjects and methods of prayer to bring prayer into more daily moments of your life.
- You can choose a prayer principle or example of Jesus that seems most applicable to your current needs, read it in context in the Bible and ask God how you can put it into practice today.
- You can study this list personally or with a group.
- You can pray the promises Jesus makes as you pray for your current challenge.
Jesus gives us a model prayer. Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father as a model. He calls God “Our Father” which gives us comfort that God cares for us and is listening when we pray. Jesus tells us to pray that God’s desires and intentions will come to pass on earth, to praise God for who He is as we marvel at His holiness and power, to request our daily needs, to ask for and receive forgiveness, to ask for protection from evil and to receive help in overcoming temptation. (Matt. 6:9-13 NRSV)
Jesus encourages us to pray privately and honestly. Our words aren’t as important as our hearts. Jesus tells us to not focus on praying eloquent words to impress others and not to use a large amount of words in hopes of finally being heard. Instead, He tells us to pray privately to our unseen God who sees us in secret and will reward us. (Matt. 6:5-7 NRSV)
Jesus says praying together is powerful. Jesus says that whenever two of us on earth agree about anything we ask, it will be done by our Father in heaven. Whenever we gather, Jesus is there with us. (Matt. 18:19,20 NRSV)
Jesus tells us to pray with persistence. Jesus tells us to ask, seek and persist in prayer (Luke 11:5-9 NRSV)
Jesus assures us that God gives us good things when we pray. Jesus teaches that just as a loving parent does, God gives good things to those who ask, particularly giving the great gift of His Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:11-13, Matt. 7:11 NRSV)
Jesus says God knows what we need before we ask. (Matt. 6:8 NRSV)
Jesus teaches that God welcomes prayers of repentance. Jesus portrays the prayer of a repentant sinner as being far superior to that of a self-righteous person. God hears the repentant sinner and rewards them. (Luke 18:10-14 NRSV)
Jesus demonstrates that praying God’s will is sometimes difficult, yet prayer enables us to accept even the most difficult of spiritual journeys. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus labored and agonized in prayer asking to be spared the suffering and death of the cross. Prayer enabled Jesus to listen to God and submit to God’s will by praying the most powerful prayer on earth, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26: 36-46)
Jesus tells us that prayer is vital when fighting temptation. Jesus knew that Peter wasn’t as strong as he thought. Jesus told Peter to pray for himself so that so he won’t fall into temptation. (Mark 14:38) Jesus prayed for Peter beforehand knowing that Peter was ripe for failure, leaving us an example to pray for ourselves and each other that we will find God’s strength to overcome our weak moments. (Luke 22:31 NRSV)
Jesus made daily private prayer a top priority. Jesus prayed regularly in private, habitually getting up before daybreak to go into a solitary place to pray. At times he prayed all night. The things that happened following these prayer sessions indicate that Jesus received empowerment for ministry and received clear directions from God. For example, after praying Jesus knew the specific 12 followers to choose as disciples and also when to journey on to the next town to minister even when things seemed to be going so well where they were. (Mark 1:35-39, Luke 5:16, Luke 6: 12-13 NRSV)
Jesus used powerful prayers of blessing. Jesus said prayers of blessing upon individuals, including children. (Mark 10:16 NRSV)
Jesus offered prayers of thanksgiving to God. Jesus said prayers of thanksgiving, notably when it seemed that the resources on hand weren’t adequate in the feeding of the multitude. (Mark 14: 22 NRSV)
Jesus praised God in prayer. (Matt. 11:25-26 NRSV)
Jesus prayed for others. (Luke 18:11, John 17:6-19 NRSV)
Jesus was a fierce defender of places of prayer. Jesus was angry that the Temple which was meant to be a house of prayer had been turned into a place of commerce. His heart burned with so much passion that He drove out the merchants from the Temple. (Mark 11:17)
Jesus prayed out loud so that those who heard Him pray could understand God’s power. Jesus prayed publicly at times for the benefit of those around him, notably before raising Lazarus from the dead. He emphasized in His prayer that He knew God always hears Him but was praying out loud so that those hearing the prayer might see God’s glory and believe in Jesus. (John 11:41, 41 NRSV)
Jesus tells us to pray in His name. Jesus tells us to ask in his name saying, “Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23 NRSV)
Jesus prayed for himself. (John 17:5 NRSV)
Jesus prayed about the future. (John 17: 20-26 NRSV)
Jesus prayed for His followers. Jesus prayed that the believers would be protected from the evil one, that we might be united as one, that we might be made holy by God’s word, that we might be with him, that we might feel his joy, see his glory, and feel his love. (John 17:6-26 NRSV)
Jesus explains that certain situations where evil is firmly entrenched can only be remedied with intense prayer. After healing a demon possessed boy, Jesus told us that there are certain spiritual obstacles and strongholds cannot be overcome without much prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29 NRSV)
Jesus tells us to exercise faith in prayer, believing that we have received. (Mark 11:24 NRSV)
Jesus teaches that during prayer we need to forgive others so that God will forgive us. (Mark 11:25 NRSV)
Jesus promises that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18:18 NRSV)
Jesus prayed on the cross. He cried out loudly in despair and agony, asking why God had abandoned Him. (Matt. 27:46 NRSV) Right before He died He prayed, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46 NRSV)
Jesus asked for human prayer companionship to strengthen Him during His darkest hour. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked his closest disciples to be there with him. He shared with them His feelings and struggles and asked them to watch and pray with Him. (Matt. 26:36-38 NRSV)
Jesus warns us that we will face obstacles to prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane Peter couldn’t stay awake and kept falling asleep. Jesus repeatedly tried to awaken Peter and said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 NRSV)
Jesus actively meditated. Meditation is a form of prayer where we think about and ponder God’s words and listen carefully to their message. After His baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days of fasting to create time and space to meditate on His calling and how He would pursue it. During this time, He was tempted by the devil’s suggestions to use earthly means to reach people. Jesus was able to sort through reasonable sounding rationalizations to take short cuts, be self-serving and to sell out to the devil. These suggestions sounded more plausible when the devil cleverly quoted scriptures out of context. Jesus was able to resist by correctly applying Scripture to His current situation. As a result of this time of intense mediation, Jesus began His ministry with great power of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:1-15 NRSV)
Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48 NRSV)
Jesus prayed that God would forgive those who crucified Him. (Luke 23:34 NRSV)
Jesus asks us to pray that God will send many workers to join the vast mission of bringing others into God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 9:36-38 NRSV)
Jesus gave his followers the authority to pray peace upon households. (Matt. 10:12,13 NRSV)
Jesus used a variety of nonverbal actions during prayer. When He broke bread to feed the 5,000 as He gave thanks He looked up toward heaven. (Matt. 14:19) In Gethsemane, He fell down on his face on the ground. (Matt. 26:39 NRSV) When He blessed children, He laid hands on them and took them in His arms. (Mark 10:16 NRSV)
Jesus called God “Abba” or “Daddy” when praying. When pleading with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus didn’t address God as an uninvolved, far-away Creator. Instead, Jesus addressed God as “Daddy” – His familiar, loving and dear parent who cared for Him deeply, totally and unconditionally. (Mark 14:36 NRSV)
As a baby, Jesus was the recipient of prayers blessing from people of fervent prayer. When Jesus was presented in the Temple as an infant, Simeon took Jesus into his arms and said prayers of thanksgiving and prophecy. Anna, an elderly woman who constantly devoted herself to prayer thanked God and told others about Jesus. (Luke 2: 25-38 NRSV)
Glorious and supernatural things happened when Jesus prayed. The Bible reports that when Jesus took three disciples up on a mountain to pray with him “And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as dazzling white.” (Luke 9:28, 29 NRSV)
Jesus tells us that God will bring about justice for the chosen ones who cry out to him. (Luke 18:7,8 NRSV)
Jesus tells us to watch and pray that we will be able to withstand persecution. (Luke 21:36 NRSV)
An angel from heaven appeared to Jesus during anguished prayer to strengthen Him. (Luke 22:43 NRSV)
Two disciples finally recognized Jesus after the resurrection when he prayed thanks over the evening meal. (Luke 24:30,31 NRSV)
At the time of His ascension into heaven, Jesus lifted up his hands and prayed a blessing on the disciples. (Luke 24:50,51 NRSV)
Jesus tells us that if we ask Him, He will give us living water which represents eternal life. (John 4:10 NRSV)
God sometimes spoke audibly to Jesus in prayer. In John 12 the Bible records Jesus becoming troubled and praying, “What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.” (John 12:27-30 NRSV)
Jesus said that if we unite with Him and remain with Him, we can ask to bear the spiritual fruit we wish and it will be so. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15: 7,8 NRSV)
Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. Although Jesus does not specifically mention the word prayer when telling the disciples about coming of the Holy Spirit or the Counselor, the actions of the Holy Spirit include the process of inner revelation and illumination that most typically come through prayerful meditation. These include guidance, truth, reminding us of what Jesus has said and clarifying for us what God is doing. (John 16: 12-15 NRSV)
Jesus says that when we ask and receive in His name, it will bring complete joy. (John 16: 24 NRSV)
Jesus says that our love for Him is a key to prayer. Jesus says, “On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26,27 NRSV)
Before His crucifixion, Jesus made a special point to say prayers for the believers while still on earth. “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world, so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” (John 17:13,15,16 NRSV)
Before ascending, Jesus told the disciples that they would soon be empowered with the Holy Spirit. After spending the next several days in prayer they received supernatural power on Pentecost. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NRSV) The believers returned to Jerusalem and “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women including Mary, the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” (Acts 1:14 NRSV) “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2:1,2,4 NRSV) Peter preached and 3,000 new believers were baptized. The Bible reports that prayer became a daily priority to these new believers. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 NRSV)
How to Pray Scriptures
How to Pray Scriptures Using God’s commandments
Praying God’s commandments is powerful because they are his most important principles of life and behavior. Commandments aren’t just about following rules and good behavior. They keep our lives free of unnecessary problems and keep us closely connected to God.
Praying commandments is effective because the commandments in the Bible are very clear and apply to all life situations and to every person. The most famous are the Ten Commandments on which much of the laws in society are based. There are other life-giving commandments that can only be learned through reading the Bible.
Praying God’s commandments is very useful when you are praying for a person whose life needs turning around, about a social or world issue where God’s commandments are being disregarded or for forgiveness and repentance.
Here are some examples of God’s commandments:
The Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:1 -17 NRSV)
Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NRSV)
Jesus commanded us to be witnesses who teach others about him and make disciples. (Matthew 28:16 -20 NRSV)
Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43,44 NRSV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture commandments based on John 13:34 NRSV.
Dear God, you have commanded us in the Bible to love one another. I pray that everyone involved in this situation might live out this commandment by having your love for each other.
How to pray Scriptures using the wisdom of the Bible
When we pray for ourselves or for someone else there’s often an underlying need for wisdom. Sending us wisdom and insight is one of the primary ways that God answers prayer. The Bible contains these answers. Often when I pray for something, a Bible verse comes to my mind that I have previously read or studied that offers helpful and surprising wisdom and ideas.
The Bible says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you.” (James 1 :5 NRSV)
Here are a few examples of wisdom found in the Bible that might specifically answer your prayers for wisdom.
“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NRSV)
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 NRSV)
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.” (Matthew 5:25 NIV )
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1,2 NIV)
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11 NIV)
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27 NIV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture based on Proverbs 3:27.
“Lord, help me to follow your wisdom to act and help this person because you have given me the means to do it.”
How to pray Scriptures using the authority given in the Bible
The Bible tells us to pray with confidence and authority. This is especially true when we are praying against evil. The Bible gives us the authority to stand against evil, resist evil and cast out evil. This type of authoritative praying against evil is referred to as spiritual warfare.
The Bible spells our position through Christ’s saving power that gives us access to God’s throne room, despite our sins and unworthiness.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4 :14-16 NIV)
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18 -20 NIV)
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:17,18 NIV)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” ( Acts 1:8 NIV)
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10,11 NIV)
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.” (James 5:16,17 NIV)
This power is given to those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior.
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture based on Ephesians 6:11
“God, I am taking my stand against all evil power at work in this situation based on the authority you have given me as a believer in Jesus Christ.”
How to pray Scriptures using the human experiences of the Bible
When we pray, we need to know what might happen during and also afterwards so we can benefit from it. Knowing how God interacted with people in the past opens our eyes to the possibilities of what can happen in our own lives as a result of prayer.
Here are just a few fascinating examples of how God interacted with people during and after prayer
God sent a vision during prayer. (Acts 10: 9- 16 NRSV)
People were empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1- 4 NRSV)
A diversity of people became unified in prayer and shared their lives and possessions with each other. As a result, many people were saved. (Acts 2: 42 -47 NRSV)
Even though threatened with arrest, Christians prayed for and received boldness. (Acts 4 :23–31 NRSV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture based on Act 4.
“Lord, although I am in a dangerous situation like the early Christians, please send me the boldness to speak and act just as you sent boldness to them.”
How to pray Scriptures of blessing in the Bible
The Bible is full of blessings that were spoken over others. Often parents would impart blessings upon their children and priests imparted blessings upon the nation. Here are some examples of Scriptural blessings.
“Jesus took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:15 NIV)
“May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness – an abundance of grain and new wine.” (Genesis 27:28 NIV)
“From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.” (Psalm 3:8 NIV)
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV)
“May the Lord bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem and may you live to see your children’s children.” (Psalm 12 8:5,6 NIV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture blessing based on Genesis 27:28
“May God grant you an abundant harvest of good things.”
How to pray Scriptures using prayer teachings in the Bible
The Bible tells about a variety of ways that people prayed that can help us to explore ones that we might want to try. Examples include the following:
Moses acting as an intercessor, asking God to forgive the people. (Exodus 32:11 -14 NRSV)
The disciples “laying on hands” in prayer empowering others with the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17 NRSV)
Jesus going away to lonely places to pray. (Luke 5:16 NRSV)
James telling us to gather the church elders and anoint the sick in oil to pray for healing. (James 5:14-16 NRSV)
Hannah praying in tears and agony. (I Samuel 1:11-18 NRSV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say to pray scripture based on I Samuel 1:11-18
“Lord, I come to you today like Hannah with tears and agony as I pray to you about my terrible situation.”
How to pray Scriptures using payers written in the Bible
The Bible records the actual words prayed by many people in a variety of circumstances. You’ll find prayers for forgiveness, prayers for rescue and prayers of thanksgiving and praise. You’ll find prayers from prison and during feasts. You’ll find prayers of lament over horrible losses and prayers of joy over rescues and conquests. You’ll find short prayers only a sentence long and other prayers that are long and detailed.
Here is a sampling of some of these prayers:
The Lord’s prayer or the Our Father taught to us by Jesus. (Matthew 6: 9 NSRV)
The one sentence prayer “God have mercy on me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13 NRSV)
King Solomon’s prayer for wisdom. (I Kings 3:6-9 Nrsv)
Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane that if it be possible that he not have to die, but not his will but God‘s be done. (Matthew 26: 39 NRSV)
Jesus’ prayer for the disciples. (John 17: 6-25 NRSV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture using Matthew 26:39 NIV
“My Father, if it is possible, take this suffering from me. May your will be done.”
How to pray Scriptures using the principles of prayer Jesus taught in the Bible
Jesus often taught about prayer because people were eager to know how to pray. Jesus taught us the Lord’s prayer in response to the disciples asking him, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” Here are a few examples of the kinds of teachings of Jesus on prayer that we learn in the Bible.
Jesus taught us not to pray publicly for show. (Matthew 6:5 ,6 NRSV)
Jesus taught that a lot of words aren’t necessary for God to hear us because God already knows what we need before we ask. (Matthew 7,8 NRSV)
Jesus told us to be bold and persistent in prayer. He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks find; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9 ,10 NIV)
Jesus told us to exercise faith when we pray, believing that God will answer us. (Mark 11:24 NRSV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture using Luke 11:9,10
“Jesus you tell us to seek and we will find and to ask and it will be given. Therefore I am making my request to you believing that you will respond.”
How to pray Scriptures using the empowerment given people in the Bible
One very important way God answers prayer is by empowering us to thrive and survive during life difficulties. There are countless historical accounts in the Bible that tell us how God empowered ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Here are a few examples.
Prayer empowered Esther to go before the king to save the Jewish people even though she could be put to death if the king refused to see her. (Esther 4:9 -17 NRSV)
Prayer empowered Nehemiah to go on a dangerous journey to repair the ruined walls Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1: 4- 11 NRSV)
Prayer empowered Daniel to survive overnight in a pit of hungry lions without being harmed. (Daniel 6:10-23)
Prayer empowered Paul and Silas to sing in jail and an earthquake destroyed their chains and caused the jailer to become converted. (Acts 16:25–34 NRSV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture using Esther.
“God, just as you empowered Esther to fast and pray and act courageously to save her people, I am asking you to empower me to act as your servant in this matter I am praying about today.”
How to pray Scriptures by finding and claiming a personal word from the Bible
Throughout the ages the Bible has been used as a means of receiving a personal word from God. Obviously, the Bible was written eons before we were born for all people throughout history. However, the messages in it can become very personal when the Holy Spirit highlights them in a special way in our hearts and minds at the very moment, we need them. These are sometimes called rhema, or a particular and specific word from God that is personal.
Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26 NIV)
This boosts prayer power immeasurably because when we pray, God often answers our prayers by replying to us through a variety of means. A Scripture might come into your mind. Someone may speak a word over you during ministry time. You may be reading the Bible and a word or phrase jumps out at you. You may randomly open the Bible and your eyes fall upon a particular phrase or a verse. Or you may ask God for a personal word and then later find one that seems right.
Here’s are examples of personal words I received from God via the Scripture:
We were in a middle of moving to another city and I was fearfully driving with a loaded car alone to our new home in a thunderstorm. I was tearful about leaving behind my familiar home and friends and scared by the storm and also scared about starting over again in a new place. As I was gripping the steering wheel a phrase from the Bible jumped into my mind, “Courage, it is I.” I recalled that Jesus said it and I felt it was meant to assure me that this move was part of his plan and that I shouldn’t be afraid. Later I looked up the verse and Jesus says this to his disciples when they say him walking on the water in the middle of the night and were terrified that they were seeing a ghost. The Bible says, “Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage, it is I. Don’t be afraid.’” (Matthew 14:27 NIV)
In another case, I was asking God for a life purpose or vision statement. After several months I came across this scripture: “You will be called repairer of broken walls, restorer of streets with dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:12 NIV) I of course didn’t take it literally that I was supposed to begin a home construction business but rather more figuratively I was to carry on a ministry of helping people find the path of prayer that would bring them home to God.
How to pray Scriptures according to God’s will as revealed in the Bible
God’s will means God’s good and perfect plans, desires and visions for humans. Although God has perfect plans and intentions for the world, He allows us freedom of choice to either act in harmony with his will or to ignore and disobey these plans. When we disregard God’s will, we live lives that are much less fulfilling, healthy, purposeful, hopeful, loving, satisfying and peaceful.
When ancient Israel was about to enter the Promised Land after escaping from slavery Moses told them, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19–20 NIV)
In choosing God’s will over ours, we are choosing life. Here are some examples of Bible verses that tell us God’s will:
Jesus says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NIV)
“Be joyful always. Pray continually; Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5 :16 -18 NIV)
“For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence of the foolish.“ (I Peter 2:15 NRSV)
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9,10 NIV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture using I Thessalonians 5
“I thank you God for my current life circumstances believing that your will can be done through this situation in ways I don’t foresee.”
How to pray Scriptures of God’s promises found in the Bible
God’s promises in the Bible are often cited and repeated in prayer to apply the truth of God’s promises for the world or for a particular person or situation. Because God never changes and his promises are forever, praying people throughout the ages have maintained the truth of, asserted their belief in and have applied the power of God’s promises to their lives.
Here are a few examples of God’s promises from the Bible:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2 NIV)
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NIV)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 NIV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture using I John 1:9
God, I am confessing this sin to you claiming your promise that you will forgive me and make me clean and pure again.”
How to pray Scriptures using the names and attributes of God found in the Bible
The Bible provides a rich resource of the names of God and the attributes of God that help us identify his all- sufficiency to cover our specific needs. For instance, when Hagar the slave of Sarah was sent away to fend for herself and was in the wilderness all alone, she prayed and God spoke to her. It says, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13 NIV)
Here are a few examples of the names or attributes of God that are used in prayer:
The Lord God who made us. “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3 NIV)
A Refuge, Shelter from the Storm. “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” (Isaiah 25:4 NIV)
Our Father who knows what we need before we ask. (Matthew 6:8)
The loving Father who calls us his children. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (I John 3:1 NIV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in to pray scripture using Isaiah 25:4
“Lord I thank you that you are my refuge. Please shelter me from the storm of stress around me and inside of me.”
How to pray Scriptures of praise and thanksgiving found in the Bible
Praise and thanksgiving are important parts of prayer. The Bible is a treasury of actual prayers of praise and thanksgiving. These can serve as models and examples for us to follow or we can use the actual words of these prayers in our own conversations with God. Here are a few examples:
The Magnificat, or Mary’s prayer of praise about being chosen by God to bear Jesus. (Luke 1:46- 55 NRSV)
The song of praise of Moses after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptians who were trying to capture them. (Exodus 15:1-18 NRSV)
Jesus prays, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me,” when standing at the tomb of Lazarus when he was about to raise him from the dead. (John 11: 41 NIV)
The book of Psalms in the Bible contains many prayers of praise. A great example is Psalm 145 which praises God for his many amazing virtues.
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture using Psalm 145:3
“Great are you Lord and most worthy of praise; your greatness no one can fathom.”
How to pray Scriptures on forgiveness from the Bible
Praying for forgiveness for yourself or for others is another very important aspect of prayer found in the Bible. Here are some examples:
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:12 NRSV)
Jesus prayed this prayer on the cross for those who were crucifying him, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)
Jesus taught, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:2 3-24 NIV)
In the parable of the prodigal son, the wayward son says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15:21 NIV)
David’s prayer for forgiveness. “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:9,10 NIV)
Here is an example of the type of prayer you might say in order to pray scripture based on Psalm 51
“Create in me a pure heart, O God.”
How to pray Scriptures substituting specific names for the pronouns in the text
There are some Bible verses and even entire chapters of the Bible which can be prayed as intercession for yourself or for someone else by personalizing it with someone’s name.
As an example, when I was on a prayer team for a weekend retreat, we had copies of Psalm 91 printed out with blanks in it wherever there was a pronoun referring to you/he/she. We then prayed the whole Psalm substituting the person’s name for the blank.
Here is an example where we placed and blanks and substituted the names:
___________ who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. _________ will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely, he will save ______ from the fowlers’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover ___ with his feathers, and under his wings _____ will find refuge… (Psalm 91:1-4 NIV with blanks inserted.)
How to pray Scriptures meditatively using the Bible
This type of praying Scripture is somewhat different than the others covered so far. This is a meditative use of Scripture called Lectio Divina where we allow the Bible to lead us into a deeper understanding of God. You read a passage and when a phrase or word captures your attention, you meditate on it as the Holy Spirit speaks a word to your spirit.
Praying To Accept Jesus
This prayer to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord is also sometimes called The Sinner’s Prayer. That’s because we begin by confessing our need for Christ to forgive our sins. This prayer to accept Jesus is used at the time of conversion and personal commitment to follow Christ or at the time of baptism. This article will guide you on how to use this prayer for yourself or with others.
How to use this prayer
It has been my highest honor and privilege to use this prayer to accept Jesus or The Sinner’s Prayer to lead someone to Christ.
From my earliest years as a young Christian to now as a pastor it has been wonderful to lead folks of all ages to Christ using this prayer.
The prayer example that I will give is only a sample of the many different ways you could express or use such a prayer.
1. The Spiritual elements
- The spiritual elements and theology you could or would use in such a prayer are as follows:
- You are a sinner
- You need a Savior
- Jesus is the way to eternal life and salvation
- Jesus died for you
- Jesus is God’s Son
- Repentance and confession of sin
- Acceptance of Jesus as your savior
- Faith expressed from the heart
- Receiving forgiveness of sin
- Commitment to live for Christ
- Assurance of God’s love and work in one’s heart
2. It’s not all about the words but rather about what happens in our heart.
I usually lead someone in a version of prayer similar to these elements of theology. The important thing about this prayer is the person accepting or receiving God’s grace. It is a work of the heart and as such is supernatural. It is a work of God and not man. Saying a prayer does not save. The true fact of the matter is that Jesus saves! We don’t. Just reciting a prayer like a magic potion will not produce results if it is orchestrated by us without God’s conviction and work in that person’s heart. I am always aware of this when I lead someone to Christ. I ask them if they are ready.
3. Saying the prayer
When I lead someone to Christ, I use short phrases and words to be repeated after me to be prayed from the heart by that person or persons. I then encourage them to get involved in a local church and become a member, read their Bible, pray, fellowship with believers, and witness for Christ.
The following is an example of a sinner’s prayer similar to what I use to lead people to Christ:
Please forgive me for my sins. I believe that you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins.
I believe that you love me. I believe in my heart who you are. You are the Son of God. I confess with my mouth that I am a sinner. I accept you Lord Jesus as my savior. Please cleanse me from my sin and create a new and clean heart in me. I do believe that you are my savior and I now want to live for you as my Lord and my God. I know that I have eternal life in you because of the work you did on Calvary’s cross for me. Thank you, God. In Jesus Name. Amen.
4. The Scriptures behind the prayer
Scriptures that apply to the bold italic phrases or words of the above sinner’s prayer:
1. forgive me, Luke 7:48; Luke 5:8
2. my sins, Romans 3:23
3. you sent, John 3:17
4. believe that you love me, Romans 5:8; John 3:16
5. believe in my heart who you are…the Son of God, I John 5:12
6. I confess with my mouth that I am a sinner, Romans 10:9-10; I John 1:9
7. Accept…my savior, Romans 10:13
8. Cleanse me…create..new..clean heart in me, Psalm 51:9-10
9. now want to live for you…as my Lord and my God, Galatians 2:20; John 20:27-28
10. know…eternal life, I John 5:11; Romans 6:23
11. the work you did, John 6:28-29
12. on Calvary’s cross, Luke 23:33; John 19:30
My Personal experiences and tips
I can give personal testimony to that fact that saying the words to this prayer does not change your life unless you mean it from your heart. At age 14 a group of young men from a local church were zealous to lead me in a type of sinner’s prayer. It was somewhat forced. I obliged and prayed the prayer, but it really wasn’t from the heart and I was not ready either. It wasn’t until six years later when I was in college that I said this prayer and truly meant it, repenting and turning my life over to Christ.
My personal search and experience began in June of 1979 as a college student at summer break back home working in an industrial plant. A fellow worker and new friend simply invited me to church. He and others helped me begin the process as a seeker by praying for me and witnessing to me. I went to church with my fellow worker. When they prayed at the altar, I would go up with them. After about a month or so of this, I sensed the need to repent of my wrongdoings and could actually feel the prayers of others for me. Later different Christian believers told me that they had been praying for me.
One day I felt the presence of God physically at home and felt called to pray. I sensed a conviction and a need to get on my knees at home and ask Jesus into my life and to forgive me. I had been lonely and empty but after this experience through prayer I felt happy and joyful. Something had changed in my life and heart. I felt like a new person. I had a different outlook on life. Nature and even the trees which previously meant nothing to me came alive with vibrant color and life. It was good to be alive.
I began to tell people about my experience and encouraged others to have a similar experience of giving their life to Christ because it had changed my life. I had a strong desire to read the Bible and sometimes I read as many as ten to fifteen chapters a day. Within three months, I sensed a call to be a preacher in October of 1979 at the college campus.
We never know when others are ready. But this should not prevent us from leading someone to Christ or witnessing. We should always plant the seed through witnessing and prayer. God does the work!
The Biblical and traditional background of this prayer
This prayer uses a variety of key scriptures about saving faith through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
An early example of the Sinner’s Prayer can be found in chapter 18 of Pilgrim’s Progress written by John Bunyan in 1678.
“God be merciful to me a sinner and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Saviour of the world; and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon such a poor sinner as I am-and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify thy grace in the salvation of my soul, through thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Sinner’s Prayer was popularized by evangelist Dwight Moody (1837-1899) who had a heart for reaching the unchurched, especially youth.