Yesterday I mentioned something that you may have never considered or heard of before, but it is the practice of “Praying the Scriptures.” I know that may sound super-spiritual or something only a minister might do, but here is something you may not realize. If you have been praying the Lord’s Prayer each day for the past 25 days, you are actually already praying scripture. Congratulations. You have reached super-spiritual status! 😉
Now, this happens to be an easy scripture to pray because it is already a prayer. I’ve got good news for you. There are all sorts of prayers in the Bible for you to read, consider, and adopt for your prayer time. I still want you to focus on the Lord’s Prayer for the next seventeen days of our 40 Days of Prayer, but I also want to teach you how to pray other scriptures as well.
A prayer that was Jesus and His disciples would have likely repeated at least twice daily is called the “Shema.” It derives its name from the first word in the prayer, which is the Hebrew word for “listen/hear.” It is taken from the following scriptures:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. – Deuteronomy 6:3-4 (NIV)
13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. 18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. – Deuteronomy 11:13-21 (NIV)
37 The Lord said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 40 Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.’” – Numbers 15:37-41 (NIV)
Aren’t you glad I had us focus on the Lord’s Prayer instead? That is a long prayer, but for the Jewish people of the first century and all the way through to today, this is a prayer memorized just as we have the Lord’s Prayer memorized. If you repeat something twice a day, you tend to lock it into long-term memory. For those of us who grew up saying the pledge of allegiance, we know how that works.
Obviously, when praying the Shema, it doesn’t have personalized language. The “I” in the Shema is God. But saying these words was a reaffirmation of the covenant God had made with the Hebrew people. When you read “Fix these words of mine in your hearts,” and you know that you aren’t really fixin to do that, it is a challenge to say the words. That is where you turn it into a prayer that God would make it true.
In ancient Judaism, to hear and do were not considered all that separate. That is why Jesus would often say, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Of course, people listening had ears but did they have ears that were willing to hear and a heart that was willing to obey what they heard? That is where the Shema became powerful because it reminded those praying that they were supposed to respond to God’s word with action. Praying other scriptures works the same way.
Psalms is a great place to find scriptures that you can pray. We have already pointed to some in a previous blog article. The Apostle Paul writes prayers for the churches that we can also adopt in our prayer life.
Psalm 23 is a great prayer to incorporate into your own prayer time. It isn’t just for funerals. Here is a great guide I found online for praying in the Psalms:
One note of caution, not every prayer in the Bible applies to your particular situation. There are promises that God makes to certain people in the scriptures about certain places, times, and events. There is a danger in thinking if God promised Abraham an heir, then I can take that promise and make it my own. That is a bit of a “name-it-claim-it” approach that I don’t think is consistent with the scriptures’ whole teaching. It does show a pattern that God is the one we can go to with a request for an heir of our own. That is completely appropriate. But to think that because God made that promise to Abraham, He must also make that promise to me is taking it too far.