Bible Reading and Prayer: Does One Impact the Other?
Bible reading and prayer are closely connected. If our time in the Word is lacking as Christians, chances are, it will show up in how we talk to God. I have noticed this to be true. There’s a connection between my prayer life and my study of Scripture. If I do not prioritize time with the Lord daily, then my prayers are less helpful, and they feel more like a chore than a privilege. Do you resonate with that?
I’ve found that increasing the time I spend in Bible study during my time with the Lord does, in turn, bolster my prayer life. That’s why I want to share a few practical tools I have found helpful. My hope is that these Bible reading and prayer tips will help enhance and deepen your prayer life like they do for me.
I have benefited greatly from memorizing large chunks Scripture. And I’m not the only one. When a pastor I know was asked why he memorizes entire books of the Bible, he said: “Because I need it.” I will never forget that answer—“because I need it.”
To put that into practice, I encourage you to memorize a chapter of the Bible. If this sounds too daunting, then begin with a short passage. The point is to start somewhere. So, you may start with a familiar chapter or psalm. If you want to start with a psalm, I suggest Psalm 23 or Psalm 121. If you would rather start by memorizing a chapter, I suggest Romans 8, Romans 12, James 3, or Philippians 4. Don’t worry about memorizing “out of order” (I.e., memorizing a chapter that’s in the middle of a book). Eventually, you can begin memorizing the surrounding chapters and pretty soon will have the entire book memorized!
It’s a wonderful feeling when some of my first thoughts in the morning are not words of a catchy song, but the very words of God that give life and will never lose their value.
Have you ever repeated a word so many times that the word begins to sound foreign or silly? God’s Word isn’t like that. Rather, emphasizing (or repeating) different words in a passage will enhance them. As you read Scripture, slow down to savor each word. It can be helpful to focus on each word and reflect on its significance, context, and meaning in the original language.
For example, Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Stop there. Now emphasize each word in that verse.
• The Lord is my shepherd – In this verse the same word here is used in Exodus when describing the God who is coming to deliver the Israelites from slavery.
• The Lord is my shepherd – This is personal. Not only is the Lord the same Yahweh of the Old Testament but he is my Lord today.
• The Lord is my shepherd – A shepherd nurtures, instructs, and guides; he cares for those who call him by name.
This verse is loaded with meaning. Begin praying with each emphasized word in mind, “Yahweh, God of the universe, you are all knowing and all powerful. I worship your holy name. You personally know and see what I am walking through because you are my shepherd. You care for me and guide me so I can trust you.”
Words become richer and take on new depth when studied in this way.
Use Different Translations & Commentaries
I have read the Bible in two translations (NIV and ESV) for most of my life, so I’m quite familiar with various Scriptures in those translations. Yet, there is something refreshing about hearing the Word of God in words that are different than we are accustomed to.
To help freshen up your time in the Word, consider using a different Bible translation than you are used to reading or reading with two translations side-by-side. Additionally, comparing translations will help you gain deeper meaning as one may use another word to describe something, leading to a more robust understanding. For example, I have greatly benefited from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message, lately.
No doubt, Bible reading and prayer go hand in hand. How you study the Bible shows up in how you pray. The spiritual practice of Bible study is just one tool to revitalize your prayer life and root your heart in God’s truth. We don’t need more bland, pithy sayings. We need the words of life found in the Bible. Prayers anchored in Scripture will do just that.
Small Groups Ministry Assistant