If you were to write down all your prayers from the past month, what would we learn about you? It’s a question worth considering, because what you pray for most often reveals what you truly care about.
Of course, we can bring everything to God. With Jesus as our high priest, we come before the throne of our Father with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). But it’s easy to get caught up in urgent concerns. By using the Bible as a guide to our prayer, we are saved from endless repetition, shallow prayers, and running out of things to pray about.
Our own hearts are not always a reliable guide to what is truly important—indeed, they can be “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). By turning to Scripture, we know that we’re praying for what God values most. And as we pray in this way, our hearts are shaped to value these things too.
The whole Bible is packed with prayer. An obvious place to go is the Psalms, as they help us express our whole array of emotions to God. But the New Testament epistles are also a rich source for our prayer lives.
I find the epistles particularly helpful in praying for other people. It can be hard to pray for someone at length off the top of my head. I may get stuck on their immediate physical needs, or I can’t think of much to pray for beyond generic blessing.
Here are just a few passages which teach us how to pray for others:
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20–21)
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:15–21)
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9–14)
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24)
Praying the Bible isn’t about rote repetition in an attempt to earn favour with God. Jesus specifically warns us about this: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7). Yet the Bible is God’s word to us, so we can confidently pray it back to him and know he delights to answer us. Try using one of these passages to pray for someone you know today.