Often I attend prayer meetings where various requests for healing, finances, safety in travel or job promotions are divvied out. Naturally, we desire prayer for such things. But a closer look at God's Word would reveal deeper and more divinely inspired ways to pray for friends and family.
Is there a cancer? Yes, prayer for healing is in order, but so is prayer for the robust blessings of Psalm 119:140: "Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them" (NIV).
How rich to pray, "Lord, this cancer is testing Your promises in the life of my friend who is ill, but You are faithful to every promise You've made to her. May Your servant love Your promises through this time of testing."
Is there a need for finances? Yes, prayer for needed money is in order, but so is prayer for the rewards of Proverbs 15:17: "Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred" (MEV).
How invigorating to pray, "Lord, financial blessing isn't the focus; Your Word says that love should be. May we learn to live on little if it means leaning harder on You, as well as each other."
When I pray for disabled children I know, I intercede with Matthew 19:14 in mind: "But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'" In verse 15 we're given a picture of Jesus tenderly placing His hand on each child.
"Lord Jesus," I'll say, "Your heart went out to children when You walked on Earth. I can picture You tousling their hair, bouncing them on Your knee, and laying Your hands on their heads to bestow a blessing. If Your heart went out this way to the boys and girls who could walk up to You, how much more must Your heart overflow toward little Jeanette with spina bifida or Benjamin who has cerebral palsy? Today, may they feel Your hand of blessing on their heads."
Often it's good to quote an entire passage, substituting a person's name for the pronoun in the passage. Colossians 1:9-12 is a good example of Scripture to pray this way:
I ask God to fill Susan with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And I pray this in order that Susan may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work she does, being strengthened with all power, so that she may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to the Father.
Remember, God's Word is alive, active and powerful. Prayers laced with the Word of God not only bring about fundamental changes in people and situations, but such prayers keep us in touch with God's priorities. Weaving God's Word into our prayers brings His purposes to the forefront of every request.
The Enlargement of His Promises
E.M. Bounds was known for his extraordinary prayer life. He once testified, "The Word of God is the fulcrum upon which the lever of prayer is placed, and by which things are mightily moved. God has committed Himself, His purpose, and His promise to prayer. His Word becomes the basis, the inspiration of our praying, and there are circumstances under which by importunate prayer, we may obtain an ... enlargement of His promises."
I will never forget the time I received an "enlargement of His promises" from praying Scripture. It was in the early '80s, not long after the honeymoon was over for two newlyweds: Ken and me. I learned that my new husband preferred to spend Monday nights in front of the TV with chips, salsa and the NFL rather than being my hands to write out my Bible study for me. Horrors, I thought, he's not a man of the Word!
I was itching to change my husband, but my nagging and scolding only made things worse. Feeling like a martyr, I sought help in God's Word and stumbled across these words in Philippians 2:3-4:
Let nothing be done out of strife or conceit, but in humility let each esteem the other better than himself. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Yikes, that's me, I thought. I've wanted Ken to change for selfish reasons so he'll meet my expectations. And to be honest, I don't consider him "better than myself." I feel I'm the one in the right. I feel I've got it spiritually together, not him.
I was convicted. These verses catapulted me into a major prayer advance for Ken. I sincerely wanted to follow God's Word and have humility of mind, as well as to regard Ken better than me. How could I look out for his interests? I feverishly flipped through Scripture until I found the perfect passage to pray for my husband.
"Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He will receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face. Selah. Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, that the King of glory may enter. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle" (Ps. 24:3-8).
I'd spend evenings in our bedroom, praying, "Lord, You want Ken to stand in Your holy place, to have clean hands and a pure heart. May You cause him to lift up his soul to You and receive Your blessing. May he seek Your face. Lift up the gates of Ken's heart that You, the King of glory, might come in! Lord, say to him, 'I, the King of glory, will come in and rule your life. I, the Lord, strong and mighty.'"
I can't tell you how many times I prayed this way. But now, years later, it's clear that Christ sits on the throne of my husband's heart. (He's in the process of memorizing the entire Sermon on the Mount; I didn't put him up to it, really!) Something else is clear: Ken still loves Monday Night Football. What has changed is that so do I! And I've found other "hands" to help me write out my Bible studies on other evenings.
Speaking Christ's Language
I began praying Psalm 24 over my husband believing that God would change him, but God did much more. He changed me. It was, as E.M. Bounds would say, "an enlargement of His promises." I'm convinced we are still feeling the repercussions of that Scripture prayer. That's because it was based on Psalm 24 and was alive, active and powerful, bringing about fundamental changes in me where it counted most—and in my husband too.
The Bible is our prayer book, and we'd be remiss to neglect its riches. It holds the key to finding God's will when we pray, providing balance and meaning. Great themes abound—God's holiness, wisdom, faithfulness, sovereignty, love and mercy—all of which beautify our praises, adorn our intercessions, embroider our petitions and give weight and significance to every supplication.
Most of all, using the Word of God in prayer is about as close as we can get to the Living Word, the Lord Jesus. If we're going to pray in His name, it makes sense to speak in His language.
How could using God's Word as a model for prayer help you keep His priorities in the forefront? What are some Scriptures you can use to pray for someone in your life or over a situation you're facing?
© 2001-2016 Revive Our Hearts Excerpted from Speaking God's Language: How Scripture Can Add Power to Your Prayers, by Joni Eareckson Tada. Originally published in Pray!Magazine, copyright 2006 by the Navigators. Used by permission of Joni and Friends.
Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Great Resources to help you excel in 2019! #1 John Eckhardt's "Prayers That..." 6-Book Bundle. Prayer helps you overcome anything life throws at you. Get a FREE Bonus with this bundle. #2 Learn to walk in the fullness of your purpose and destiny by living each day with Holy Spirit. Buy a set of Life in the Spirit, get a second set FREE.