Tag Archives: prayer

Learning to Pray

The Bible not only teaches us that prayer is important, but also how to pray. As we enter into the prayers passed down to us in Scripture, we learn to pray.

One thing which fascinates me about the psalm-prayers is how all of life is taken up in prayer: the bright and the dark sides of life, joy and pain, love and hate. A beautiful psalm of trust follows right after a psalm of lament (e.g. Ps. 23 after 22). Doesn’t that reflect the reality of our walk with God? The psalm-prayers are not all nice and tidy – they express feelings such as anger (e.g. Ps. 137) or painful questions (e.g. Ps. 13). All of life has a place in these conversations with God. These prayers invite us to speak to God about everything, without first editing our thoughts or feelings.

Prayers from Scripture also invite us to pray with a wide perspective. So often, our prayers simply echo the thoughts and feelings which are in us. Biblical prayers help us to pray in light of God’s reality. The Lord’s Prayer encompasses God’s purposes for the whole world (Mt 6:9-13). The prayers of Paul have challenged my tendency to primarily pray for God to change difficult circumstances and solve all problems. Paul’s prayers go far beyond that as he prays for believers to grow in their knowledge of God, to bear fruit, to walk faithfully with God until Christ returns. (See Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Phil. 1:3-11; Col. 1:3-14).

Let me close with a few simple suggestions on how prayers from Scripture can help shape our communal praying:

  • Pray using prayers from the Bible. You can simply speak the words from Scripture together. Or you can pray a few lines from Scripture and let these words lead you into further prayers before continuing with the Biblical prayer. In this way, your prayers alternate between the words from Scripture and your own words of prayer.
  • Pray for one another using one of Paul’s prayers. Personalize the prayer by inserting the name of the person you are praying for.
  • Read a prayer from Scripture together. After a time of silent reflection and sharing allow this prayer to shape a communal time of prayer.

Similarly, you can let prayers from Scripture shape your personal prayer life. As we enter into these prayers, we will be learning how to pray.

Sabine Kalthoff

A Strange Conversation

Imagine a conversation in which one person shares their heart and mind without getting a reaction from the other person. That would be very strange. Yet, this is sometimes how we treat God.

If the Bible is God’s Word to us, then what is our answer? If this is what God says, then what do we say back to him? Scripture engagement involves hearing and responding to God’s Word. Sometimes our Bible studies seem to be primarily about collecting information. Each time, we add a bit more to our knowledge pool. That’s good, but it’s not an adequate response to the voice of the living God.

What is the response a certain passage of Scripture calls for?

This question is worth asking in every Bible study. It might be a deed of mercy, seeking reconciliation with someone or some other step of obedience and faith. Yet, not every passage of Scripture calls us to go and do something. The most appropriate response might be to worship and praise God for who he is or to receive his love and grace anew.

How can we help students respond to the Word of God with their lives?

Including a time of response in our Bible studies could be a first step. This goes beyond talking about possible applications of a Bible passage. Depending on the passage, a time of response might consist of worshipping God together, silent reflection, communal prayer, going and doing something as a group, etc. At the end of Bible studies, I’ve often experienced that prayer requests were shared which were all completely unrelated to the passage just studied. A strange conversation. This can be changed by introducing a time of prayer with the question: How can we pray for you in light of this Bible passage? As we pray God’s Word back to him, we are giving it room to shape us. God’s word will unfold its power in our lives as we give an answer – in word and deed. We are called to be not only hearers, but doers of the Word. As James says: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Scripture engagement is not complete until God’s Word is translated into life.

Sabine Kalthoff