Reading the Bible before praying is like putting the cart before the horse.
The proverbial horse is the Holy Spirit of God, who empowers and enlightens our Bible reading as we mine the depths of his Word. The proverbial cart makes up our willing eyes and hungry hearts, the Spirit-led choice to crack open our Bibles and pursue his everlasting truth.
Our Bible reading depends wholly on God’s grace. This is why we pray.
The cart must be pulled by the horse; our efforts to read must be motivated and helped by God’s grace and power. Christians come to God’s Word willing and hungry because he first made us willing and hungry to receive—but only he can enable us to receive. This is why we ask for help before we start reading.
I know this is true. I know I need to pray before I meet with God through his Word. Yet—
Time limits. I only have 15 minutes. I need to get reading…
Distractions abound. Is that where I left off yesterday? I can’t even remember what I read yesterday…Oh man, I forgot to drop off the dry cleaning yesterday…
Or I just plain forget.
Praise God, grace abounds for our limitations, distractions, and forgetfulness! We can even ask for his help to remember to draw near to him in dependent prayer, even if it’s a five-second plea because that’s all the time we have. It’s not the prayer, itself, that matters, but our dependence on God. Opening our Bibles comes with the conviction that we draw near to God only because of Jesus and through him. So, before we read, we commit to asking for God’s help to receive his Word with faith.
22 Prayers for Your Bible Reading
But what exactly do we pray for? Like me, have you struggled to know what this plea for help looks like?
Psalm 119 guides us. This list of 22 prayers from each stanza of the psalm will keep us mindful of our need and God’s provision, will focus us and help us set aside distractions, and will remind us that only Jesus opens the new and living way to God, making our hunger real and our reading possible.
Pray one or more of these 22 prayers before you receive from God’s Word today:
- Pray for wholehearted seeking: Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways (vv. 2-3)!
- Pray for protection from sin: I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (v. 11).
- Pray for opened eyes: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (v. 18).
- Pray for spiritual strength: My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word (v. 28)!
- Pray for delight and longing: Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!…Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life (vv. 36, 40)!
- Pray to fight lies: Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word (vv. 41-42).
- Pray to live with trust in God’s promises: This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life (v. 50).
- Pray for quick obedience: I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments (v. 60).
- Pray for good judgment and knowledge: Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments (v. 66).
- Pray for God’s comfort: Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant (v. 76).
- Pray for endurance against the enemy: All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me (v. 86)!
- Pray to depend on God’s enduring Word: Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens….I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts (vv. 89-94).
- Pray for continual meditation: Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day (v. 97).
- Pray for God’s light to guide you: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (v. 105).
- Pray for fear of the Lord: My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments (v. 120).
- Pray for trust in the Lord’s justice: I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies! It is time for the Lord to act, for your law has been broken (vv. 125-6).
- Pray for victory over sin: Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me (v. 133).
- Pray for joy in trouble: Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight (v. 143).
- Pray for God to hear you: Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your justice give me life (v. 149).
- Pray for mercy: Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your rules (v. 156).
- Pray to abhor falsehood: I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law (v. 163).
- Pray for a soul of praise: Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me (v. 175).
Dependent Bible Reading
The cart may be ready, but apart from the horse’s strength, it goes nowhere. May we bring our eagerness and hunger for Bible reading to God in prayer, trusting him to strengthen us for every gift we will receive when we open our Bibles, and depending on him to change us in the process.
This article originally appeared on UnlockingTheBible.org. Used with permission.
Kristen Wetherell is a writer, Bible teacher, and the content manager of Unlocking the Bible. She is the author, along with Sarah Walton, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, April 2017). She blogs at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter. She and her husband, Brad, are members of The Orchard in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Connect with Kristen at her website.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: November 29, 2016