How to Pray Scripture While Reading Your Bible

Prayer Praying Scripture

Back in the 6th century, a group of monks began a spiritual practice called lectio divina, a Latin phrase which means ‘divine reading.’ Lectio divina is a prayer practice in which you read a passage of Scripture, reflect on it, and then pray it. You don’t merely read the Bible for intellectual and spiritual gain, but for spiritual connection with God.

We can enjoy this spiritual practice as well. Donald J. Whitney writes in his book Pray the Bible:

“reading Scripture and praying are often disjointed when they should be united. We read the Bible, close it, and try to shift gears into prayer. But many times it seems as if the gears between the two won’t mesh. In fact, after some forward progress in our time in the Word, shifting to prayer sometimes is like suddenly moving back into neutral or even reverse. Instead, there should be a smooth, almost unnoticeable transition between Scripture input and prayer output so that we move even closer to God in those moments.”

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How to Pray Scripture While Reading Your Bible/Lectio Divina

To practice lectio divina, choose a small section of Scripture to focus on. A chapter or less.

While this first step isn’t usually mentioned as part of lectio divina, it’s a good idea to pray before you even start reading the Bible. A beautiful verse to pray before Bible reading is Ephesians 1:17-19, but make it personal to you and your Bible reading. For example: “God, I ask that you would give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as I read your Word so that I may know you better. I ask that the eyes of my heart would be enlightened by your Word so that I would know the hope to which you have called me, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your great power available for me and all who believe. Amen.”

Then, read slowly through a passage of Scripture. Read until a verse challenges or encourages you, and stop to meditate on it. Or, read through the entire passage you’ve selected to read. You may need to read through that passage a few times. Listen, or look for a word or phrase in the passage that speaks to you, that feels significant to you, though you may not initially know why. God’s Word is alive and active and that means that different phrases and words will resonate with our hearts and our minds according to the season we are in.

Once you have a word or phrase that you have connected with, think about why you connected with it. Does it encourage or convict you? Does it give you a fresh new understanding about something? Is it a new concept you haven’t thought about before? Is it relevant to something you’ve been thinking about or worrying about lately? As you contemplate and meditate on why your heart has resonated with this particular word or phrase or line of Scripture, you will find before long your spirit is talking to God about it.

Read slowly through the chapter you’ve selected to read and know that it’s OK to read only a small portion of Scripture before you stop to reflect and pray. Lectio divina is an invitation to slow down your Bible reading and connect with the heart of God, rather than checking off several passages on your Bible reading plan. Reading less can often help you reflect more and make His Word more meaningful to your own life and situations. You can always pick up where you left off next time you sit down to read the Word, but don’t rush through what the Spirit wants you to learn from this portion of the Bible.

The psalms and prayers of our Bible heroes make praying the Scriptures easier. But most of the Bible is filled with narrative stories that would be harder to pray. While reading narrative stories in the Bible I find it best to reflect on what that Bible story is teaching me and let that guide my prayers. Does it convict me of a particular sin that I need to confess? Does it make me feel thankful for a particular attribute of God or Jesus’ character? However my heart is feeling stirred after reading that Bible story will guide me into a time of prayer.

I’ve recently started using The Prayer Bible: Pray God’s Word Cover to Cover. In this particular Bible you are provided a prayer prompt based on the content in each and every chapter—that’s approximately 1,200 prayer prompts. This is especially helpful for reading, meditating on, and praying the narrative stories in the Bible, and I find it a great tool to help you grow in your prayer life and pray Scripture as you read through the Bible.

Prayer Bible

Lectio divina is a great practice to help you focus both on God’s Word and on prayer. Paul E. Miller wrote in his book A Praying Life about a time when he felt overwhelmed by challenges in his life, making it difficult for him to focus on prayer. He says:

“I stopped trying to have a coherent prayer time, and for weeks on end during my morning prayer time, I did nothing but pray through Psalm 23. I was fighting for my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was following the habit of lectio divina, which was developed by the early church. By praying slowly through a passage of Scripture, I was allowing Scripture to shape my prayers. “As I prayed through Psalm 23, I began to reflect on the previous day and to look for the Shepherd’s presence, for his touches of love. Even on hard days, I began to notice him everywhere, setting a table before me in the presence of my enemies, pursuing me with his love.”

If you haven’t tried practicing lectio divina yet, reading and praying through the familiar and comforting Psalm 23 is a great place to start. If you read through it several days in a row, you may find yourself being drawn to a different line each day, or you may find yourself drawn to the same one.

Mark Batterson writes in his book The Circle Maker:

“the Bible wasn’t meant to be read through; the Bible was meant to be prayed through. And if you pray through it, you’ll never run out of things to talk about.”

Like all spiritual practices, lectio divina will take some practice to get used to. Some days you may have a beautiful divine reading experience, connecting with God and the words in your Bible, and other days you may not. I encourage you to keep diving into this transformational spiritual practice and continually find new things to talk to God about.