Bible reading and prayer

Alongside church attendance, the key means of standing firm as a Christian are bible reading and prayer (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 22:31-32, 2 Timothy 3:16-4:6, Luke 22:40).

The longest psalm in the bible waxes lyrical about the benefits of constant reflection on scripture (Psalm 119). This can be done in four ways: By hearing it taught (Jeremiah 3:15), constantly reading it through to maintain an overview (Deuteronomy 17:19), studying smaller sections in depth (Proverbs 2:1-5), and memorising and meditating on particular verses (Psalm 119:11).

Most important is that we study with humble hearts that accept what we read as God’s inspired word and are willing to obey it (Isaiah 66:2, James 1:21-22). Yet we must also ensure that we do not read passages out of context or make them say what we want. The “then” and “now” questions are therefore key: (1) What meaning and response was originally intended? (2) How do these validly apply today?

Some bible characters model praying three times a day—morning, midday, and evening (Palm 55:17, Daniel 6:10, Acts 10:9). Jesus seems to have engaged in daily prayer—withdrawing from the busyness of life (Luke 5:16); pervasive prayer—responding to events throughout the day (Matthew 11:25-26); and crisis prayer—giving extra time to particular needs (Luke 6:12-16). All are certainly called to “devote themselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:3).

Prayer should express faith, pure motives, and be reverent, sincere, persistent, and submissive to God’s will (James 1:5-6, 4:3, Matthew 6:7, Luke 18:1-8, 22:42). God’s answer depends on our praying according to his word and remaining faithful to him (John 15:7, Isaiah 1:15).

­Praying “in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18) probably refers to the Spirit guiding how we pray for a matter at hand and giving us a heartfelt attitude as we do (Romans 8:26). God’s concerns are expressed in the bible. So knowing the bible well enough for it to “dwell richly” within us facilitates our prayers as the Spirit guides us by bringing particular bible truths to mind, and gives us a heartfelt concern for the priorities they express (Colossians 3:16).

Any bible passage—and particularly bible prayers—can therefore provide a useful springboard to our prayers. Try reading a passage slowly with a pause after each phrase to pray through its sentiments.

Christians find the best way to ensure time for bible reading and prayer is to set apart a set “quiet time” every day. Many find first thing preferable, and try to get to bed earlier so that they can be fresh for it. Start with just 15 minutes a day, and seek to extend it as it becomes established. If you struggle to stay focused, ask God to help, kneel down or stand up, speak out loud or write things down.