Want to Pray with the Bible? Here’s How to Start
Have you ever opened the Bible with the intent of entering into prayer, only to close it because you’re not really sure where to begin?
Sure you can read it, flip through it and find Bible quotes that inspire you in the moment. But everyone gets worn out from Bible roulette. How do you really pray with Scripture?
The Bible is divinely inspired, so it helps tremendously to have different ways and tools to break it open and understand it. When using the Bible in prayer, there are many different ways you can enter in.
Read on to learn about how to set up time and space for prayer, and explore different methods to use when praying with the Bible.
Build a good framework for prayer with the Bible
Your prayer experiences with the Bible will be enhanced if you take the time to properly prepare and conclude.
Begin by setting a time for your prayer that works well with your schedule. This should be a time where you are able to relax and not worry about feeling rushed.
Then, pick a place for your prayer that allows you to know and feel that you are in the presence of God. This does not have to be a Church. This could be your bedroom or a place in your home that serves as a sacred space (i.e. a small table with an icon, rosary and a couple of bible quotes).
Finally, enter into prayer with a grateful heart. Give thanks to God for choosing you to be his. Feel and embrace his love for you. Petition God for the virtues of faith, hope and love.
Think of any other graces you may be in need of and ask for them as well. Trust in his power to hear and answer you.
“What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
Start by entering into your prayer with the Scripture with the method you have chosen. Focus on keeping an open two way communication as prayer is both speaking and listening to God.
Pay attention to Bible quotes that speak to you and write them in a journal.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Concluding your prayer
End your prayer period reflecting on everything you have just experienced. What are some feelings you had? Did any thoughts occur or bible quotes stick out to you? Maybe write them down to go over later.
Then, give thanks to God for time spent with him.
Conclude with a short prayer of your choice, and plan the next time you will encounter God in prayer with sacred scripture. Record any bible quotes from sacred scripture that stood out to you during your prayer time.
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him, he also hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalm 145 18-19)
Different ways to pray with the Bible
Now that we have set up a good framework for how to pray with sacred scripture, let’s talk about the specific types of prayer you can use.
St. Ignatius believed that God can communicate with us through our imagination as well as our thoughts and memories. The Spiritual Exercises incorporate a very active way of praying that “engages the mind and heart and stirs up thoughts and emotions”, according to Kevin O’Brien, author of The Ignatian Adventure.
Ignatian meditation works really well with sacred scripture because it takes you through the gospels and allows you to be present to the stories of Jesus’ life. You’re encouraged to visualize the events unfolding as if watching a movie, or even like you are actually there witnessing them happen.
“For the word of God is living and active.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The Bible blooms into a world that is turning in real time. Walk through the journey paying close attention to the details of the events as they unfold. Ignatian meditation allows you to use your imagination to go deeper into the story, and even place yourself at the scene. You are not merely remembering an event as it’s been told, but reliving it in a way that is meaningful to you in the here and now.
Imaginitive prayer is easier for some than others. If you are not able to easily picture a scene or experience it easily, give yourself grace to enjoy the moment you are in. Don’t force something that doesn’t happen effortlessly.
As O’Brien says, “Pray as you are able.”
Know that God will speak to you whether it is through imagination, emotions or intellect.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)
Another type of prayer used to enter into sacred scripture is Lectio Divina. This type of prayer (literally translated as divine reading), is a way of becoming personally immersed in the Bible. First introduced by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Lectio Divina works on forming a strong relationship with God through reflectively praying over and through his words.
There are four stages to this style of praying with sacred scripture:
- Lectio (Read)
- Meditatio (Reflect)
- Oratio (Respond)
- Contemplation (Rest)
Father Thomas Keating says that the four stages of Lectio Divina are “like compass points around a circle, with the Holy Spirit moving seamlessly between them.” When practiced correctly, it can be a very intense and moving personal experience.
If this type of prayer interests you, there are beginner’s guides online that are simple to use and a great way to get started.
Pray your own way
Prayer over Bible verses doesn’t have to follow a specific format. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that even just reading the bible is an important way to connect with God:
“The Church forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For we speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2653)
Sometimes simply reading and reflecting upon God’s word is enough. Many people take great joy in writing down bible quotes that inspire them and that they feel are given to them directly by the Holy Spirit. The important thing is that you are praying over God’s word.
“…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
We have been given the greatest gift of a holy text that is filled with wisdom, advice, and a beautiful language spoken to us directly by our creator.
Any prayer with the Bible is a good prayer, and leading and weaving us closer to him and a relationship that will strengthen our souls in all of the most important ways.
Cassi Villanueva is a freelance writer and contributing blogger at Catholic Singles. Born and raised in the south, when she's not writing, she can be found spending time with her husband and four children in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, GA.