"Talk to God about the words you read in the Bible, and you’ll never again pray the same old things about the same old things.”[1]

Spiritual disciplines are hard habits to cultivate. Bible reading plans can be hard to stick to, and a few minutes of prayer can feel like an eternity when you don’t know what to say. I get it.

Let me introduce you to one of the things that has helped transform my own prayer life: praying the Bible. It’s a practice professor Don Whitney writes about in his book (appropriately titled Praying the Bible). We’ve had this book on our book table at FBA before, and I’m sure we will have more copies of it on there soon.

I want to give you an example of the practice, but I also want you to make sure you read all the way until the end because there’s an event coming up with Don Whitney in the Knoxville area. Registration is cheap, and it will definitely be worth your time. Details are at the bottom of this post. 

Praying the Bible

Here’s the gist of the practice: you open your Bible, read a passage, and pray what comes to mind as you reflect on the passage. Because the Bible is inspired and God-authored, “praying the Bible” is merely bringing the text of Scripture into your heart, letting it circulate, and returning it back to God in prayer. 

I’ll write out an example of this with a random Psalm—I’ll pick Psalm 61. I’ve put each main section of Psalm 61 in the lefthand column, and then I put my own prayer in the righthand column. As you’ll see, the prayer isn’t an interpretation of the passage, and it isn’t a commentary on the Psalm. Instead, it’s just praying what comes to mind as I read the text, including some “rabbit trails” that the Psalmist reminds me of, my own circumstances, and whatever the text makes me think of. 

“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.”


God, I know you hear me as I call out to You. You have promised me to listen when I cry out to You, and I thank you for that. I pray that You would make my heart long to pray to You when I am in difficult times, when I face struggles, or when my heart is faint. Help me realize that no matter where I am on the earth, no matter what I have done, or no matter how I may have sinned against You, You hear me in my suffering and faintness. The words of the Psalmist remind me of the difficulty of my own struggles against depression and anxiety—and, God, I pray that You would preserve my soul in the face of emotional uncertainty. I thank You for bringing me this far in life, and I pray You continue to keep me, holding me fast in Your arms.

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!”


I thank You for those times You have been my refuge. When trials have come my way, You have time and time again provided me with shelter—not just from the enemies of this world, but also most explicitly from the enemy of sin and death. Thank You for sending Your Son to die and provide me this strong tower of safety. I pray that You would keep me in Your hold forever, keeping me beneath Your wings.

“For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.”




I pray, now, that You would help me be a man of my word: that You would show me how to uphold the promises I have made. I pray You shape me to carry on the legacy of my father as a faithful follower of You, and I pray that if I have children in the future I will pass Your name down to them by training them in Your Word and statutes.

I pray, now, for those in leadership over me, both in the country and in my church. I pray for government leaders, like the President and Vice President, our senators and congresspeople, and our local governing bodies—that You would stir their affections for You and that they would rule in a way that honors Your design for the world. I know that our culture is hostile toward You, God, and for this I pray for change.

I also pray for my elders in the church—that You would give them wisdom, that You would offer them good counsel, and that You would guide their steps. Help them continue to be men of integrity as they seek to faithfully lead Your church.
I pray, lastly, that you would cultivate a heart of prayer and obedience to Your name every day, remembering always the gospel of Your Son. In the name of Christ, Amen.

One of the things that is worth noting is how much flexibility there is in this method of praying. In the third section, especially, things get a little more personalized. Though it almost certainly isn’t what the Psalmist had in mind when he wrote Psalm 61, the language of vows and heritage made me think about wedding vows and family lineage. So, I ended up praying about my own life: even though I’m not married, I do have promises or “vows” I make—to work faithfully, to uphold integrity in my job, to pay off my student loans, and so on—and I hope to one day have children, so I prayed over that as well. And, although the Psalmist’s context was the nation of Israel, his prayers for the king made me think about our own politics in the United States. So, I prayed for that, too.Though you might think praying the Bible would constrain you, it’s, in fact, freeing: since you aren’t preaching a sermon or teaching a class or performing exegesis of a passage, you can pray whatever it is that comes to mind. There are no rules in prayer, which is the point of the whole practice!

An Invitation to Don Whitney’s Workshop

As a final word, it’s worth pointing your attention to an event happening at another local church in Fountain City. Don Whitney is putting on a workshop in our area about his book Praying the Bible, and the church hosting it has invited us to bring a group. Dinner and childcare are provided with registration.

If you’d like to go, you can register via this link. If there’s enough interest, we would love to carpool to the event together! It would be a great evening of fellowship, learning, and eating together. There are a few other churches taking groups, so it’s also a good opportunity to meet fellow believers from other congregations and see some familiar faces from our area.

[1] Don Whitney, Praying the Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 42.