R. Albert Mohler Jr.When you pray, does it ever feel like you’re just saying the same old things aboutthe same old things?NANCY LEIGH DEMOSS, author; radio host, Revive Our Hearts“Whitney offers a wonderfully practical, pastoral, and biblical approach toprayer that relieves personal boredom and unleashes spiritual power.”BRYAN CHAPELL, President Emeritus, Covenant Theological SeminaryB I B L E“My walk with the Lord has often been strengthened and encouraged byWhitney’s writing. This is a helpful tool for those of us who often struggleto know what and how to pray.”DONALD S. WHITNEY is professor of biblical spirituality and associatedean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.He has written several books related to Christian spirituality, includingSpiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.9 781433 547843U.S. 13.99CHRISTIAN LIVING / PRAYERWhitneyTRILLIA NEWBELL, author, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity and Fear and Faith51399T H EB I B L E“I prayed through Psalm 23 with tears streaming down my face, askingmyself, why have I not done this before? Don’t give up on prayer! Prayingthe Bible will help transform your prayer life.”ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-4784-3ISBN-10: 1-4335-4784-8P R A Y I N GT H EOffering us the encouragement and the practical advice we’re all lookingfor, Donald S. Whitney, best-selling author of Spiritual Disciplines for theChristian Life, outlines an easy-to-grasp method that has the power totransform our prayer life: praying the words of Scripture. Simple, yetprofound, Praying the Bible will prove invaluable as you seek to commune withyour heavenly Father in prayer each and every day.P R A Y I N G“THIS LITTLE BOOK IS EXPLOSIVE AND POWERFUL.”D O N A L DS .W H I T N E Y
“Don Whitney’s suggestion to pray the Bible has made a huge contribution to my devotional life. This little book is explosive and powerful.Read it ready to experience a great step forward in your walk with Christand in your commitment to prayer.”R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson BrownProfessor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist TheologicalSeminary“My walk with the Lord has often been strengthened and encouragedby Don Whitney’s writing. Now he reminds us of the value of usingScripture as a prompt and basis for our prayers. This is a particularlyhelpful tool for those of us who often struggle to know what and howto pray or whose minds tend to wander during private prayer. This bookwill surely help many refresh their time with the Lord.”Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author; radio host, Revive Our Hearts“If you are looking for a book to teach you not only to pray but alsoto invigorate your intimacy with God through prayer, this is the one.I highly recommend this book written by a man who has instructedthousands of people about spiritual disciplines in academic circles andin church settings. My soul has been nourished as I have sat under Whitney’s teaching, especially on the topic of prayer. You and I need thisbook. You will be blessed in more than one way.”Miguel Núñez, Senior Pastor, International Baptist Church ofSanto Domingo; President, Wisdom and Integrity“I prayed through Psalm 23 with tears streaming down my face, askingmyself, why have I not done this before? Perhaps you’ve been told to praythe Scriptures, but you haven’t because you were never taught how to.Whitney’s simple approach makes praying through the Bible accessiblewhile also leaving space for the Word and Spirit to work in your heart.Don’t give up on prayer! Praying the Bible will help transform yourprayer life.”Trillia Newbell, author, United: Captured by God’s Vision forDiversity and Fear and Faith
“Prayer and Scripture intake are both essential for spiritual devotion,like the left and right wings of a plane. Prayer is the Christian’s duty. Itshould also be the Christian’s delight. Praying the Bible will teach youto take in the joy of Scripture-led prayer.”H. B. Charles Jr., Pastor, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church,Jacksonville, Florida“Whitney offers a wonderfully practical, pastoral, and biblical approachto prayer that relieves personal boredom and unleashes spiritual power.It’s so simple it will shock you and, at the same time, invigorate a renewed prayer life with your God.”Bryan Chapell, President Emeritus, Covenant TheologicalSeminary; Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Peoria,Illinois“Whitney has taught the material in this book a number of times at theWorshipGod conferences I lead. Unfailingly his has been one of the mostappreciated and life-affecting seminars we’ve offered. I can’t recommendthis book highly enough.”Bob Kauflin, Director of Worship, Sovereign Grace Ministries;author, Worship Matters and True Worshipers
Praying the Bible
PR AY INGTHEBIBLED O N A L DS .W H I T N E YW H E AT O N , I L L I N O I S
Praying the BibleCopyright 2015 by Donald S. WhitneyPublished by Crossway1300 Crescent StreetWheaton, Illinois 60187All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, storedin a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic,mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permissionof the publisher, except as provided for by USA copyright law.Cover design: Tim Green, Faceout StudioCover image: Shutterstock, iStock.com, Getty ImagesFirst printing 2015Printed in the United States of AmericaScripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English StandardVersion ), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good NewsPublishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4335-4784-3ePub ISBN: 978-1-4335-4787-4PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-4785-0Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-4335-4786-7Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataWhitney, Donald S., (Professor)Praying the Bible / Donald S. Whitney.pages cmIncludes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-1-4335-4784-3 (hc)1. Prayer—Christianity. 2. Bible—Devotional use. I. Title.BV215.W465 2015248.3'2—dc23 2014046060Crossway is a publishing ministry of Good News 154321
For T. W. Hunt, the most prayerful man I’ve everknown. Thank you for decades of daily prayer for me.And also for R. F. Gates, whom God used in ways neitherof us could have ever imagined in that moment onMarch 1, 1985, when you held up the Bible andsaid, “When you pray, use the prayer book!”And most of all, for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.All this, indeed all of life, is for you andabout you. After talking with you so manythousands of times, I can’t wait to see you.
Contents1 The Problem 112 The Solution 233 The Method 294 More about the Method 335 Praying the Psalms 456 Praying Other Parts of the Bible 557 The Most Important Part of This Book 638 Evaluating the Experience 659 What Have We Learned? 7910 The Examples of George Mueller, Jesus onthe Cross, and Christians in the Book of Acts 81Appendix 1: “Psalms of the Day” Chart 91Appendix 2: Praying the Bible with a Group 93Notes 97General Index 101Scripture Index 105
1The ProblemIf I try to pray for people or events without havingthe word in front of me guiding my prayers, then several negative things happen. One is that I tend to bevery repetitive. . . . I just pray the same things all thetime. Another negative thing is that my mind tendsto wander.Jo h n P i perSince prayer is talking with God, why don’t people praymore? Why don’t the people of God enjoy prayer more? Imaintain that people—truly born-again, genuinely Christian people—often do not pray simply because they do notfeel like it. And the reason they don’t feel like praying isthat when they do pray, they tend to say the same old thingsabout the same old things.When you’ve said the same old things about the sameold things about a thousand times, how do you feel about11
Praying the Biblesaying them again? Did you dare just think the “B” word?Yes, bored. We can be talking to the most fascinating Person in the universe about the most important things in ourlives and be bored to death.As a result, a great many Christians conclude, “It mustbe me. Something’s wrong with me. If I get bored in something as important as prayer, then I must be a second-rateChristian.”Indeed, why would people become bored when talking with God, especially when talking about that which ismost important to them? Is it because we don’t love God?Is it because, deep down, we really care nothing for thepeople or matters we pray about? No. Rather, if this mindwandering boredom describes your experience in prayer, Iwould argue that if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit—ifyou are born again—then the problem is not you; it is yourmethod.The Spirit’s Presence Prompts PrayerNotice that very important condition—“if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit”—for no method will enlivenprayer for a person who isn’t indwelled by the Holy Spirit.Such a person has no sustained appetite for prayer, no longterm desire for it.When God brings someone into a relationship with himself through Jesus Christ, he begins to live within that person by means of his Holy Spirit. As the apostle Paul writes12
The Problemto followers of Jesus in Ephesians 1:13, “In him you also,when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promisedHoly Spirit.” In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul also reassures believers in Christ, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spiritwithin you, whom you have from God.”Just as you bring your human nature with you wheneveryou enter any place, so whenever the Holy Spirit entersany person, he brings his holy nature with him. The resultis that all those in whom the Spirit dwells have new holyhungers and holy loves they did not have prior to havinghis indwelling presence. They hunger for the holy Word ofGod, which they used to find boring or irrelevant (1 Pet.2:2). They love fellowship with the people of God, findingit unimaginable to live apart from meaningful interactionwith them (1 John 3:14). Hearts and minds in which theHoly Spirit dwells feel holy longings unknown to them previously. They long to live in a holy body without sin, yearnfor a holy mind no longer subject to temptation, groan fora holy world filled with holy people, and earnestly desireto see at last the face of the one the angels call “Holy, holy,holy” (Rev. 4:8).This is the spiritual heartbeat of 100 percent of thehearts where the Spirit of God lives. A person may be justnine years old, but if the Holy Spirit has come to him orher, then these hungers and desires are planted there (expressed in nine-year-old ways, of course, but they live there13
Praying the Biblebecause he lives there). And a person may be ninety-ninewith a heart encrusted by the traditions and experiences ofthe years, but pulsing underneath is the ever-fresh, evergreen work of the Holy Spirit manifested in every personin whom he dwells.And according to the New Testament letters of bothRomans and Galatians, another of the supernatural heartchanges the Spirit creates in all Christians is to cause themto cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).1 Thus whensomeone is born again, the Holy Spirit gives that personnew Fatherward desires, a new heavenward orientationwhereby we cry, “Abba, Father!” In other words, all thoseindwelled by the Holy Spirit really want to pray. The HolySpirit causes all the children of God to believe that God istheir Father and fills them with an undying desire to talkto him.“Something Must Be Wrong with Me”Nevertheless, while this Spirit-produced passion is pushingagainst one side of our soul, colliding with that is our experience. And our experience says, “But when I pray, frankly,it’s boring.” And when prayer is boring, we don’t feel likepraying. And when we don’t feel like praying, it’s hard tomake ourselves pray. Even five or six minutes of prayer canfeel like an eternity. Our mind wanders half the time. We’llsuddenly come to ourselves and think, “Now where wasI? I haven’t been thinking of God for the last several min14
The Problemutes.” And we’ll return to that mental script we’ve repeatedcountless times. But almost immediately our minds begin towander again because we’ve said the same old things aboutthe same old things so many times.“It must be me,” we conclude. “Prayer isn’t supposed tobe like this. I guess I’m just a second-rate Christian.”No, the problem is almost certainly not you; it’s yourmethod. If you have turned from living for yourself andyour sin and have trusted Jesus Christ and his work tomake you right with God, God has given you the HolySpirit. And if you are seeking to live under the lordship ofJesus Christ and the authority of God’s Word (the Bible),confessing known sin and fighting the lifelong tendency tosin instead of excusing it, then the problem of boredom inprayer is not you; rather, it is your method.And the method of most Christians in prayer is to saythe same old things about the same old things. After fortyyears of experience in ministry, I am convinced that thisproblem is almost universal. Virtually from the beginningof their Christian life, it seems that nearly every believersuff
Scripture as a prompt and basis for our prayers. This is a particularly helpful tool for those of us who often struggle to know what and how to pray or whose minds tend to wander during private prayer. This book will surely help many refresh their time with the Lord.” Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author; radio host, Revive Our Hearts “If you are looking for a book to teach you not only to pray but .