It is all too easy to read the Bible, close it and move on with our day. But if we are not letting the time we spend in the Word of God transfer into our prayer time, we are missing out on the richness of the Bible and its application to our soul. We’ve seen that prayer can be difficult and that this is because it is hard for us to be honest with ourselves and with the Lord about who we are. Scripture can help us overcome this difficulty. The Bible explains the truth about who we are, and if we know how Scripture describes us, we can harness it to enrich our prayer time.
Why look for our sin?I’m about to explain how to see ourselves in scripture, and this will ultimately mean confession that we are sinners. Why is this my focus? Why do I think this is important? There are two reasons. First, we tend to downplay both the evil of sin and our own sinfulness. This has an effect on our understanding of who we are and how we should act. Second, and connected to this, it has an effect on how we see the Lord. The less evil sin appears to us, the less good God will seem. The less good God seems, the better we will appear. If we want to appreciate the goodness, grace and mercy of the Lord, and be joyful be thankful people, it is important that we recognize the evilness of evil and our own corruption.
The less evil sin appears to us, the less good God will seem.I explained previously that part of the idea of confession is that we agree with God about who we are and who God is. Praying Scripture provides us with an opportunity to pray what God says back to Him, taking what He has said and rewording it into our own words.
Seeing ourselves in scriptureIn principal, praying scripture is as simple as taking what God says about man and seeing a portrait (whether complete or in part) of ourselves. Having seen ourselves in scripture, we can then admit the reality of what we read. Take for example David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11.. You might not have committed adultery or committed murder like David did, but as Jesus points out, the roots of these actions took place well beforehand when he was lustful or angry (Matt 5:21-22, 27-28). Most (all?) of us have struggled with lust and anger, and so we can identify ourselves in this passage.
If we know how scripture descibes us, we can harness it to enrich our prayer.But even if you don’t struggle with lust and anger, our flesh carries the same corruption that brought about these sins. Therefore, even if we’ve never lusted or been angry, we share in the corruption that David exhibits and are weak to sin in other areas. In this case, we can acknowledge that we require the help of the Lord to resist the temptations that arise from the flesh.
How far can we take this?It is important to identify the level which we see ourselves in this situation. Scripture warns us against committing David’s sin and exposes us to biblical repentance. After Nathan had confronted him and he repented and confessed, David wrote Psalm 51 as a prayer of confession. Later he wrote Psalm 32 as the instruction he said he would give in Psalm 51:14. Therefore Psalm 51 provides us with a model of confession, and Psalm 32 compels us to respond to sin with repentance. Therefore if we tend toward lust and murder (bearing in mind Jesus’s qualification in Matt 5:21-22 and 27-28), to what extent should we identify with David in this particular passage? Have we done the same thing – committed murder or arranged for the death of another? Have we committed adultery? If the answer is no, this doesn’t let us off the hook. Have we lusted after someone like David did even if we didn’t let it develop into full adultery? If yes, then we can identify ourselves with that sin. What about anger? If we get angry, we can see ourselves in David’s sin because according to Christ, anger is the root of murder. We need to own as much of the sin as we find in the text that we commit or experience. Praying Scripture requires a high degree of personal honesty because acknowledging corruption and sin mean we need to recognize specific instances in our life and seek to change.
Translating what we read to prayerHaving identified ourselves in this passage, we can now use this material in our prayer. We can acknowledge before the Lord the level that we identify ourselves in the the text. We can seek forgiveness, and ask Him to help us change. Repentance starts with recognition before the Lord that we’ve sinned, confessing our sin and agreeing with God about the evil of our thoughts, desires, will, and actions.
Repentance starts with recognition before the Lord that we’ve sinned.Also, repentance means being willing to allow sin’s consequences to come. In the case of murder, this would mean being willing to allow the legal proceedings. In the case of adultery, it means recognizing that there will be broken trust and make a commitment to rebuilding it while allowing the other party time to come to terms with the situation even while we seek forgiveness and work to change. There is much more to think about in these cases than what I’ve mentioned here, but repentance includes the idea of accepting the consequences of our sin. We must always start with the sins we’ve committed, meaning we need to recognize these for what they are, which is how the Bible explains these sins, using the same words to described it that we find there. Use these words in your prayer, taking full responsibility for it. That means, identifying sin as lust instead of “wandering eye,” or anger instead of frustration. Using the words that the Bible uses also helps us to improve the clarity of our thoughts about what we do, helping us develop a dislike or hatred of sin. If your sin is not outward, but inward and hasn’t become evident to others, such as lust or anger, it is much easier to overlook sin. The Lord knows our sin, and when we come to pray, we need to open our heart up before Him and recognize our sin before Him. There is not the outward consequences of these sins, but the Lord knows, and our sin is objectively before Him. When reading a passage that we can’t be in (such as Absolom’s taking the kingdom from David), we can still recognize our tendency to resist authority (such as law enforcement, local or national government, or even church leaders). Moving from the specific example to the principle provides us with the opportunity to agree with the Lord about our sinful tendencies and to ask Him to help us reject the desires and thoughts that draw us toward such sins. From specific instances in scripture, we can often detect general principles that apply to us if we’re willing to look for them.
Why is this so hard?That brings us to the most difficult thing about praying scripture in this manner. Praying scripture is hard not because we can’t move from the specific to the general, but because we don’t like to agree with the Lord about who we are.
Praying Scripture is hard because we don’t like to agree with the Lord about who we are.Deep down inside each of us lurks pride, a sense of worthiness that has been corrupted by the fall. As a result of the ongoing and increasing corruption of the fall the worthiness we once had as creatures made in the image of God and without sin has become corrupted, and we’re no longer fit for the fullness of the purpose for which God created us (Rom 3:12). But our sense of worthiness remains and is corrupted by sin and seeks to glorify us rather than the Lord. This corrupted sense of who we are causes us to want to overlook our corrupted nature, not to mention our specific sins. But we cannot grow without facing this reality, no matter how much our corrupted heart wants to avoid it. We need to learn to identify our sins for what they are and then see ourselves broadly described in Scripture, even if not precisely, certainly in principle. When we do this, we provide ourselves with rich opportunities to pray through the scripture. The more we recognize our sin in the scripture and see the reality of our corruption, the richer the grace of God will appear, and the more we will find to give thanks for. Since we struggle to pray with integrity, why not let the word of God guide us as we pray?