How to Pray Scripture

A Simple, Helpful Lesson Learned in Dr. Don Whitney’s Class

 by Doug Smith

I had the privilege to take a class on Biblical Spirituality in 2007.  In this class, Dr. Don Whitney showed us how and why we should pray through Scripture. This practice has benefited me greatly, and I have been able to share it with some others. It is something that can be modeled and integrated into family worship as well.  I requested Dr. Whitney’s permission to post handouts I have prepared for use in sharing this material, which he has granted.

After Dr. Whitney instructed us on praying through Scripture, he said that if we ever taught this to others we must be sure to do two things:

1) Give people time to pray Scripture themselves.

2) Give time for people to give testimonies about their experience.

This fastens the truth to their minds and hearts better than simply lecturing and moving on to other things. If a person is told how to use a tool, he should then get some practice in utilizing it. People need the experience of praying through Scripture in order to have its advantages driven home to them. As Dr. Whitney put it, many people will be likely to get “hooked” on praying Scripture if you explain how to do it and then let them do it and give testimonies.

Let me explain the handouts. There are three pages I have posted.

  • The first is the outline of the need, method and reasons to pray through Scripture. This can be used for individual study or in a group setting. I hope it is simple enough for a Christian to view it alone and then understand how to practice it. If you teach this, be sure you go through it on your own first. In the blanks, list all the benefits you can think of for praying through Scripture after you have tried it. Then, if you teach it, do not share those benefits until after you have given others a chance to try it for themselves and given testimonies about their experience. You will likely be gratified to find that they will mention many of the things you have already thought of, and it has more effect if you let them express it first.
  • The second handout is an explanation of the Psalms of the day (point IV. A. 1. in the outline). The formula of using today’s date and adding 30 until you get 5 Psalms is an alternative to the practice some have of reading 5 consecutive Psalms each day. There is nothing wrong with using 5 consecutive Psalms (since this would take one through the whole book of Psalms in a month), but the idea of the Psalms of the day on the handout gives more freedom and is more flexible if you miss a day, because you don’t have to feel like you need to catch up.
  • The third and final handout is a quote from George Müller, a man known for his devoted prayer life who had some of the same struggles many of us face (such as a wandering mind). His prayer life was transformed for the good by praying Scripture. In the outline this example comes after the Scriptural precedent, for which you should look up the references and read them to show the connection of Scripture and prayer in the life of Jesus and the apostles.

I cannot overemphasize the value of praying Scripture.  For additional information about this practice, I commend to you Dr. Whitney’s book Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), especially pages 60 and 80.  You may also view his outline on the topic by clicking here (Word document format).

Handouts for Praying Through Scripture:

Please check out Dr. Whitney’s website at .  You can also follow him on Twitter @DonWhitney


Three Ingredients of Gospel-Shaped Prayer (Colossians 1:3-12)

May 1, 2011

Click here for sermon audio (8 MB)


Three Ingredients of Gospel-Shaped Prayer

Colossians 1:3-12

 Two observations about studying the Scriptures to deepen our prayer lives (from D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, pgs 95-96)

 1. general: the more we learn about God and His ways, the better we can pray.

2. specific:  studying the prayers in Scripture from Moses, David, Daniel, Jesus, Paul, and others helps us to better know how to pray and what to pray for

Furthermore, we can actually pray the Scriptures – a practice that has breathed new freshness into the prayers of many.

We Should Regularly Pray for Others with:

1.      Thankfulness for Gospel Transformation (vv. 3-8, 14)


2.      Petitions for Godly Wisdom (v. 9)


 3.      The Goal of God-pleasing Lives (vv. 10-12)