A Daily Grace Book Review: “Praying the Bible” by Donald S. Whitney

By Miranda Mae Ewing 
Staff Writer for The Daily Grace Co.

A women’s small group leader oversees a chatty group of attendees who are eagerly discussing what they are learning about in their Bible study. She gets the group’s attention and begins to wind down their time together, summarizing their thoughts and giving them announcements for their next meeting. She looks up with a smile, glances around the lively room, and asks, “Anyone want to pray as we close?”The talkative ladies go silent and peek at each other from the corner of their eyes. No one volunteers. Everyone just stares at the leader. The leader quickly fills the gap in conversation saying, “No problem! I’ll pray for us!”

Most of us have probably been in the situation I just described and if not that situation, something similar. The truth is that many believers feel discouraged with their prayer lives, and they definitely do not want to pray in front of others. We might often wonder to ourselves, why in the world is it so difficult for me to pray? And the truth is that our lack of prayer is often a result of the method we use to pray.

A few weeks ago, one of our staff writers, Kristyn Perez, wrote a blog post entitled, “How to Pray Scripture.” If you haven’t read it already, check it out!  It was such a helpful explanation and guide for beginning to pray through the Bible. This method can truly help us fight discouragement in our prayer lives and fill our minds with the truth of God’s Word as we pray. 

Today, I’d like to share another resource with you that explains more of how to use Scripture in your prayers. So, it’s time for a Daily Grace Book Review!

Praying the Bible by Don Whitney
Donald Whitney has been a professor of Biblical Spirituality as well as Associate Dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, since 2005. He has written many books that encourage and help followers of Christ in pursuing spiritual disciplines, growing in godliness, and loving Jesus. One of his most recent books is Praying the Bible. It’s a quick read (the audiobook version of the book is only about 3 hours long), but the method and thoughts that Don Whitney shares about how to pray through Scripture are invaluable. 

The Problem and the Solution 
Whitney’s main point that he stresses to his readers is that most Christians “pray the same old things about the same old things.” Sooner or later, a believer will begin feeling bored with prayer. It’s not because they are not saved or they don’t love the Lord enough; they just haven’t tried to pray differently. They do what they have always done, and they struggle with feeling guilty over not wanting to pray. But Whitney calls believers to a different method that will lead to richer prayer, and it has nothing to do with us being better Christians and everything to do with relying on the Word of God, which has already been graciously given to us. 

The Method
Whitney directs his readers to the Psalms to use as a guide for prayer, and he gives them many examples of how to pray through them in his book. He stresses that praying through Scripture is not the same discipline as studying the Bible. Whitney says that when we study our Bibles and try to figure out what a text means, we are looking for what the Bible says about the Lord and what the text originally meant to the audience. When we pray through a passage of Scripture, we are using the language of the text to direct our conversation with God. 

For example, Psalm 16:1-2 says, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you’” (ESV). I could use this text to pray something like this: “God, preserve me from my anxiety and fear of someone breaking into my house. Help me to see that I can take refuge in you all the time, even before I fall asleep and feel scared. Remind me that you are my Lord. Help me to see that I have no good apart from you. Father, I want to thank you for the good things you have given me: my husband, a warm home, my newborn son, and food to eat. You give me good things even though I already have the best thing of all—You.”

The method of this kind of prayer is important to understand because as you pray the Bible, you will probably be using the Bible’s language to talk to the Lord about situations, feelings, and questions that the original text is not necessarily speaking to directly. In the example above, I mentioned anxiety and fear over someone breaking into my house. David was likely not overly concerned about a home break-in as king, but I was using God’s Word to guide my time talking with Him and was able to tie the subject into that prayer. If I were to say that the main message of Psalm 16 is that we will always be safe in our houses, that would be an incorrect interpretation of Scripture.

More Helpful Tips
Don Whitney also instructs his readers on how to pray through other genres of Scripture besides the Psalms, and he gives helpful tips and practical steps to carry out this discipline of praying God’s Word in your life. Praying the Bible is an excellent resource for you to read if you are struggling with prayer. May you love having fellowship with the Lord by praying His Words back to Him as you keep from “[praying] the same old things about the same old things,” as Whitney says.

If you are interested in other resources on prayer from Don Whitney, check out his video series with Crossway about praying the Bible. You can also watch a seminar where he explains this method. 

For more information and tools for praying Scripture, check out Episode 55 “Praying Scripture” of the Daily Grace Podcast or the Praying Scripture resources from the Daily Grace Co. 

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