Responding to God’s Word through Prayer: 1 John 4

by Kyra Daniels

“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.”  — 1 John 4:7–12

Imagine after reading the disciple John’s letter, his words coursed through your veins. “Friends,” “only Son,” and “sacrifice” travel like red blood cells, giving oxygen to your body. They give nutrients necessary for a spirit-filled life. Or maybe they impact your DNA like a superhero serum, changing you into a new creation in Christ. Can the result of reading Scripture be that dramatic? Yes, it can. We can have a powerful response to God’s Word by praying Scripture. Praying Scripture is how we partner with God in our sanctification, which is our transformation into the image of Jesus.    

When we study the Bible, we may often limit our time to strategies for interpretation. For example, with highlighters and commentaries in hand, we identify the redemptive-historical context, mark language devices, and discover its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. God calls us to know Him, and we can do so by intellectually engaging with His text. But our engagement does not end with a theological exercise. God desires for our hearts to be impacted by knowing Him and His plan of redemption. Interpretative strategies should lead us to worship and surrender. Incorporating prayer after studying a passage will move us to apply biblical truth to our personal lives.  

The paraphrase method and the ACTS method are two models for praying Scripture. The paraphrase method involves meditating on a passage, and then paraphrasing each verse, or putting each verse into your own words. This method is best suited for biblical poetry like the Psalms. The ACTS method is an acrostic that stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. The letters provide a guide for prayer. In response to what he or she learned from the study passage, the believer praises God for His character, confesses the sins which were exposed, thanks the Lord for what He has done, and asks for the gospel to affect specific areas of need. For more reading and practice with these methods, you can refer to The Daily Grace Company’s workbook, Search the Word, and blog, “How to Pray Scripture.”

Let us pray 1 John 4:7–12. Below is an example: 

Dear God,

You are the source of love. You are eternally loving, as this attribute is displayed in the Godhead. Before You formed the earth and before You created objects of Your affection, You were love because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were in perfect union. Your delight is endless and unstoppable.

Lord, I confess that I do not love as You will. Because of my sin, I am not able to love You. My nature is self-centered and weak. I was dead in my corruption, unable to love others as well. On the surface, my volunteerism and good deeds were nice, but my heart was far from mirroring Your delight.

But I thank You for loving me regardless of my rebellion. Jesus, the unique Son of God, displayed the love of the Father. I thank You, Jesus, for Your sacrifice which paid for my sins. Your love gave me life.

I ask that Your love radiate in my soul. Help me to live through You, as verse nine indicates. Show me people whom I can sacrificially serve and honor. Soften my heart so that I seek nothing in return. Holy Spirit, please continue to work in me until love is complete at Christ’s coming.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Now, what is your response? Take some time to slowly read and meditate on the verses. Perhaps rewrite them and circle the words that strike you the most. How do they make you feel? Sit in God’s presence with this feeling. Reflect on the biblical insight from this passage. What aspects of God’s character are shown? Does this passage uncover any of your sins? How does it lead you to thanksgiving? What action is the text compelling you to do? Bring these reflections before the Lord. With consistent prayer like this, you will see transformation. 

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