By Scott James
Once, when I was a young man struggling to find consistency in my prayer life, a wise mentor suggested that I stop focusing on myself so much. She sensed that I was approaching prayer as an individualistic pursuit and she challenged me to spend as much time praying for others as I do praying for myself. Since then, praying for other people has been one of the most nourishing spiritual disciplines of my life.
When I became a father, I found that praying for my children was no exception. Lifting my children up to God on a daily basis has rooted my parenting in dependence on Him and strengthened my love for the precious souls I’m interceding for.
As the years have gone by, however, I’ve noticed a small challenge. Repetition. As I prayed the same phrases for the same four children day after day, I began wondering if I could have a more well-rounded approach. I didn’t discount the sincerity or value of what I was already praying, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was leaving other stones unturned.
Enter another spiritual discipline that has revolutionized my life: praying Scripture. It’s the practice of reading the Bible and using it to directly guide and shape your prayers. It’s a rich way into the Word, and it gets you praying things you would otherwise never think to pray! This morning, Proverbs 20:17 led me to entreat God from the comfort of my study, “Don’t let my mouth be full of gravel!” The verse itself says, “Food gained by fraud is sweet to a person, but afterward his mouth is full of gravel.” I took it as an opportunity for me to ask God to give me integrity in my business dealings. I can honestly say that wouldn’t have come up if I hadn’t been praying through Proverbs.
And so it is when I’m praying Scripture for my children. As I meditate on a passage, I am compelled to pray God’s words back to Him on behalf of my children. I plead with Him to call them out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9), that He would cause them to be rooted and built up in Christ (Col 2:7), and I praise Him for always being there for them as a helper and keeper (Psalm 121). With Scripture-shaped prayers like these, we’ll never run out of things to say.
Scott James is a pediatric doctor and a member of The Church at Brook Hills. He loves helping families grow together in Christ and is the author of several family worship devotionals and children’s books. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and four children.
This column appears in the January 2020 issue of ParentLife.