Praying the Bible

The Bible has often been described as a letter from God to his people. One important difference between a letter and the Bible is that we usually write letters to people who are not with us. We figure that if we are with someone we don’t have to write, we can just say what we want to say. But when we read the Bible, we are reading what he has written to us and we are with him! The Bible is part of our conversation with God. As mentioned above, the Spirit of God is present, helping us understand and apply what the Bible teaches.

When we pray the Bible, we respond in prayer to what we are reading. We listen to what the Spirit is saying to us and how he leads us in prayer as we read Scripture. We are participating in a conversation with God.

Praying the Bible is an important concept to understand because we so easily make Bible reading an intellectual exercise. That is, we are only using our brains to figure out what the words are saying. Reading the Bible certainly includes using our brains, but it is much more. If we turn Bible reading into only an educational or intellectual exercise, instead of a personal conversation with God, then we have missed its fundamental purpose. This is what Jesus said to the religious Jews,

“You search the Scriptures
because you think that in them you have eternal life;
and it is they that bear witness about me,

yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
John 5:39-40

So, what does it mean to pray the Bible? Praying the Bible means immediately responding to the words and ideas in the Bible through prayer. Talk to God about what you are reading. Be sensitive to the ways that God is speaking to you through the Scripture and respond to what he is saying and bringing to your mind. What you read might even trigger a thought that does not seem to be directly related to the Scripture. You can pray about that too.
            You can learn more about this kind of conversation with God in the book Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney.

How Do You Define Prayer?

Many of us would describe prayer simply as talking to God. This is true, but it is much more. Any way that we relate to God is a part of prayer. Prayer includes worshiping God through music and singing, enjoying his love and presence in silence, and listening to him speak to you by his Spirit. Prayer is rejoicing, weeping, waiting, bowing before him, resting in him, and surrendering your heart to him. As we broaden our understanding of prayer, it is easier to understand how we can “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17).

Dr. Frizzell, author of How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life, describes prayer this way, “From God’s perspective, prayer is the expression of that which He desires most—your personal relationship of love, surrender and trust. Prayer must be viewed as your commitment to spend meaningful time in personal relationship with God.”

The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Know or Believe

“Give Grandma a hug!” The toddler refuses, hiding behind mom’s legs. Now what?! Mom is embarrassed of her child’s behavior and feels bad for Grandma. Even worse, the little one has disobeyed her Mom. Some parents proceed to give awkward public lectures or vain threats and bribes. Others swoop their kids off to another room for discipline. The tear streaked grandchild returns to give a reluctant hug.

How does Grandma feel about all this? “Leave her alone,” she says, “It is alright. She’ll give me a hug when she’s ready.” Does Grandma want a forced hug? Of course not. Grandma wants love, not just a hug. True love is freely given; you cannot force someone to love.  

Since God created us to love him, he also created us with freedom of choice. We can choose to love and relate to God, or we can choose not to. When God created the first two humans, Adam and Eve, he gave them a choice. Since God wanted a love relationship with them, he gave them the choice to trust and obey him, or to do things their own way. Adam and Eve made the wrong choice. The Bible calls this failure to love and obey God sin. Sin has been a part of human life ever since.

Sin is the rejection of God and all that is good and right. God loves us and what he tells us to do, or not to do, is good for us. God is beauty and goodness and love. When he tells us to trust and love him only, he is doing what is best for us. He is giving us himself. And what God tells us to do, or not to do, is not only good for us, it is right. He tells us to love others, which means that we do not lie to, steal from, or harm them. Everyone knows this is right behavior.

All of us have failed to love God and obey him. All of us have failed to love others as God has said. All of us have sinned.

“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way”

Isaiah 53:6

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3:23

What do we do with people who steal from or harm others? Even people who don’t believe in God believe in justice. This is why we have justice systems that punish people who commit crimes. Because of this, it is not difficult for us to understand God’s standard that those who disobey his law must be punished. Much more than human laws, God’s laws are good and right. And so we may expect consequences and punishment for our sin. The Bible teaches that punishment for sin is eternal separation from God in hell.

Now, let’s see where we stand. God created us to love him. He gave us a choice to love and obey him so that we might enjoy his life and goodness. However, all of us have chosen to disobey instead of love God. We are therefore guilty of sin and deserve to be punished.

This is where the good news (the Gospel) comes in! God loved us so much that over 2000 years ago he became a man, Jesus Christ, and died on a Roman cross to take the punishment for our sin. Then he came back to life and went back to heaven.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;  
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;    
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.  

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 

Isaiah 53:4-6

We were hopelessly separated from God and heading for eternal punishment. But God wouldn’t have it. God is able to fulfill his purposes. He is able to fulfill both love and justice. There is now a way to know and love God again. We must confess and repent of our sin, believe that Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sin, and receive by faith his forgiveness. Our choice remains. We turn back to God and receive Christ’s payment for our sin or we must pay for our own sin in hell, separated from God forever.

“But [God] is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish,
but that all should reach repentance.”

2 Peter 3:9

            Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation? Have you restored your relationship with God through Christ and determined to love him? If you have not, do it now. Talk to God and confess your sin to him. Express your faith that Christ paid for your sins on the cross. Express your desire to love and obey him with the rest of your life! Receive his forgiveness and rejoice in his love!

Discussing Great Books with Your Children

My daughter and I have both recently read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This work definitely qualifies as a "great book." It includes a street-level look at the French Revolution, is written from a sound worldview, and presents a wonderful story of self-sacrifice. Here is a taste of the literary genius and insightful reflection offered by Dickens. This passage also emphasizes the importance of learning from history.

Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.
— Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Raising Lifelong Learners

This is my first born’s senior year of High School. My wife and I are asking ourselves what areas of knowledge and skill we want to make sure we cover this year. So, it is time to make good on my promise: “No one graduates High School from our home unless you have worked through this book with Dad: How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren.”

Why is this book so important? Because one of the most critical skills I can impart to my children is the ability to learn. I don’t want to complete our home education only feeding my children fish. I want to teach them to fish. A person who has the skill of learning has the ability to find the information they need, to decide which books to read, to comprehend what is in those books, to critically evaluate their arguments, and to compare and synthesize this information with other sources. How to Read a Book teaches all of these skills! To learn more about why this book is important and what it teaches, you can listen to the workshop I gave at the Thrive! The NCHE Homeschool Conference, Raising Lifelong Learners.

I have developed a syllabus for my daughter and I to work through this year. I am sharing this syllabus with you so you might be encouraged to use this book as well. Ideally, the parent or teacher overseeing this class will read the book with the student. A sharp High School student could possibly work through it himself. I have designed this to be a portion of Bethany’s English credit for this year, taking about 22 weeks. If it were taken seriously, it could be completed as a semester elective for a half credit.

One more question: if you would be interested in having your student participate in an online course working through this syllabus with us, contact me at

The Day I Discovered My Purpose in Life

What is the purpose of life? I believe this question is embedded in the heart of every person. We are all asking and answering it, even if we are not aware of doing so.

As I have written before, believing that God created the world and human beings is foundational to finding any real purpose at all. Furthermore, I believe that the God who created us has revealed himself in the Bible. And in the Bible, he has also revealed his purpose for us.

I remember the day I discovered the simple and powerful answer to this universal question. I was in college, sitting in a Sunday School classroom reading the Bible before things got started. In the Bible story I was reading, an expert of the Jewish Law asked Jesus a question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” What an opportunity and what a question! God had given the Jews hundreds of commandments in the Old Testament. Here is Jesus, God in the flesh, and he was asked to boil it all down to the most important commandment of them all! His answer is no less amazing and satisfying. Quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4, Jesus answered,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
And you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:30

This is it. This is what God wants from us. God created us to have a personal, loving relationship with him. I’m not sure if I could have guessed what Jesus was going to say, but when I heard it, it answered the longings of my heart.

As I sat there in that Sunday School classroom as an 19 year old young man reading this passage, my life took a new direction. I had grown up in church and heard the Bible taught my entire life. I had undoubtedly heard these verses before. But that morning I understood them. I realized that I had been striving to “be good” or to “be a good Christian.” I was failing to see that there was something greater than doing the right thing. Jesus severely criticized the Jewish teachers for knowing the Scriptures, keeping the law, and failing to do what God really wanted. They failed to love him.

Hundreds of passages throughout the Bible reveal that God wants us to love him. The whole Bible, from beginning to end, speaks of relationship with God. We see it in God’s relationship with the Patriarchs, God’s covenant with Israel and hatred of idolatry, the sending of his own Son to take our punishment and provide forgiveness, the personal, indwelling presence of God by his Spirit, and the fulfillment of all creation in the marriage supper of the Lamb, uniting Christ and his Bride, the Church.

When we discover that God’s purpose for us to is love him, everything changes. Why we do what we do matters to God. Being good without loving God is empty. Loving God is the real good, without which being good doesn’t even count. And it is in love that we find the joy and satisfaction of life.

Is Your Family Stuck in the Raging River of Busyness?

Sometimes our lives feel like we have been thrown into a rushing river. We are just trying to survive, barely keeping our heads above the water and avoiding the jagged rocks. We have little control over our direction and speed. This is how we feel when we have surrendered to the tyranny of the urgent. We are at the mercy of deadlines, appointments, and activities. We are driven by what the culture says we must do, by what others want us to do and by the gratification of our immediate desires.

But I have had enough of this. I have sputtered and bumped along in these rapids for too long, watching my life whiz by, watching my children grow up. God has given me a call and purpose for my family, and it is not being accomplished in this raging river of busyness!

So I desperately swim for the shore, not even sure I can break through the powerful currents. Drenched, coughing and exhausted, I crawl out onto the bank. And now I am asking myself, “What is this supposed to looks like? How do I build a different life?”

First, I must refocus on my purpose and mission as a follower of Jesus Christ. My purpose and mission is to love God, love people, and make disciples. This is not only the purpose and mission of each of us as believers, but of our families as well.

Next, in order to see what my life is supposed to look like, I reflect on my biblical responsibilities and priorities. I have come up with five areas of responsibility and priority. These are the ways that we can fulfill our purpose and mission in our families.

  1. Relationships

  2. Discipleship

  3. Order and Work

  4. Education

  5. Ministry


To be a family is to have relationships. To love others is to relate to them. How am I loving my wife and children? Am I treating them with kindness, patience and selflessness? Am I affirming and accepting them? What kind of relationships am I building with them? Are we making time to talk? Are we spending time together? Strong relationships are the foundation for the next category, discipleship.


To disciple others is to help them love God, love people and make disciples. This must be the ultimate goal of family because it is the ultimate goal of life. How am I helping my family to love God? How am I helping them to love others? How am I equipping them to know their own gifting, calling and personal ministry?

Order and Work

Loving God includes stewardship. All that we have is from God, and our responsibility is to care for what he has given us and use it to bless others. Stewardship requires work: cleaning, organizing and maintaining. Work is our contribution to the family and community and it is how we provide for our basic needs so that we are free to minister to others. A messy, chaotic home is not a place where discipleship, education or ministry can thrive.


Education is the acquisition of knowledge and skill. These are tools for helping us accomplish our God given mission. Facilitating and leading our children in the acquisition of knowledge and skill is part of our responsibility as parents. Am I faithful in educating my children? Am I preparing them for a life of productivity and blessing to others?


Ministry is the culmination of all that we have discussed so far. A spouse is a partner in ministry. A family is a ministry team. Are we joining God in his work to build his kingdom? Are our hearts beating with his for the nations? What are we doing as a family to express the love and truth of God to others? How much of our time is spent serving and entertaining ourselves? Are we intentionally giving our money, time  and energy for ministry?

By faith I am rejecting the tyranny of the urgent. I will break the patterns of busyness and reactionism. Instead of focusing on what others expect from me, I will focus on what God desires for me. By faith I am choosing a life of peace and purpose for my family. In order to do this, I will make these five building blocks my priorities: relationships, discipleship, order and work, education  and ministry. It may be a desperate swim to the shore, but God can help me make it. He can give me everything I need to live out his fantastic mission for my family.