Reimagine Prayer as Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, Wider-spread
By Phil Miglioratti
"The Bible was written to change our lives; not increase our knowledge.”
When I first heard this exhortation from esteemed seminary professor and author Howard Hendricks, it became foundational to my understanding of how to read the Bible.
I immediately understood that whenever I read or heard Holy Scripture, I could not merely stockpile new information. I was responsible to apply that truth, insight, or exhortation to my life as a follower of Jesus Christ.Later, I realized that the Bible was also written to transform my praying:
“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me
because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
All that belongs to the Father is mine.
That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you” (John 16:13–15).
An encounter with scriptural truth should be a prompting to pray. It’s an invitation, from the Spirit of truth, into the conversation of the triune God—one God, three “personas”: Holy Sovereign, Holy Savior, Holy Spirit.
When we respond to that prompting—by first listening to the conversation of the Godhead rather than listing our concerns—the Holy Spirit will guide our prayers to correspond to the triune prayer: God’s Word, the mind of Christ, and the leading of the Spirit. In other words, “The Bible was written to change how we pray; not merely increase our knowledge.”
Listen, Don’t Tell
Whenever we are hearing, reading, meditating on, or memorizing the Bible, the Holy Spirit longs to transform our mind’s self-conversation into an ongoing conversation with Almighty God.
No longer do I consider prayer as my simply telling God what I need. Now, by listening to the guiding-speaking-telling-revealing of the Spirit of truth, I participate in knowing God’s will.
In addition, “The word of God is alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12). Its power goes beyond my personal habits and hopes. It gives me strength and takes me deeper into the ways of God:
Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit,
the breath of God. It will empower you by its
instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction
and lead you deeper into the path of godliness.
Then you will be God’s servant, fully mature and perfectly prepared to
fulfill any assignment God gives you (2 Tim. 3:16–17, TPT).
Applying Scripture must never stop at a personal application-only level. This limits the length and breadth and depth of the living Word of God. The Holy Spirit’s work—through the written Word of God—is meant to change, empower, and equip us as individuals. But God also designed it to flow from us, His change agents. Each biblical encounter is a call to pray God’s Word into every segment and role of our lives.
The following format can serve as a guide for praying even the simplest Scripture passages into our lives. As you read Scripture, offer a prayer like this:
I seek the filling of the Holy Spirit so that I will be led into God’s truth.
I am eager to know the mind of Christ so that I may do God’s will.
I want to know the heart of the Father so that I exhibit & proclaim God’s love.
Then, as you pray, expand your application of the Scripture text to these life components by asking the question: How can this Scripture apply to:
Worship: helping me exalt God’s character and attributes?
Discipleship: teaching me to exhibit a life in Christ of obedience and joy?
Stewardship: reminding me to express gratitude and generosity?
Leadership: inspiring me to exceptional service and ministry?
Fellowship: producing an extraordinary “one another” community?
Citizenship: directing me to extend the love of Jesus to my neighbors and community?
Relationship: leading me into authentic relationships in my family and with friends?
Of course, the Bible can increase our knowledge, but its greatest purpose is to change our lives. This happens when we pray!
PHIL MIGLIORATTI is the curator and coordinator for The #ReimagineFORUM @ Pray.Network, a collaboration of prayer-fueled leaders, who are applying Romans 12:2 (“don’t be conformed; be transformed”) to their understanding and ministry of prayer.