3 Ways to Pray Scripture Like Jesus
Our Savior’s example guides us in engaging with God’s Word through prayer
This is the first in a five-part series sharing creative ways to engage with God’s Word. Using practices from The Abide Bible, these blogs will guide you in slowing down and letting Scripture refresh your heart. Today, you’ll learn how you can engage with the Bible by praying Scripture.
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray …”
Luke 11:1a NET
I want to pray like Jesus!
This has been a common theme for New Year’s resolutions among my Christian friends and colleagues. Do you find yourself wanting the same thing?
We know prayer is important. But, if you’re like me, prayer can feel like work. I struggle to find time or motivation to pray regularly. Patterns of praying in church, Bible study groups, and around the dinner table can feel stale. Liturgical prayers passed down through church history often don’t fit what I need to express. And, sometimes, I simply run out of words and don’t know what to say to God. In my worst moments, I might wonder if he hears me at all.
If we want to pray like Jesus, we need to understand why we pray. The purpose of prayer is not to reveal to God the things he already knows—that would be impossible! Instead, it is to teach us to depend on him for everything, in every moment. In this way, as Oswald Chambers wrote, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Through the practice of prayer, we deepen our relationship with God. And there’s no better place to learn how to pray than God’s Word.
In Scripture, God reveals himself to us. He reminds us of his promises. And, through hundreds of prayers recorded throughout biblical history, he gives us words that guide us in expressing our hearts to him.
By considering these three examples of how Jesus prayed and using the Bible as our guide, we can learn how to pray more like our Savior.
Do you ever begin your time of prayer feeling lonely, anxious, or overwhelmed? Are you discouraged by the suffering and injustice you see in the world? Maybe your heart cries out, Lord, today is too hard!
These emotions might feel too heavy or painful to bring to God in prayer. But in Scripture, we see that our Savior understands our hearts. He not only cares about the trauma, pain, and grief we each endure, but he himself knows pain and sorrow. And, through prayer, he shows us how we can share every emotion and burden with God.
In Matthew 26, Jesus prays the night before his crucifixion. His soul is in anguish, and he prays with his face down on the ground. He openly shares his desire for God to remove the cup of suffering and death that is approaching. Later, on the cross, Jesus cries out the opening words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46b NET). These verses reveal Jesus’s moments of deepest grief and loneliness as he endures God’s righteous judgement. At the same time, they show us how Jesus responds to unimaginable suffering with honest prayer and supplication to the Father.
Through his sacrifice, Jesus secured the opportunity for a restored relationship with God. Now, as his beloved children, we can come to our Father in our most difficult moments and know that he will hear us. Even more amazingly, we can trust that he will respond: “Call on me in prayer and I will answer you” (Jeremiah 33:3a NET).
Try It: Psalm 22 begins in deep despair and ends with the hope of God’s deliverance. Try praying through this psalm during moments when you need words to express heavy emotions of grief, anger, or fear to your compassionate Father.
When we read about the life of Jesus in the Bible, it’s easy to miss the moments when he stops to pray. But when we slow down, we quickly realize that our Savior was always praying. Jesus prayed when he was baptized (Luke 3:21). He spent time alone praying after healing people (Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:16). He prayed before choosing his twelve disciples (Luke 6:12). He prayed during his transfiguration (Luke 9:29). He gave thanks to God before feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14:19).
Jesus shows us that prayer was his most regular and enduring habit—and not just when it was convenient. In fact, American evangelist R. A. Torrey once observed that Jesus “gave a special time to prayer when life was unusually busy.” And even now, Scripture tells us, Jesus is still praying for us (Romans 8:34).
In our busiest moments, we can still pause and whisper a prayer to God. Even when our work or ministry is most productive, it’s valuable to retreat from our responsibilities for times of extended prayer and reflection on God’s Word. In this way, we can grow our dependence on God through every season.
Try It: Try memorizing a brief passage of Scripture, like the Lord’s Prayer or a favorite short psalm like Psalm 43, to pray during the busy moments of your day. Make time for reading the Bible daily and then use the passages you read to guide you in praying God’s Word back to him.
When Jesus prayed, he spoke with complete confidence in God’s power and promises. We can see this confidence in his prayer before raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41) and his longest prayer in the Bible, which he prayed for all who would believe in him (John 17).
But perhaps the most confident, faith-filled prayer in Scripture is the one Jesus prayed in the garden: “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Matthew 26:39b NET). Even hours before his death, Jesus expressed complete trust in God. By God’s grace, this is a prayer we should all seek to pray!
The Bible tells us that we can pray with the same confidence Jesus demonstrates. Confidence in someone other than ourselves doesn’t always come naturally. But Scripture points us in the right direction as we meditate on God’s promises and learn more about his character. By praying through the Old Testament, we see God’s goodness to his people and faithfulness to his covenant. And by praying through the New Testament, we find hope in the completed work of Jesus Christ and the promise of full restoration. In this way, each of us can grow more confident in God as we receive mercy and grace through prayer (Hebrews 4:16).
Try It: Use Scripture passages like Isaiah 41, Psalm 100, and Jude 24-25 to pray through and reflect on God’s promises to you. And, as you explore God’s Word, notice where God’s promises appear and use these passages to guide your prayer.
Grow more like Jesus by praying God’s Word.
Jesus’s example of prayer is not a standard to live up to. It’s an invitation for me and you to draw closer to God in the quiet, regular habit of seeking his face. Through prayer, our hearts are trained to align our own desires with God’s perfect plan. We become more aware of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. We become better at loving others by praying for them regularly. And as we follow Jesus’s example, we grow more and more like our Savior.
As you join me in using Scripture to guide your prayer, may you continue to experience God’s abiding love for you in his Word!
Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.
Help us share God's Word where needed most.
Sign up to stay in touch with how God is changing lives with his Word!