When we open our Bibles to read, we’re never alone. The Holy Spirit is in the words of God, ready to stir our hearts, illumine our minds, and redirect our lives, all for the glory of Christ. The Spirit is the X factor in Bible reading, making an otherwise ordinary routine supernatural — and making it utterly foolish to read and study without praying.
Prayer is a conversation, but not one we start. God speaks first. His voice sounds in the Scriptures and climactically in the person and work of His Son. Then, wonder of all wonders, He stops, He stoops, He bends his ear to listen to us. Prayer is almost too good to be true. With our eyes on God’s Words, He gives us His ear, too.
How then should we pray over our Bibles? Here are four things you might pray as you open God’s Word.
1. Open My Eyes to Wonder
“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm 119:18). We ask God to open our spiritual eyes to show us the glimpses of glory we cannot see by ourselves. Without His help, we are simply “natural” persons with natural eyes. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14–15).
“Because they seeing see not” was Jesus’s phrase for those who saw Him and His teaching only with natural eyes, without the illumining work of the Spirit (Matthew 13:13). This is why Paul prays for Christians, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:17–18).
Join the psalmist in praying not just for the gift of spiritual sight, but for the gift of seeing wondrous things in God’s word. Wonder is a great antidote for wandering. Those who cultivate awe keep their hearts warm and soft, and resist the temptations to grow cold and fall away.
2. Have Mercy on Me
Pray, like the blind man begging roadside, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” (Luke 18:38) For as long as we are in this life, sin encumbers every encounter with God in His word. We fail friends and family daily — and even more, we fail God. So it is fitting to accompany our opening of God’s Word with the humble, broken, poor plea of the redeemed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
Bible reading is a daily prompt to own our failures, newly repent, and freshly cast ourselves on His grace all over again. Prayer is the path to staying fascinated with His grace and cultivating a spirit of true humility.
3. Make Me a Doer of Your Word
Pray that God, having opened your eyes to wonder and reminded you of the sufficiency of His grace, would produce genuine change in your life. Ask him to allow the seeds from Scripture to bear real, noticeable fruit in tangible acts of sacrificial love for others. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22). You need not artificially capture one, specific point of application from every passage, but pray that His word would shape and inform and direct your practical living.
Ask that He would make you more manifestly loving, not less, because of the time invested alone in reading and studying His word.
4. Open My Eyes to Jesus
This is another way of praying that God would open our eyes to wonder, just with more specificity. The works of God stand as marvelous mountain ranges in the Bible, but the highest peak, and the most majestic vista, is the person and work of His Son.
As Jesus himself taught after His resurrection, He is the Bible’s closest thing to a skeleton key for unlocking the meaning of every text — every book, every plot twist, the whole story. First, “he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27), then He taught his disciples that “that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” (Luke 24:44). And in doing so, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,” (Luke 24:45).
The great goal of Bible reading and study is this: knowing and enjoying Jesus. This is a taste now of heaven’s coming delights. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3). This gives direction, focus, and purpose to our study. This forms great yearning and passion in our souls: I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:” (Philippians 3:8).
Keep both eyes peeled for Jesus. Until we see how the passage at hand relates to Jesus’s person and work, we haven’t yet finished the single most important aspect of our reading.
We are desperate for God’s ongoing help to see, and so we pray.