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Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest difference. For many years I’ve used the 3 R’s I learned from Ben Patterson to pray through Scripture. This simple tool has helped me pray the Bible more than any other single strategy. I’ve used in my devotional times and have employed it often in leading others in prayer.

1. Rejoice
2. Repent
3. Request

With every verse in the Bible we can do one (or more likely, all three) of these things. We can rejoice and thank God for his character and blessings. We can repent of our mistakes and sins. We can request new mercies and help.

Right now I just flipped opened my Bible and landed at Psalm 104. Verse 1 says “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty.” How might you pray through this verse? Well, at first blush you might see nothing more to do than praise God. “Dear Lord, you are very great. You are clothed with splendor and majesty. Amen.” But try that again with the 3 R’s.

Rejoice – O Lord, you have richly blessed me more than I deserve. What a privilege that I can call you my God. Thank you for making me a little lower than the angels and crowing me with glory and honor too.

Repent – Forgive me for being blind to your splendor and majesty. Though you are very great, my circumstances and disappointments often feel greater. I’m sorry for being so ungrateful and taking your blessings for granted.

Request – Give me eyes to see as you are. Tune my heart to sing your praise. Help me see your glory in the world you’ve created, in the people around me, and in the face of Christ.

Obviously, some verse lend themselves to prayer more easily than others. The Psalms are particularly prayer-worthy. But with the simple strategy of Rejoice, Repent, Request there shouldn’t be a verse in the Bible that can’t be used as a prompt to pray.


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42 thoughts on “How to Pray Using Scripture”

  1. Hi Kevin, you asked a while back where the Lutherans are, well, here we are. Let me introduce you to Martin Luther’s reformation of the ancient art of lectio divina, purged of its problems.

    Great resources abound for your consideration

    Luther’s A Simple Way to Pray

    Then, a whole book on a radical “new” spirituality, grounded in prayerful meditation on Scripture, titled, “Grace Upon Grace”

    and then…a whole guide and “how to” set of materials to teach people how to medicate prayerfully on Scripture:

    By the way, last time you asked “Where are the Lutherans” I offered to participate in the Gospel Coalition…only response has been crickets chirping.

    Do you really want to hear from us directly? Or is it more that Reformed guys like to talk about Lutheranism, as long as it doesn’t get too Lutheran?

    : )

    A friendly word of encouragement, and offer, again.

  2. Barry says:

    Thanks for the post Kevin.

    I’ve also found PRAY to be helpful as well: Praise Repent Ask and Yield – it adds yield (your will be done) to the 3 R’s model that’s certainly fitting with the Lord’s prayer.

  3. I like Barry’s addition…and then there’s the ACTS model:
    Adoration / Confession / Thanksgiving / Supplication

    I personally like delineating between adoration (for who God is) and thanksgiving (for what he’s done for me), although the two are obviously incredibly closely tied together.

    Thanks, Kevin.

  4. Kevin DeYoung says:

    Paul, thanks for the resource links. And thanks too for the Q/A you did on my blog awhile back.

  5. Kevin,

    I really enjoy this method you’ve suggested. As a current seminary student, I’m constantly being bombarded with the latest methods on “how to pray effectively” and what “constitutes a Godly prayer”. By far, yours is the most effective I’ve seen. And I’m probably going to begin using it right away. I do however have one question. Is the first R “Rejoice” meant to convey a time of simply worshipping God for who He is and who we’re supposed to understand Him to be in our lives? Can “Rejoice” also just be a period of time where we’re not speaking to God at all, but rather allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by His presence. As Psalm 46:10 tells us, to be still and know that God is God?

    I’m reading a book by Tom Elliff right now entitled “A Passion for Prayer: Experiencing Deeper Intimacy with God”, and in it he makes this statement: “God has given us prayer not primarily as a method for getting things or changing circumstances but as a means of cooperating with Him in His great plan for the redemption of the lost and other great spiritual exploits…..Prayer is, above all else, communion with God”.

    What I’m getting at is wouldn’t it be appropriate to add another R onto to the end of your list? Receive. Prayer can also be understand as an intimate time of receiving the presence of God. Often without feeling like we need to even speak, or utter any personal request we may have. Just to be filled with Him, knowing He’s there. All this to say, I don’t disagree with your list. As I mentioned earlier, I am very thankful for it! I just want to make sure I’m understanding what you mean correctly.

  6. Great little piece. I see a Lutheran’s already gotten here, but I teach my kids to use Luther’s short prayer method, as well as the ACTS model. I’ll have to remember this one as another useful form. Thanks for this!!

  7. Dan Glover says:

    Another prayer help that I have used over the years is ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. It distinguishes adoration and thanksgiving in that one may praise God for his many attributes and character and for his big picture working, and in a related but distinctive catagory, give thanks to him for ones more “everyday” blessings (like food, clothing, shelter, work, family, health, friends, etc…), which are all grace too but we wouldn’t normally sing hymns about them.

  8. Dan Glover says:

    Another comment: I am preaching through the Lord’s Prayer right now and find the six petitions (6 Ps) helpful as well.
    The Lord’s Prayer contains petitions for God to be Praised (Hallowed by thy name), for God’s Purposes to be worked out in the world (Thy kingdom come), for God’s Precepts to be obeyed (Thy will be done), for God to Provide (give us this day our daily bread), for God to Pardon (forgive us our debts), and finally for God to Protect (lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil). A bit like the 10 Commandments, there is a two-table organization to these petitions, with 3 primarily God-oriented and 3 primarily oriented to our daily lives. It fits with Jesus call, later in Matthew 6, to seek first his kingdom and righteousness and all these things (food, drink, clothing, etc) shall be added unto you. One could see the Lord’s Prayer as teaching us to pray first his kingdom and his righteousness, and then pray for the things he has promised to add unto us.

  9. Diane Barstow says:

    This goes hand-in-hand with Philippians 4:6!

  10. krisakson says:

    Admittedly my time is prayer can lack cohesion and I end up wool gathering as R.C. Sproul Sr. has said. Keeping simple helps like these can really help on keeping my focus. Luther’s process is really good too.

  11. Kyle says:

    I don’t think it’s too much to say that pray-reading the Word is one of the greatest secrets of the Christian life. It unlocks the Spirit, life, and light in the Bible and is a sustaining factor for us to live Christ. This is where the rubber hits the road for Colossians 3:16 and John 6:57.

  12. Jonathan Orcel says:

    Thank you for this! So simple yet very powerful.

  13. John Joseph says:

    I feel that sometimes even using this 3R’s can make my prayers seem boring and just words to Him. I’m not sure if there is right way to pray, but I find that talking to Him all through my day is helpful for me.

  14. Mike Peterson says:

    My church prayer traditions are fantastic. As a convert from Baptist, praying the Rosary is an awesome to worship Jesus. Also our entire Mass contain reading from the Bible. I feel so blessed to be in the bible based church there is . I invite anyone to a Catholic Mass and listen well and see the words of scripture fly off its pages.

    God bless.

  15. KB says:

    Thank you for this–I’ve always heard people talk about praying scriptures, but I never knew exactly what that meant. This makes so much sense–can’t wait to try it :)

  16. Carmen says:

    Awesome! Thank you! Will share it on my blog!

  17. Daniel says:

    @Rev. Paul McCain

    I’ve just been reading up on the Lectio Divina and have just recently read Pres. Harrison’s translation of “A Simple Way to Pray.” Is that Luther’s Lectio or is there another resource he did in direct response to the Lectio Divina? It’s great stuff! Keep up the good work!

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    4. Believe
    5. Be baptized

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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