5 Things to Pray Before You Read the Bible

Nate Pickowicz
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As it pertains to our Bible study, what sort of things should we be praying for?

Too often, I find it difficult to know what to pray for. I suspect I’m not unlike other Christians. I know I need to pray, but the specifics are sometimes a bit fuzzy to me. In studying the Bible, what kinds of things should we pray for? There may be a myriad of things you could pray for, but let me offer just a few ideas.

“Scripture specifically tells us that we should pray for wisdom.”

1. Pray for Understanding

In the introduction of his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul tells the church that he and his companions have been praying specifically for them. What were they praying for? He writes, “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). Paul knows that the Christians in Colossae desperately need spiritual wisdom and discernment, as they are being raked over the coals by false religion. However, before he launches into two chapters of correction, he appeals to the Lord to grant them both wisdom and understanding.

While there may be much that we may be able to figure out on our own, we must remember that the Bible is a spiritual book. God is the One who can enlighten the eyes of our hearts (see Eph. 1:18) and “[make] wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7). As we saw earlier, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, God grants spiritual understanding. Even if a verse may seem straightforward, ask the Lord to give you better and deeper understanding. And when a verse or a passage seems impossible to understand, pray that the Lord would help you understand.

2. Pray for Wisdom

Just like with understanding, we are also told to ask the Lord for wisdom. What is wisdom? One definition that I’ve come to love is: wisdom is the right application of knowledge. It’s taking what you have learned and putting it to good and proper use. This is a very important component to studying the Bible. But how important?

Scripture specifically tells us that we should pray for wisdom. James writes, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). We see this demonstrated by King Solomon in 1 Kings 3:2–15, where the Lord told him in a dream, “Ask what you wish Me to give you” (v. 5). Solomon could have asked for anything: health, status, power, money, and more. But instead, he asked the Lord to give him wisdom. The Lord granted his request (and more!), which eventually bore fruit on the pages of Scripture in the book of Proverbs. In fact, Proverbs 3:5 specifically tells us, “Do not lean on your own understanding,” and instead to trust the Lord to give us all that we need.

3. Pray for Desire

A prayer for desire is both an earnest prayer and an honest prayer. It’s earnest because it asks the Lord to give you a longing and a desire to hear directly from Him in His Word. It’s also an honest prayer because it admits that you don’t have the level of desire that you know you need to have. How do you pray for this? It could be something as simple as, Lord, I don’t desire You the way I ought to. But please give me a greater desire for You and for Your Word. I’ve prayed this prayer many, many times. But it’s not magic. There’s no formula. It’s not about the words; it’s about the heart behind it.

“God’s desire is for our joy and delight to be in His revealed Word.”

I’ve been through dry seasons in my spiritual life when I’ve become so desperate for the Lord that I feel like Jacob in Genesis 32 when he wrestles with the Lord, saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (v. 26). At times, my prayer has been, I won’t stop praying until you give me desire for Your Word! But God is not stingy or ungracious; He is faithful. I truly believe that this is one prayer that God will answer favorably. I believe that if you “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), God will eventually ignite a spark in your heart that will cause it to burn with fresh desire for His Word. How long will it take until you begin to experience it? It’s hard to say. But don’t stop praying until He grants your desire.

4. Pray for Enjoyment

People do what they enjoy. I think all too often we tend to treat our Bible study like a laborious, joyless exercise. It almost becomes like penance for us, a self-flogging exercise that pleases God at the expense of our own pain. But may it never be! Psalm 1:2 notes that a person is blessed whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” God’s desire is for our joy and delight to be in His revealed Word.

My good friend Mack Tomlinson once told me that the reason most people don’t read their Bible is because they don’t enjoy it. To combat this problem, he suggests praying to the Lord for help in enjoying your Bible study: Lord, help me enjoy Your Word!

In the midst of Job’s sadness and despair, his friend Elihu ministers to him in a series of four speeches. Designed to correct Job’s faulty theology, he encourages Job to “pray to God, and He will accept him, that he may see His face with joy” (Job 33:26). In many ways, we behold the Lord God as He reveals Himself in Scripture, and we would do well to pray that when we see Him, we would have joy. E. M. Bounds writes, “We find . . . the power of prayer to create a real love for the Scriptures, and to put within men a nature which will take pleasure in the Word.”[1]

5. Pray for Change

When we read and study our Bibles, we don’t want it to be merely an intellectual exercise. Certainly, we want to gain understanding and wisdom, but we also need to have the truth and wisdom of Scripture permeate our souls and change us from the inside out. In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus specifically prayed to the Father for His disciples. Of the many things He asked, He prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). To be sanctified means to be changed and conformed to the image of Christ; it’s growing in personal holiness. We understand Jesus’ prayer to be for God to change the disciples from the inside out using His Word.

We would do well to pray for the same thing Jesus prays for—that we would be sanctified, changed from the inside out. We also pray that God would identify sinful behaviors and offenses, bring them to our minds, grant us repentance, and then begin to transform us by renewing our minds with the Scriptures (see Rom. 12:1–2). This is what David prays for in Psalm 139:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and known my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. (vv. 23–24)

This is nothing short of David’s prayer for God to change him. It’s an earnest prayer; it’s the right prayer. And it’s a prayer that can be answered by way of a deep devotion to the study of God’s Word.

[1] The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990), 73.

For Further Reading:

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by Nate Pickowicz

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