Understanding how Scripture impacts prayer

I used to worry when people quoted Scripture, seemingly out of context, to build a fire under their devotionals.

It seemed to me they were using Scripture the way positive thinkers use affirmations, to stoke their psychological state with a triumphalist attitude.

“No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper” seemed to have more to do with Isaiah’s prediction of Israel’s renaissance after her time of captivity than a personal promise to a televangelist about avoiding bankruptcy.

But then I rediscovered Hebrews 13:5 – “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (NIV).

Think about it. The writer of Hebrews counsels his readers to take this ancient Scripture from its original context and encourage themselves with it, producing contentment. Without hesitation, he uses verses spoken not to his readers, but to Joshua as he was taking the reigns of leadership from Moses during the exodus.

Joshua will face trials, which could disrupt his own contentment, so the Lord tells him, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (See Deuteronomy 31:6, 8 & Joshua 1:5).

And then the writer of Hebrews does it again in 13:6 – “So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (NIV).

He takes another Old Testament verse, pulls it partly from its context, and then applies it to his readers (see Psalm 118:6-7). And this context, taken from a song about victory in war, seems even further from daily life for the readers of Hebrews, who are struggling to hold on to faith in Christ amid persecution from fellow Jews.

When I realized this precedent – that I could take Scriptures written to people I don’t even know, in situations I’ll never experience, and apply them to daily struggle – I knew there was more power in prayer than I’d ever realized.

That’s why you find so many prayers in Scripture that are reused later by other people in other situations.

Example: when attacked by three armies, King Jehoshaphat prayed parts of King Solomon’s temple dedication prayer. Jehoshaphat used the prayer to “remind” God of His promises of protection to His covenant people (See 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 & 2 Chronicles 6:14:42).

You’ll find several other examples like this, where people used Scriptures written before their time to empower their own prayers.

Go to this link to find a 40 day plan to use Scripture to enhance your prayers.

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