Is there any question in a Bible study that causes more awkward silence than ‘Could someone open in prayer?’ Well, maybe the classic ‘What colour is this passage?’ (a legit question, I might add, if used with appropriate care and caution.) But allow me to observe that even in a group of mature Christians there can be some reticence to be the one who prays at the start of a study.
Why do we pray before we study the Bible? Whether it’s in a group, on our own or before a sermon, studying the Bible isn’t just an exercise in comprehension. It’s a spiritual act—even if the settings are mundane (think sofa, pyjamas, tea, etc.). We are blind people coming to a sight-giving God. So as we pray we’re expressing a trust in God that he alone gives us sight, understanding and life. Praying isn’t a magic button that guarantees a great Bible study. But it does put us in a right posture of humility and dependence as we come to God’s living word.
So, why the reluctance to say ‘yes, I’d love to pray!’? Maybe we’re just not sure what to pray. If that’s the case, here are some suggestions, all taken from Scripture. So next time a leader asks the group if someone could open in prayer, why not joyfully say ‘yes’ and lead your brothers and sisters in prayer?
- Ask the Lord to open our eyes, that we would see wondrous things in his word (Ps 119:18).
- The unfolding of God’s words gives light. Ask the Lord to give us understanding (Ps 119:130).
- Ask the Lord for our love to grow, with knowledge and all discernment, so that we would approve what is excellent and be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Phil 1:9-10).
- Ask the Lord to show us the ancient paths and the good way, so that we would walk in them and find rest for our souls (Jer 6:16).
- Pray that we would have a humble and contrite spirit, and tremble at God’s word (Isa 66:2).
- Pray that as our eyes are opened and we see more of who Jesus is, that our hearts would burn within us (Luke 24:31-32).
- Ask the Lord to open our minds to understand the scriptures, so that we would understand how Jesus fulfils the Law, Prophets and Psalms (Luke 24:44-45).
- Pray that Jesus’ words would abide in us, so that we bear fruit and are shown to be his disciples (John 15:7-8).
- Pray that we would believe in the name of Jesus Christ, and love one another just as we’ve been commanded (1 John 3:23).
- Thank the Lord that Jesus is the good shepherd who knows his sheep and calls them by name. Pray that we would listen to the shepherd’s voice (John 10:3, 14).
This article was originally published on the blog of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London.