We love a good story. We love to pray. How about combining Bible stories and our prayers? Paul Ryan and Lester Ruth have developed this into a meaningful practice with youth. I first did this with high school and college age students, and it was a great activity to engage in together. I’d like to suggest that any group (or individual) could participate in this and add a new dimension of meaning to their prayers. Try this with your Sunday school class, small group, worship team, committee, youth group or council — the possibilities are many.
Paul Ryan, in this blog post, says, “When we pray this way we see that we are a part of God’s grand story. We acknowledge that the God we worship and pray to is the same God who worked in the lives and situations of all the Biblical characters. Praying the stories gives us great confidence in God and assures us of his continued work in our lives."
Here’s the general idea: take a Bible story and apply the biblical truth to an urgent need today — in your life, in your church, or in the world. There are two ways to approach this — you can either start with the story and apply it to the current need, or start with the need and think of a Bible story that speaks to that need. A few examples are below.
Method 1: Choose a Bible story and compose a short prayer that relates the story to a need.
The story: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace
The prayer: Creator God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood firm for the truth and were ridiculed and thrown into the fiery furnace. God, give us courage to stand for what is right and true even when we are mocked. Protect us from harm, and show your power over evil.
The story: Mary’s humble obedience to the angel’s announcement
The prayer: Father God, we know that Mary was young and ordinary when the angel came to her with news that she would become pregnant and give birth to a son who would be the Messiah. We offer ourselves completely as Mary did, trusting that you will keep us and reveal your will as we obediently follow you. Help us to respond with a “Yes” to your will even though the circumstances we face seem impossible.
Method 2: Choose a circumstance or need and connect the biblical truth.
The need: Conflict and disunity in the church
The prayer: Dear God, our church is going through many changes. This has created conflict and disunity in the body. You took a hot-head like Peter, a doubter like Thomas, and other ordinary people from different vocations and backgrounds, poured out your Spirit, and built your Church. Pour your Spirit on us in that same way. Unite us in love and passion for your Kingdom work as you did the believers in Acts 2.
The need: obstacles in the way of planning for a mission trip
The prayer: Loving God, planning for this mission trip is not going well and it seems like a giant is standing in our way. Conquer this giant in your strong name as you did for David. We will keep our eyes on you and not focus on the obstacles or the voices who say it’s impossible. We commit to moving forward in your powerful name and in your strength.
In worship over the next few weeks, consider the prayers spoken. Think over the prayers that you lead with your youth. Are Biblical stories included? Do the prayers model this practice for the youth? When we include Bible stories in our prayers we make the years of Bible lessons relevant and meaningful for today.
Thanks to Paul Ryan, associate chaplain for worship at Calvin College, for letting us share this idea. Please try this with your ministry groups and share the results.