Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions when you pray?
Does it feel like others have an intimacy with God that you long for, but just can’t seem to grasp?
Do you wonder what you are doing wrong?
I’ve been there. I’ll admit that at times I have struggled praying.
“Just talk to God, like you would talk to a friend,” people told me.
And I tried.
But it’s easier to relate to a friend who is physically standing in front of you. I struggled with praying to God, whom I could not see.
How do you talk to someone who doesn’t audibly talk back?
I was going about it the wrong way. And maybe you are, too.
Here’s the thing.
God Does Talk Back
Prayer is, in fact, a two way conversation. God speaks to us through his word, and we respond to him in prayer.
I’ve found that when my prayer life goes off track, it’s usually because I have turned my eyes onto myself and taken them off of God.
I’m so worried about my own situation or so busy in my life that I stop paying attention to what I’m reading in my Bible. Oh, I read it every day, but like my prayer life, sometimes I just go through the motions.
Our prayer life is directly affected by our relationship with God. When we spend time with God in the word and really get to know him, our prayer life is more fulfilling.
Here’s an example.
I’m a big introvert. When I first meet someone, conversation is usually awkward. I don’t know what to say, because I don’t know anything about the person I’m talking with.
The conversation usually revolves around safe topics like the weather or our jobs. It’s not very intimate.
But when I’m with good friends, conversation is completely different. I know them, and I’m comfortable talking about struggles I’m having. I value the opinions of my friends and often ask their advice on what I should do when I’m struggling.
We need to get to know God like we do our good friends.
Having a Two Way Conversation
One way to have a two way conversation with God — to build that intimacy with him — is to meditate on Scripture.
I’m not talking about the meditation you’d find in eastern religions, where you repeat words until you go into a trance-like state.
I’m also not talking about studying Scripture.
Meditating on scripture is simply intensely pondering a familiar passage of the Bible.
Timothy Keller, in his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, explains it this way. (p. 148)
To meditate is to ask yourself questions about the truth, such as: “Am I living in light of this? What difference does this make? Am I taking this seriously? If I believed and held to this, how would that change things? When I forget this, how does it affect me and all my relationships?” In every case, meditation means to use the mind intensely.
Scripture meditation helps us know God better and respond to him in a Biblical way.
But how does it look, practically speaking?
How to Meditate on Scripture to Enrich Your Prayer Life
There’s really no one right way to meditate on Scripture. However, in Prayer, Timothy Keller mentions four questions that will help you ponder Scripture.
But before you ask those questions, make sure you begin by meditating on a verse you understand. It’s important that all of the Bible be taken in context, and if you pick a verse that you don’t understand, you risk taking away ideas about God that are not true.
I’ve found that the Psalms are a great place to begin with Scripture meditation, because the meaning of each Psalm is usually pretty straightforward, and the words are familiar and (mostly) easy to understand.
In fact, this summer I’ve been meditating on the Psalms and posting some of what I’ve learned on Instagram.Prayer is a two-way conversation with God.Click To Tweet
Once you’ve picked a Bible passage, read it over and ask the following questions. Let’s use Psalm 23:1a (ESV) as an example.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
1. What does the passage tell you about God?
First, the Psalm tells us that the Lord is my shepherd. What does that mean?
Well, what does a shepherd do?
A shepherd takes care of his sheep. He makes sure that they have access to food and water. He watches over his sheep and protects them from predators.
When one of his sheep gets lost, a shepherd goes after that sheep to find it.
And that’s what God does for us. He provides for us. He cares for us. He protects us and shows us where we need to go next.
The Lord is my shepherd. By meditating on the passage, that fact hits home, and I can’t help but praise God for it.
2. What does the passage say about who we are and how we should live?
In Psalm 23:1, the implication is that we are the sheep. We look to Jesus, our shepherd, for provision, protection, and guidance.
The passage also says, “I shall not want.”
When we live with Jesus as our shepherd, we are satisfied. We don’t want, because Jesus is enough. We trust him to provide and protect, so we don’t worry about these things.
At this point while I’m meditating on Scripture, I usually find that I have to confess and repent of a few sins. When meditating on Psalm 23, I realized that I didn’t always trust God to be my good shepherd. I didn’t trust him to provide.
While meditating take time to confess wrong thoughts and attitudes you discover you’ve let creep into your life.
3. What does this passage teach us about Christ? About his salvation?
The entire Bible is a story about our need for a savior and Jesus, who provides our salvation.
Even in the Old Testament, we can see pictures of our need for Christ and the work he came to do.
While Psalm 23:1 doesn’t specifically mention Jesus, we know that in the New Testament, Jesus compares himself to a shepherd.
John 10:11 (ESV) says,
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
As our shepherd, Jesus protects us to the point of dying for us, so that we may have eternal life.
Jesus is a shepherd who takes his job seriously, and we are safe under his care.Meditating on Scripture helps us be more intimate in prayer.Click To Tweet
4. What does this passage say about the people of God? About our relationships with others?
Psalm 23:1 is very personal, so on first glance it doesn’t look like it says anything about the people of God.
However, if the Lord is my shepherd, he is also the shepherd of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re all sheep.
And sheep aren’t known for being very smart.
The site Sheep 101 says,
When one sheep decides to go somewhere, the rest of the flock usually follows, even if it is not a good “decision.”
And isn’t that how we people are? When we follow each other instead of following our Shepherd, we can get ourselves into some pretty big trouble.
When pondering what the passage says about being the people of God, I usually find myself confessing again. Maybe I’ve followed other people instead of Jesus, my shepherd. Maybe I’ve been the one leading others astray.
Either way, I realize that I have not been living my life like Jesus is my shepherd. Meditating on scripture helps me examine my life and make corrections that need to be made. Meditating on the Bible changes me.
Do you see how meditating on Scripture helps develop a two way conversation with God?
From this one little line of scripture, we find ourselves praising God for his capability as our shepherd, repenting for not always following him, thanking Jesus for his guidance, and praying that we and our brothers and sisters in Christ will not be led astray.
God speaks through the Bible. We respond. This is conversation. This is prayer.