The author is in the room
Integrating Prayer with Scripture Engagement
IFES wants to see each new generation of students loving, studying, living and sharing God’s Word. Rather than reducing Scripture engagement to programs and activities, IFES believes that it is a way of life.
“It isn’t a program. It’s not a department. It’s not one ministry. It is much more basic and foundational. We want Scripture engagement to surround and support every aspect of IFES life,” says Sabine Kalthoff, IFES Secretary for Scripture Engagement.
Sabine believes that Scripture engagement is energized when we approach the Word not looking for tasks to fulfill, but for God himself. It goes hand in hand with prayer, in that it allows us to interact with God in a more personal way.
In December 2019, the global network of Scripture Engagement multipliers gathered– fourteen people from around the IFES world sharing, learning and working together with the aim of strengthening Scripture engagement in their different contexts. During this time, Sabine met with a working group to examine the connections between Scripture engagement and prayer. Together they developed ideas to strengthen the relationship between the two. The following interview with participants Eu Pui Chong (EP, Malaysia), Irena Huseva (IH, Ukraine), and Heledd Job (HJ, Europe) brings their discoveries to life.
What is one new insight that you gained from this working group about the connection between Scripture engagement and prayer?
(IH) “The importance of a prayerful posture in studying Scripture. For me that is not just putting my body in a certain posture but becoming quiet before him and putting my hand into his to let him lead and walk with me through the whole Scripture engagement. In other Words, being in a prayerful posture means being in prayer before, during, and after the Bible study.”
(EP) “Often, we study a passage and after that we pray for each other ‘leaving behind what we just discovered from the passage’ instead of letting it guide our prayer needs or shape our prayer items.”
(HJ) “I gained a greater awareness that when I come to engage with Scripture by myself or with others, God is present with me in that very moment. The phrase that stuck in my mind is: ‘The author is in the room.’”
What encourages you and what challenges you as you reflect on this connection?
(EP) “In particular, the Lord’s Prayer has been invaluable – praying for my nation and the world has been difficult in this period due to what I perceive as an endless cycle of corruption power abuse. Letting the Words of the Lord’s Prayer lead me has been comforting. It also challenges me not to give up praying, seeing how God is at work and not to insist that God solve problems my way or in my timing.”
(HJ) “This connection encourages me as I come across passages that I find difficult. As I’m reading and struggling, I can pause and ask for God’s help. I can ask him, ‘What do you mean? What do you want me to understand here? What should I do with this?’ And I know that when I pray, the Spirit who caused these Words to be written is there present with me, ready to answer.”
What is one practical step that you have taken or would like to take in order to strengthen the integration of Scripture engagement and prayer in your own life and/or ministry?
(IH) “For many years, I studied Scripture by carefully observing the passage, asking questions and trying to grasp its main message. Only after coming up with the main message did we ask ourselves what it says to us. I still use this approach, but I try to be in a prayerful posture during the whole Bible study, letting the Word speak to me not only at the end of the study, but while I am deeply in it. I believe that the Holy Spirit can use not only the main message of the passage, but any parts of it to touch our soul.”
(HJ) “In my personal devotions, I have tried to be more intentional in praying in response to what I read. At the moment, I’m reading through the Psalms. I try to take the words of the Psalmist as my starting point, taking those words and thoughts and making them my own. Then at the end of the day, I will return to that same Psalm and prayerfully reflect on how what I heard God say to me in the morning has been sustaining and directing me throughout the day.”
Please complete the following sentence: “The gift of Scripture engagement and prayer is…”
(EP) “…waiting to be discovered and savoured.”
(IH) “…being amazed – a sense of ‘wow’ at who God is, ‘wow’ to who I am and ‘wow’ to his boundless love.”
(HJ) “…that when God speaks, he is not just giving us information, he is inviting us to a conversation.”
Connecting Scripture and Prayer in Practise
So how can you connect Scripture engagement to your personal prayer life? Here, Sabine Kalthoff makes some suggestions and points to a number of resources:
Preparing to hear the Word
“Most of us cannot just stop and listen to God. We sit down and open the Bible to read, but our thoughts are still elsewhere, busy with lots of things. We read a passage and at the end, we don’t know what we’ve read. We can read without hearing. I know that I need to prepare myself to listen to God. I need help to be present with him and his Word. What helps me most is prayerful silence. How do you prepare yourself to hear the Word both individually and in a group? Prayer helps us enter into a relational posture and awareness of God’s presence.”
Praying the Word
“God’s Word teaches us how to pray. We can let prayers from Scripture inspire and lead us in our prayers – both collectively and individually. This video shows what this can look like based on the Lord’s Prayer. This article gives further examples of how God’s Word can shape our praying.”
Learning to lament from Jeremiah.
“After the Covid-19 pandemic started, the Latin American region offered an online session on the topic of lament. For follow up, a resource with three Bible studies from the book of Jeremiah was developed – giving examples of how to lament, helping to reflect on lament and inviting us to pray to God in this way ourselves.”
“Retreats are all about prayerfully connecting our lives with God’s reality and his Word. They are an invitation to retreat from the business of life, to enter into a time of waiting and listening – holding out our lives and circumstances to God – hearing his Word – and prayerfully giving the Spirit space to speak to us. You can find material for personal or group retreats here. This testimony helps see the value of setting apart such a time.”
There is so much more to discover. For a summary of what the multipliers learned about prayer and Scripture Engagement, check out this infographic.
What is your experience with integrating Scripture and prayer personally, in communal settings, or at camps and conferences? Share with us by writing to email@example.com.
This story was first published on the Scripture Engagement blog. Find more stories like this here.