The Power of Praying the Scriptures

by Jodie Berndt February 19, 2018
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:7-8 (NIV)
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As a first-grader, our daughter Virginia had a big heart for God. So much so that when she overheard another child say her family didn’t believe in Jesus — and that they thought prayer was stupid — she stopped in her tracks. “She doesn’t believe in Jesus?” Virginia asked, to nobody in particular (but loud enough for half the kids on the playground to hear). “She thinks praying is stupid?”

And then, before anyone could answer, Virginia pronounced her eternal judgment: “Well, she’s going to hell!”

When Hillary, our older daughter, recounted the story that night, I cringed. (Wouldn’t you?) I loved Virginia’s enthusiasm (well, most of the time), but I realized God would have to temper her boldness with wisdom and grace if she could ever share her faith effectively.

(Or if she would ever have any friends.)

I got out my Bible. It has a concordance in the back, and I looked for a verse about wisdom to personalize as a prayer for my girl. I settled on Daniel 12:3, and wrote out God’s promise like this:

May Virginia be wise, shining like the brightness of the heavens. May she lead many to righteousness and shine like the stars for ever and ever.

Praying the Scriptures — taking the Bible’s actual words and using them to give shape to our prayers — is a habit I stumbled into more than 20 years ago, when laundry loomed large and prayer time was short. (Having four children in six years, I measured my days not in hours, but loads.)

In an effort to ward off the weariness, I used the dreary routine as a prompt: “Clothe Hillary with compassion and kindness,” I’d pray, folding the umpteenth pair of soccer shorts as I borrowed from Colossians 3:12. “Cover her with humility, gentleness and patience.”

Today, our kids are adults, but the margins of my Bible bear witness to their growing-up years. I prayed for safety (Psalm 121), good friendships (Proverbs 16:28), and character traits like self-control (Titus 2:5-6). And much more. Now, as I consider my kids’ grown-up needs, I’m still mining the Scriptures, pulling promises and prayer prompts for everything from their jobs, to their marriages, to their faith.

And what I’ve learned, after all these years, is that it doesn’t matter whether we’re praying for our children, our spouse, or our coworkers and friends. When we allow the Bible to animate our thoughts — when God’s Word influences not just our prayers, but also our perspective — the more our requests align with what God wants to do. It’s like we slip our hand into His, partnering with our Heavenly Father to accomplish the good things He has planned. I don’t fully understand it, but I think this is what Jesus was getting at in John 15:7 when He said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.”

Have I gotten everything I ever asked for? No. Has that sometimes been hard? Yes. Have my kids hit some rough patches? Most definitely. But God has been faithful, teaching me to stake my trust in His vision, and not my agenda. And, time and again, His Word has not come back void.

And bold little Virginia? She’s a city girl now, living and working amid a beautifully diverse mix of New Yorkers. She is as comfy at a band party as she is in a Bible study, but in both places she’s eager to hear people’s stories and gently point them to Christ. She still blurts out stuff from time to time (she’s her mother’s daughter), but God is fulfilling that Daniel 12:3 promise. He is shaping and using Virginia to scatter the darkness — and all I can do is say, “Thank You.”

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me the privilege of partnering with You through prayer. Please work in _______, giving them the desire and the power to do what pleases You. (Philippians 2:13, NLT)


Isaiah 55:11, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (NIV)


Discover more ways to pray for your family in Jodie Berndt’s newest book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. Click here to download the first two chapters, and get a free copy of the Study Guide.

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For weekly encouragement, free printable prayer cards and more information about the Praying the Scriptures book series, visit Jodie’s website or connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.

Enter to WIN a copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children by Jodie Berndt. In celebration of this book, Zondervan is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We'll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, February 26, 2018.}


If you could ask God to do anything for your family, what would it be? Matthew 6:8b says, “Your Father knows exactly what you need before you ask him” (NIV). Give God your concern today, slipping your hand into His, and trust Him to do what He has planned.

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