The year was 2020. My husband, Kaleb, and I were finishing a 28-month season of being on the road for his job, and as we transitioned to a more settled, stay-put life, we had several pressing decisions to make. First, we needed to decide where we wanted to live. Then Kaleb needed to find a new job, we had to search for an apartment, and I needed a new healthcare provider because I happened to be seven months pregnant. Add in an unprecedented pandemic shutting down the country, and you could safely assume that we were experiencing high stress levels.
Each decision we needed to make was going to affect the next, and they were all so important. I remember thinking: How will we ever know what to do? If only we could see what the next year holds, then we could make better choices.
But we couldn’t see into that next year — or even the next week. Truth be told, whatever the circumstance or unknown, the frustrating reality is that none of us can predict the future. We must make choices without knowing the full story. And that’s scary.
In our 20s and 30s, we make some of life’s biggest decisions. We start new jobs (often more than once), we choose where to live, we buy homes, we choose whom to marry, we start having kids, we make major financial decisions, and the list goes on.
These decisions feel weighty because we know they have long-term and potentially life-altering effects. We can’t see how our decision will play out, so we go through all the possible scenarios in our head, make pro/con lists, ask for advice, and (if you’re anything like me) fixate on the problem and stress ourselves out even more.
Of course, as Christians, we know we’re supposed to pray about the things that worry us. We know we want God involved in these decisions because they feel too big to make based on our own limited knowledge. But do we really know what to pray about these decisions? Saying “Your will be done” or “Show me what to do” over and over feels vague. Personally, I know that my prayers can sometimes get caught in frantic loops, and suddenly I’m just worrying out loud again rather than actively laying my requests at the feet of the Father.
In my teen years, I noticed that my mom regularly included phrases and even whole verses from the Bible in her prayers. For example, she would pray for us kids to grow in favor with God and man (Lk. 2:52). When we left on a school trip, she would pray that the angels would guard us in all our ways (Ps. 91:11).
Mom told me these prayers never fail because God always honors His word. His words will not return empty but will accomplish their purpose (Isa. 55:11), so by praying God’s own words, our prayers are guaranteed to be more effective.
Fascinated by this prayer approach, I began adopting the practice myself. Over time, I’ve come to realize there are far more advantages to praying specific scriptures over your unique life circumstances than I first thought.
- Praying Scripture teaches us what to pray.
If you’ve ever been at a loss for words in prayer or wanted a replacement for the worn-out phrases you’ve used for so long, then you know what a gift this is. Praying God’s Word gives you the exact words to say. Sometimes it’s nothing like what you thought you should be praying! Sharper than any two-edged sword, these words pierce to the heart of the matter better than our own words ever could. God’s Word “discerns the thoughts and intents of our hearts,” not only giving us the words to pray but also giving clarity to the situation and shifting our perspective (Heb. 4:12).
- Praying Scripture aligns your requests with God’s heart.
When we start praying God’s words instead of our own, our prayers tend to change. Rather than presenting God with our own thoughts on the situation and blithely asking Him to bless those, we begin to ask Him to help us not “lean on our own understanding” (Prov. 3:5) and to search for His “thoughts [that are] higher than [our] thoughts” (Isa. 55:9). Not only does this elevate our prayers to a higher perspective, but it also allows us to remain peaceful and confident. We know that we are praying for the right things and that God hears us. The rest we can leave at Jesus’ feet.
- Praying Scripture changes our heart’s posture.
The benefits of praying Scripture are not limited to the answers we receive. As most of us probably know by now, we don’t always like the answers we get. Praying Scripture doesn’t always change the situation like we want, but it always changes the situation of our heart. And that is a change that will stay with us forever and affect every future difficult decision we must make.
As we regularly claim God’s words for the decisions we face, those very words continually remind us of God’s sovereignty, His wisdom, and His faithfulness. They encourage our heart to trust in God’s, and they allow us to be confident in the choices we make because we know we have been praying for the right things throughout the process.
- Praying Scripture allows us to recognize when God answers our prayers.
When you ask for something specific, you are more aware of receiving it. Remember when you were a kid wishing for a puppy and you’d look for any possible clue that your parents were getting one? You’d pick up on things that you’d not have paid attention to otherwise, because your mind was more attentive to them.
The same goes with asking for specific things in prayer. As you pray the same scriptures again and again, your mind becomes more conscious of those requests, and you begin to see God’s fingerprints where you may have missed them otherwise. In a chain reaction, this strengthens your faith in prayer and motivates you to continue. You begin to catch more and more glimpses of God at work, and that in itself is a very special thing.
- Praying Scripture empowers you to leave your requests with the Lord.
So far, we’ve said that praying Scripture gives us the exact words to pray and the confidence that we are praying for the right things; it changes our perspective on the situations we’re facing; and it allows us to see God’s answers more clearly as He gives them. All of these benefits work together to enable us to fully cast all our cares on Jesus while our heart and mind are protected by the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). We no longer must feel like it’s all up to us to make things work out. As the old hymn goes, we can “take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there.”
Five verses to pray
Now that we understand the power of praying Scripture, here are five verses to specifically pray over your big life decisions. These verses will speak into the anxiety and fear you’re feeling, the season of waiting you’re in, and your desire to make the right choice.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Each time we pray this verse, it reminds us of God’s steadfast love and trustworthiness, even though we don’t yet know how everything will play out. It shifts our perspective from figuring things out on our own to relying on God’s providence. It also gives us a direct request to ask — “make me know the way I should go.”
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Not only does this verse remind us of the light and protection God provides, but it also reminds us that God will not hold back any good thing from us. Even in this big decision we’re wrestling with, God’s desire is to give us good things.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
By our continued prayer, we are already acknowledging God in our big decisions. By praying this verse, we are asking Him to make the way clear and straight before us while reminding our hearts that He has already promised to do so.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
This is the exact scenario we want, isn’t it? And here it is, already in God’s Word and already a desire of His heart. As we pray God’s precise words and then listen for the Spirit’s prompting, we will be more aware when He whispers in our ear which way to go.
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
The original Hebrew word for commit means “to roll away.” This verse teaches us to roll the decision we make to the Lord and then hold tightly to the promise God made to establish our plans. Praying this verse increases our confidence in our decision-making and encourages our hearts as we wait to see how everything will turn out.
Praying with purpose and peace
By meditating on the verses you choose (the ones above are just a beginning!) and consistently praying them, you’ll unlock a new level of prayer: one that feels more significant, more tangible, and more effective. This habit will help keep your heart hopeful, your thoughts clear, and your mind at peace. Your decisions won’t necessarily be easier to make, but the process of deciding will be more peaceful, and you will be more confident in your decision as you continually acknowledge the Lord and see Him straighten the way in front of you.
Copyright 2022 Jessica Swanda. All rights reserved.