One random morning last November I began occasionally posting brief (really brief) prayers of response to my morning Scripture devotions on Facebook, endeavoring to include in each prayer some facet of how that passage tied to the Gospel. For some reason, people seem to consistently resonate with them.
I believe the readers’ kind response has nothing to do with any deep insight or eloquence on my part (truth be told, I am a very average writer.) To the contrary, any attraction to these prayers, I believe, is really due to the simple and pure Gospel of Christ, proclaimed and responded to. I’ve been learning that there seems to be some kind of mysterious, holy mechanism that makes Christian hearts just soar when they hear the good news.
And our hearts need to soar. We need encouragement not just on Sunday from our pastors, but throughout our week as we self-feed. And we need all of this consistently, not just on a whim, or in a random moment of inspiration. Life is too hard, the world is too broken, the devil is too aggressive, and our flesh is too weak for us to not be regularly buttressed by God’s powerful word. And not just by Scripture in general, but more specifically by the Gospel toward which all Scripture drives us.
I hope I can convince you to take time and pray the Gospel in response to your own regular encounters with Christ in the Bible. Here’s a short list of 3 benefits…
It Gives You Reinforcement
Many have compared the Christian life to swimming upstream in a river, or flying upside-down in an airplane. The Kingdom of Jesus is backwards from the way of the world, isn’t it? When our hearts hear Jesus say, “If you want to be first, then be…” the world screams, “FIRST! Be FIRST! And be ruler of all!”. When the still small voice of Christ whispers, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies’. But I say to you…” the world breaks in and shrieks, “Your enemies deserve what’s coming to them! That’s what they get for crossing you!”
We need a constant reminder of who we are in Christ, and what he wants for and from our lives. The world is too loud, too pervasive, and too relentless for us to try to float through life without laboring against the current to fill ourselves up with the message of the Gospel.
I need to know every day that God’s love for me does not hang on my performance. I need to hear every day that my hope is in the resurrection, not my financial portfolio. I need to be reminded every day that there is now no condemnation for those who belong to Christ.
Praying the Gospel calls us back to grace. It calls us back to perspective. It refreshes and renews our confidence in our position before God; not based on what we do for God, but on what Christ did for us.
I drift away from these things on a near daily basis. And praying the Gospel regularly brings me back.
It Protects You From Becoming a Pharisee
Another benefit of regular exposure to the Gospel is the humility that comes as a necessary consequence of its message. When I am reminded of God’s saving grace, I am simultaneously reminded of my need for it. “Dead” in my trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) doesn’t mean struggling; it means dead. Rehearsing the Gospel through prayer puts me in my place.
To use a lifeguarding metaphor: Before Jesus saved me, I was not an active drowning victim; struggling, swimming, doing my best to get to the shore, just in need of a little help. No, the Gospel says I was a passive drowning victim. I was dead on the bottom of the pool with water in my lungs. The only thing I contributed to my rescue was the need for it.
The Gospel reminds me that I am part of the “all we” who, “like sheep have gone astray, each following our own way.” (Isa. 53:6). The celebration of being saved from the wrath of God in Christ reminds me that the wrath of God was in fact coming for me, because I deserved it.
So when I pray the Gospel and am humiliated by the love of Christ demonstrated on the cross, it becomes impossible for me to be judgmental toward fellow-sinners. When I experience my real need for the grace of God in Christ, I am better equipped to extend that grace to others. When I see my massive failure to merit the righteousness of God through keeping the law, my eyes are opened to the absurdity of condemning others for their own failures. Encountering the Gospel, meditating on the Gospel as I respond to it in prayer makes me and you better prepared to love our neighbors.
It Teaches You how to Read the Old Testament
Consistent Bible reading, added to a determination to see and respond to the Gospel will eventually put us in a place that is uncomfortable for many Christians. We will have to notice, interpret, and respond to the Gospel in the Old Testament.
For many Christians the bulk of the Old Testament feels like a very “other” document, separate from the Gospel. Sure, we know there are exceptions like Isaiah 53, or Psalm 22, or Genesis 3:15. But otherwise, we tend to read the Old Testament as a pre-Christian book, not a Christian book.
But if Jesus is right (hint: he is) that the Old Testament is about him (Luke 24:27; John 5:39), then many Christians are missing the point when they read most of the Old Testament. We too often fail to see the tie between Isaiah 53’s suffering servant and the sovereign Lord of Isaiah 55. We forget that the Son of David who fulfills Psalm 22 when he cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” is also the Good Shepherd who fulfills Psalm 23. We learn a fancy word like protoevangelium with reference to the Seed of the Woman from Genesis 3, but lose sight of the beautiful paradox that we already met him in Genesis 1-2 as he spoke creation into existence (see John 1:3; Col. 1:16).
Earnestly determining to pray the Gospel in response to our Bible-reading, including when those readings take us to the Old Testament, develops and hones our instinct to see the Gospel in all of the Bible.
Now there is certainly much to learn about legitimately interpreting Christ and his Gospel through the Old Testament. You don’t get to read the name “Jesus” every time you see the word “David”. And just because something is the color red in the Old Testament, doesn’t mean the author had in mind Jesus’ blood. So we need to study things like typology, biblical theology and redemptive history, etc.
But we can start simply by reading our Old Testament, meditating on what’s there, and responding to it with Jesus and the Gospel in mind.
Pro-Tip: Read the sermons in Acts, and the book of Hebrews for some GREAT examples of how the first Christians read and responded to their Old Testaments!
Go Pray the Gospel!
I’ve benefited greatly from the past few months of writing out little Gospel prayers of response to the Scriptures. And I fully believe that you will be blessed, get focused, and fall more and more in love with Christ as you give it a try!