Prayer is vital to the Christian faith. Through prayer, we communicate with God, bringing our praise, thanks, and requests before Him. Writing down prayers can help us focus our thoughts and petitions. But what does the Bible say about this practice? Should we write out our prayers or just pray from the heart? In this comprehensive post, we will examine the scriptures to understand the biblical foundation for written prayers.
Prayer is an intimate conversation between us and God. The Bible encourages us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) about everything (Philippians 4:6). And since prayer is so essential, questions naturally arise about the best way to pray. Some believers prefer spontaneous, heartfelt prayers, while others appreciate structure and advance preparation. Writing out prayers falls into the latter category. But is this practice biblical?
After thorough study, I have concluded that the Bible neither prohibits nor commands written prayers. God values both our careful planning and spontaneous expressions. However, Scripture does offer wisdom for when writing can enhance our prayers. In the sections below, we will explore examples of written prayers, biblical principles for prayer, potential benefits of writing prayers, and conclude with key takeaways from this study.
- Examples of Written Prayers in the Bible
- Biblical Principles for Prayer
- Potential Benefits of Writing Out Prayers
- Key Takeaways
Examples of Written Prayers in the Bible
Though not commanded, written prayers appear at several points in Scripture:
- The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4) – Jesus provided this model prayer for believers to use. The well-known, widely recited words demonstrate that pre-written prayers can be biblically sound.
- Psalms – Many psalms originated as lyrics set to music, indicating advanced composition. David wrote them down, preserving these prayers and praises in the canon of Scripture.
- Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication (1 Kings 8:23-53) – At the temple’s completion, Solomon prayed an extensive written prayer commemorating the event. This shows that writing down prayers for public occasions has biblical precedent.
- Nehemiah’s Prayer (Nehemiah 1:5-11) – Nehemiah prepared his heartfelt prayer for God to remember His promises to Israel. The specificity of the prayer suggests advance composition.
- Prayers of Ezra & the Levites (Nehemiah 9:5-38) – After rediscovering the Book of the Law, the Israelites prayed an extensive written confession and exaltation of God’s faithfulness.
- Paul’s Prayers for the Churches – Several of Paul’s prayers for churches were clearly thought out and written down (e.g. Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-12).
These examples demonstrate biblical precedent for writing prayers. Preparation and spontaneity both have a place in our relationship with God.
Biblical Principles for Prayer
Though the Bible does not mandate written prayers, it does lay out guidelines for prayer that apply whether prayed aloud or written:
- Pray with sincerity and truth (Psalm 145:18)
- Bring our petitions and thanks before God (Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
- Pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:13)
- Yield to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15)
- Ask for others (James 5:16)
- Pray with faith (Matthew 21:22; James 1:6)
- Pray with a forgiving heart (Mark 11:25)
- Listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading (Romans 8:26-27)
- Pray according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:58)
- Avoid repetitive, self-centered prayers (Matthew 6:7-8)
As long as written prayers align with these principles, they can be a biblically valid form of prayer. The key is to write prayerfully, not just write prayers.
Potential Benefits of Writing Out Prayers
Though not required, writing prayers can be valuable in several circumstances:
1. Focuses thoughts
Writing prayers enables us to be thoughtful and specific in our requests. It helps distill vague intentions into concrete petitions. The discipline of writing can also aid concentration during prayer.
2. Provides record of prayers
Written prayers give us a history of our petitions and God’s answers over time. We can look back and see how God worked and review prayers yet unanswered.
3. Aids prayer life growth
A prayer journal helps us develop consistency, expands our requests, reminds us to give thanks, and reveals areas needing growth. Reviewing past prayers can inspire fresh prayers.
4. Equips for public prayer
For those asked to lead group prayer, writing prayers ensures appropriate length, biblical content, and inclusion of others’ needs.
5. Pass on prayers to others
Written prayers can be shared and prayed by fellow believers, expanding our unity in prayer. We can also leave a legacy of prayer for future generations.
6. Reinforces God’s Word
Writing prayers grounded in Scripture helps us internalize God’s Word and pray His will. As we integrate biblical truths, it strengthens our faith.
7. Provides resource for prayer guides
Collections of written prayers have been used to guide believers in prayer for centuries. We contribute to this when we write down our prayers.
To summarize this comprehensive study, here are the key takeaways:
- The Bible neither forbids nor commands writing down prayers – God values both spontaneous and prepared prayers.
- We find examples of written prayers throughout Scripture from the Lord’s Prayer to many of David’s psalms.
- Biblical principles for prayer apply whether spoken aloud or written down. Prayers must come sincerely from the heart.
- Writing down prayers can provide focus, preserve a record of God’s work, enrich private prayer and public leadership, and reinforce Scripture.
- Written prayers should align with God’s will and Word, avoid empty repetition, and express authentic desires. Balance writing prayers with listening to the Spirit.
- Overall, view written prayers as a potential aid, not a requirement, for prayer. With the right approach, writing can enrich biblical prayer practices. But the goal remains intimate communion with God, whether spoken or written.
In the end, our sovereign God hears our prayers, however they come before Him. Written or unwritten, scripted or spontaneous, God welcomes all prayers arising from a heart of faith. By His grace, may our prayers draw us ever closer to Him.