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Is there value in quoting from Scripture as we pray? It depends. Why are we quoting Scripture instead of just using our own words? Do we think that there is some mystical power in speaking words from the Bible? We need to be guarded against viewing the Word as some kind of spell book. Words by themselves do not have any power. God has power, and He is also very touchy about His people glorifying other things in His place. What are we saying to the Holy Spirit when we use verses to try and tell Him what to do? Are we respecting the fact that the Holy Spirit is an independent Being who does not take orders from us? Certainly God wants us to make our requests known to Him—but they need to be presented as requests and not as demands.
Christians have a way of turning verse recitation into a means of trying to boss supernatural beings about. “Resist the devil and he will flee!” we call out when we sense a demonic presence in the room. What happens? Does the presence instantly vanish? If it did, it wasn’t because the demons were freaked out by us quoting a verse at them. Demons have no problems quoting passages of Scripture. In fact, they know the contents of the Bible much better than we do, which is why they’re so good at twisting it, and making our eyes leap to the verses that they know will make us feel beat down and condemned in a given moment. The day comes when we quote our magic verses and the demons don’t flee. Then suddenly we’re forced to reevaluate the power of Scripture.
God is the One with power, not a physical book. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the contents of the Bible come alive and speak to us. But let’s be honest: God does the same thing with other books as well. When’s the last time you heard God speaking to you through a secular book, or an article on the internet, or a movie, or a song on the radio? When it comes to speaking to us through material things, God is hardly limited to one Book. All the more reason why we need to stop viewing the Bible as if it has some kind of inherent power. It is not a magic charm, it is a physical object. Yes, God speaks through it. But so does Satan.
Look around at the fractured mess that the Church is today. How did we get like this? Mostly by bickering about the contents of the Bible. When we focus on the Bible instead of God, we end up acting carnal and petty. God will not let anything replace Him—not even the Bible we’re so crazy about. When we put other things in His place, He uses those same things to discipline us. There’s nothing uglier than two Christians shouting verses in each other’s faces as each one tries to prove he’s right. We can fling bits of the Bible at each other all day, but no one will be edified by an analysis of Scripture until hearts are willing to listen to the Holy Spirit.
Reciting Scripture as a means of remembering some useful teaching is good. Quoting Scripture at God in order to spur Him into action is not good. When you pray, God wants you to share your heart with Him, not recite things He already knows. Far too often when we quote Scripture in our prayers, we’re trying to hold God to what we think is some legally binding contract. Yet no matter how applicable we think some promise is to our particular situation, God is going to do what He wants to do in our lives, and fulfilling that promise might not be it. We need to remember that the Bible is a tool which God uses to teach us some truths about Him, but it is not anywhere close to a comprehensive manual. To really know God well, we need to relate to Him directly, not spend our time trying to leverage verses at Him. It’s guaranteed that God is going to do things in your life that surprise and upset you. He will do things that you thought He wasn’t supposed to do based on your understanding of Scripture. The sooner we stop treating the Bible like a box which we can confine God in, the better. God didn’t give us this Book so we could get a sense of His limitations. On the contrary, the Word is intended to open our minds to how huge and unpredictable God is. While we certainly want to appreciate it as a wonderful tool, we must be very careful not to turn it into some kind of idol. The physical book we call the Bible has no power. God has power. When you talk to Him, just be yourself. Speak honestly and openly. Share your heart. The purpose of prayer is not to remind God what the Bible says. He already knows.