Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day


Do you know the Sunday school song I’m talking about? This one:

Read your Bible, pray every day
Pray every day
Pray every day
Read your Bible, pray every day
And you’ll grow, grow, grow.

Interesting premise! Sounds like a formula really – if you read your Bible and pray every day, you will grow spiritually. I was taught this song in Sunday school and I’ve remembered it my whole life (the beauty of simplicity huh), but have often wondered about the accuracy of the claim. Is it really that simple? Just read my Bible and pray every day and my Christian walk with God will be ever on the upwards?


I see where this song is coming from and I can see places in the Bible that would agree with it. Christians are certainly commanded many times in Scripture to set their minds on heavenly things (Colossians 3:2) – which can only be done if we are filling our minds with the things in God’s Word – and to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is God’s will for us, and the primary means he has appointed to grow us into spiritual maturity. It makes sense when you think about it in the context of a relationship – all relationships, including the one we have with God, require us both to listen to what the other has to say (i.e. reading God’s Word), and to talk back (i.e. praying). It could hardly be called a relationship, let alone a mature one, if these things never occurred or occurred on only an infrequent basis. So in that sense, yes, it’s that simple – the Christian grows into maturity by daily hearing from God in the Bible and praying to him.


I’m afraid there must be some fine print in this assertion though. There have been many times in my life where I have read my Bible and prayed but have not grown spiritually, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one. I remember a disturbing moment I had in my late teens, when one of my youth group leaders confessed that he had committed to reading his Bible every day some time ago and had been doing it, but was not finding it beneficial to his spiritual growth. I wanted to cover his mouth up and tell him to take it back – how could he say such a thing? How could reading the Bible daily possibly not be beneficial? I didn’t know much about walking as a Christian back then, but I did know that I was meant to read my Bible if I wanted to grow – if this didn’t work, where did that leave me? What was I meant to do next? I didn’t really know, so I concluded that he must just be “doing it wrong” and started to think of him fairly contemptuously (not the most mature response, but probably fairly typical of a teenager!).

But since then, I’ve had the same experience myself. There have been a number of times in my life where I have committed to doing some sort of daily Bible reading and prayer plan but found that my spiritual life didn’t change that much. I didn’t feel closer to God. I didn’t experience victory over sin. I didn’t feel more compelled to tell others the gospel or care for them in practical ways. In short, I didn’t grow, other than in a sense of superiority and self-righteousness that I was reading my Bible and praying like every good Christian should.

Which begs the question – was I doing it wrong too?


I think I believed that spiritual growth happens in a similar fashion to osmosis – if I was just reading my Bible, somehow the words would penetrate into my soul and change me into the Christ-like person I wanted to be. If I was praying, or attempting to pray, God would honour my efforts and grant my requests. I didn’t pay so much attention to the “how” to do it, only the “what” to do – I guess because I didn’t think the “how” mattered so much. I fear that my daily Bible reading and prayer was little more than a tick box exercise much of the time – something to get out of the way so I could move on to the rest of the things I wanted to do without feeling guilt that I hadn’t spent any time with God. Is it any wonder that I wasn’t growing, with that sort of attitude?

It’s really only been recently that I’ve started to realise that the “how” of private communion with God matters a great deal. God doesn’t feel grateful to us for any scrap of our time that we throw his way, it’s not “the thought that counts” with him. God has always given his people very specific instructions about how to worship him and he doesn’t accept “strange fire” (see Leviticus 10 for the full story on that). He condemns those who “draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). Instead, he says that he wants people to worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). I think John Piper explains well what this means:
“Together the words “spirit and truth” mean that real worship comes from the spirit within and is based on true views of God. Worship must have heart and worship must have head. Worship must engage your emotions and worship must engage your thoughts. Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full of unspiritual fighters. Emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates flaky people who reject the discipline of rigorous thought. True worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine 

(To read the full article, click here)


How is this relevant to Bible reading and prayer? Well, both of these practices are (or should be) acts of worship. That’s why, when done in the right manner, they grow us spiritually. The purpose of both is to commune with God and develop a deeper relationship with him – to hear from him in his Word with an attitude of reverence and submission to what he says, and then to respond accordingly in prayer. Too often we approach the Bible as a nice bunch of stories or helpful advice that may or may not be relevant to us. We approach prayer as a way to get what we want. This is not right, and I have discovered personally that it does not, and cannot, lead to spiritual maturity.

When I open my Bible, I must ask God to impress on me that this is him speaking. These stories, poems, prophecies and letters were recorded for my instruction and are designed to lead me to a true view of God, that I might worship him in truth. I must ask God to give me the right heart about it too, that I would be eager to hear from him and that I would respond with appropriate feelings to what I learn, that I might worship him in spirit. My prayers need to be in response to or in accordance with the truths I learn in Scripture – confession of sin, praise for the attributes of God he has shown me in a particular passage, requests for assistance in overcoming sin and growing in godliness, petitions for those who don’t know Christ or for Christians who need help in a particular area. This is the “how” (well, part of it anyway), and it matters!


There is an old saying: “let go and let God”. I wonder if many Christians apply this to their spiritual walk too – we assume that since we have the Holy Spirit, we are bound to grow into maturity because He will make it happen whether we try or not. I have been mulling this over a bit lately and I haven’t quite figured it out yet, so I might just let the wise John Owen speak in response to this:
“The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is, so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience. He works upon our understandings, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us; so that his assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and no occasion of neglect as to the work itself.”

I think what Owen is saying here is that the Holy Spirit’s work to bring about spiritual maturity and our obedience to God in pursuing godliness goes hand in hand - there is not one without the other. It is a mystery to me exactly how it works, but I cannot help but agree that the Bible teaches both our responsibility to obey God (2 John 1:6) as well as the Holy Spirit's transforming work in us (2 Cor 3:18). So our response to knowing that the Holy Spirit will transform us should not be to fall asleep and wait for it to happen, but to actively engage in the work of obedience, trusting that the Lord will come powerfully to our aid. This is a great reason to read our Bibles and pray every day (in the right manner) - the Holy Spirit will use this very act of obedience to bless us and grow us into Christ's likeness!


Do you "read your Bible and pray every day"? Do you have a Bible reading plan that you follow? Have you found it difficult to pray and read God's Word with the right attitude? Has God used your daily quiet times with him to change you? I'd love to hear your testimonies!

"God Seeks People to Worship Him in Spirit and in Truth" by John Piper.
"Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers" in Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, p. 62


  1. The Christian walk definitely involves both the head and the heart - balance is so important in all aspects of our life - especially when it comes to the things of God. So many have been lost because they became dry bones with no heart and just has many have lost their way because they focused on feelings and forgot about the truth.
    God is gracious to us as we muddle our way through (fortunately for us) but it is definitely our responsibility to seek after him with our whole being - and those who seek will always find.
    A very thought provoking post Hannah x

    1. I love your intelligent comments, favourite mother in law :-). Thanks for the encouragement. xox

  2. I don't know that Sunday School song (my SS experience was extremely limited) but I agree with your thoughtful post. I love what Piper says in the article you referenced, that "it is not the location (eg. church) that makes an act of worship authentic" but rather that true worship is "first and foremost an experience of the heart" but it must also be based on truth. And his understanding of the necessity of sometimes making a bold statement to others that "biblical worship is true worship and yours is false" - wow!! Not sure I'm that courageous........
    (I also love how Owen is shaping your thinking on all these things!!) xx

  3. I usually pray and read everyday, but not just a rote reading. I try to do some sort of study. Right now I am reading books on fear and hunting down verses about that and studying it. It has been hugely helpful to me! He is walking me through so many things! I think you are so right, we can not read just to be able to say we read. We need to be open to God and His leading!

    There were times when I read to be reading and I did not get near as much from His word, though it did help me to learn more about Him and learn more about the dedication of spending time with Him.

    Thank you so much for linking up @LiveLifeWell




Please tick the "notify me" box if you'd like to receive an email when I reply to your comment.