Q. Do you know a prayer I can say before studying the gospel of John?
I think it’s an excellent idea to pray for understanding before reading and studying the Bible. Paul explained to the Corinthians that “the things that come from the Spirit of God . . . are discerned only through the Spirit.” These include the Bible as the word of God, so it is always wise to pray for discernment and illumination from the Holy Spirit before approaching the Scriptures.
One model prayer is found in the Bible itself, in Psalm 119: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (“Law” here is torah, or the “instruction” found in God’s word.) When I was a pastor, I used to pray this prayer every week just before I started studying the passage that would serve as the text for my sermon.
I had not thought of saying a special prayer for a particular book of the Bible. But that’s another excellent idea. There are many passages in the gospel of John that could be turned into prayers for understanding that book.
For example, the prologue to John says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” This refers to Jesus, the incarnate word of God. But it could also apply to the written word of God, so you could pray something like this: “Dear God, as I read and study this book, may the true light give light to my mind and heart.”
To give another example, later in the gospel Jesus says, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” You could turn that into a prayer and say, “Lord Jesus, whose words are spirit and life, may they be spirit and life to me as I read and study them now.”
But maybe the best part of the gospel of John to turn into a prayer would be the purpose statement at its end. Most books of the Bible include a purpose statement somewhere, and the one for this book is: “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” You could pray, “Dear God, as I read all these things that have been written about Jesus, may I come to understand and believe more and more that he is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing, may I have life in his name.”
God bless you as you read and study the gospel of John!