Christian Living

Spiritual Life

General Bible Courses > How to Study the Bible

Chapter 6: Topical Study


Paul talked about prayer in his letter to the Colossians. He said, "Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God" (4:2). Then he asked the people to pray for him and his fellow workers. He wanted God to give them chances to preach the gospel. To understand why Paul told the people to be persistent, to keep alert, to give thanks, and ask for specific things in prayer, we will do a topical study of prayer.

Any time you do not understand something about your Christian life, you can do a topical study on that subject. You may want to know how to live by faith. Maybe you need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Do you know who you are in Christ? How can you live a holy life? Whatever the topic is, a study of it will show you a little more of God's plan for you.

In this lesson you will study ...
The Benefits of Topical Study
The Approach to Topical Study
The Topic of Prayer

This lesson will help you ...
Describe the value of topical studies
Put into practice a topical study of prayer as a model for other topical studies.

The Benefits of Topical Study

Objective 1. State two benefits of topical study.

We already suggested one benefit of topical study. It is to be able to find answers to questions about how to live a Christian life. You might want assurance of your salvation. You may need victory over a fear you have. Or you may want to know God's will for you. You can find the answers. Search the Bible for passages which teach about these things.

Another benefit of topical study is that it helps you to balance the teachings on each of the main topics of God's Word. These main topics are the basic truths which God intends for us to live by. The Bible says:

He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it (Tutus 1:9).

As you study each truth from various viewpoints, compare one reference with another. Then you will be able to interpret God's Word as He intends for you to.

The Approach of Topical Study

Objective 2. List three steps in topical study.

A topical study may take a short or long time to do. Some topics, like the Holy Spirit or salvation, occur often in the Bible. Bible scholars who write books on these topics sometimes spend years searching for all the references to the topic.

Step 1 List all the references you can find to the topic you wish to study. A Bible concordance lists many references for any given topic. Write both the reference and part of the Scripture in a notebook.

Step 2 Arrange the references into groups of related material. Write a title or heading for each list of references.

Step 3 Summarize the main points about the topics in each list. To do this, read each Scripture and it's context to be sure of the correct meaning. Place Scriptures under other headings if you see they should be changed. Write brief summaries in your own words.

The Topic of Prayer

Objective 3. Select Scripture references to prayer and group them according to subjects.

Prayer is an important topic in the Scriptures: The word prayer is stated over 500 times. We chose some of these references for our study. You may find other references to include.

Follow our study and do the work yourself. The exercises will help you check your progress.

First, list all the references to prayer you can find. Write a portion of the Scripture with each reference. If you have a Good News Bible, look for references on the pages listed under the topic prayer in the Subject Index. For example, on page 21, Genesis 20:17, 18 states, "...So Abraham prayed for Abimelech, and God healed him ...."

Here are the references we used in this study: Genesis 20:17-18; 25:22-23; 1 Samuel 1:10-20; 2 Samuel 7:18-29; 1 Kings 18:36-38; 2 Chronicles 6:12-42; Nehemiah 1:5-11; Psalms 4:3; 63:1; 95:6; Proverbs 15:8; 28:9; Isaiah 1:15-20; 38:1-20; 56:7; 59:2; Jeremiah 14:11; 33:3; Daniel 9:3, 21-23; Jonah 2:7; Matthew 5:44-45; 6:1-14; 14:19, 23; 18:19-20; 19:13-15; 26:36-44; Mark 1:35; 6:46; 11:24-25; Luke 3:21-22; 5:16; 6:28; 9:28-36; 10:2; 11:1-13; 18:1, 7, 10-14; John 15:7; 17:1-26; Acts 1:14, 24; 4:29; 6:6; 8:15, 22; 9:40; 10:1, 2, 9, 31; 16:25; Romans 8:26-27; 10:1; 12:12; 15:31; 1 Corinthians 14:13-25; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 3:20; 6:18-20; Philippians 1:19; 4:6; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; 4:4; 5:5; Hebrews 5:7; 10:22; 11:6; 13:18; James 1:5-8; 4:3; 5:13-17; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 John 3:20-22; 5:14-16; Jude 20; Revelation 5:8.

Be sure to write enough of the passage to know what it says about prayer. For 1 Samuel 1:10-20 you might write: "Hannah continued to pray to the LORD for a long time. .. `I have been praying like this because I'm so miserable' ...the Lord answered her ... she gave birth to a son."

For step 2 we organized the Scriptures into these categories:
Whom to pray for. Matthew 5:4; Acts 6:6; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 5:16.


When to pray. 1 Samuel 1:10, 16; Matthew 26:36-44; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 18:7; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:5.


Hindrances to prayer. Proverbs 15:8; 28:9; Isaiah 1:15; 59:2; Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:10-14; 20:47; James 1:6-8; 4:3.

Where to pray.
Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 9:18; Acts 1:14; 10:9; 1 Timothy 2:8.

Answers to prayer.
Genesis 20:17-18; 25:22-23; Daniel 9:21-23; Jonah 2:7; Acts 4:29-31; 8:17; 10:31; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.

Prayer requests. I Kings 18:36-38; Nehemiah 1:5-11; Psalm 64:1; Isaiah 38:2-5; Matthew 26:41; Luke 22:32; John 17:1-26; Acts 1:24; 4:29; 8:15, 22; 9:40;. Romans 10:1; 15:31; Ephesians 6:18; James 1:5; 5:13-14.

How to pray.
Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 6:7-14; 18:19-20; 26:39; Mark 11:24-25; Luke 11:5-13; 18:1, 10-14; John 14:13-14; 15:7; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Corinthians 14:13-25; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1 Timothy 2:8; Hebrews 5:7; 10:22; 11:6; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 John 3:20-22; 5:14-15; Jude 20.

Praise and thanksgiving.
2 Samuel 7:18-29; Isaiah 38:10-20; Matthew 14:19; Acts 10:1-2; 16:25; 1 Timothy 4:4; James 5:13.

1 Kings 8:22; Psalm 95:6; Jeremiah 33:3; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 19:13-15; 26:39; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:13; Acts 8:17; 9:40; 1 Timothy 2:8; James 5:14.

of prayer. Proverbs 15:8; Luke 3:21-22; 9:28-35; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 1:19; James 5:16-17; Revelation 5:8.

Objective 4. Summarize the main points about prayer which are made in a given set of Scriptures.
Now we are ready to summarize the main points given under each heading relating to prayer. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. Let the Bible speak to you and answer your questions.

From this study you can see that prayer is communication with God. You talk to Him and He answers you. As you practice the Bible's teachings on prayer, your life will change. You will receive great blessing from God. You will have power to share the gospel with others.

Continue to learn about prayer. Add references to your study of prayer as you study other topics, for the main themes of the Bible are closely interwoven. Also take time to listen to other people's experiences with prayer.

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Test your knowledge by answering a few questions.

1. Choose each Scripture that refers to prayer.

a) 1 Peter 3:7

b) 1 Peter 3:9

c) 1 Peter 3:12

d) 1 Peter 3:17

2. Turn back to the Scriptures listed under whom to pray for, and look them up. After reading them all, check each TRUE statement about whom we should pray for.

a) Pray for leaders, but only if they are godly.

b) Pray for all God's people everywhere.

c) Pray for our enemies.

3. Turn back to the Scriptures listed under when to pray, and look them up. After reading them all, check each answer that could complete this sentence. We should pray

a) both day and night.

b) continually.

c) no matter how we feel.

4. According to Psalm 121:4, why should we pray always

a) Because of the devil

b) Because God never slumbers nor sleeps

c) Because we are weak

5. Are we sometimes responsible for our prayers not being answered? The Bible has something to say about that too. Read the Scriptures under hindrances to prayer. Then mark the reasons you would give if someone asked you what might hinder our prayers.

a) Disobedience or hidden sin in our lives

b) Asking for selfish reasons

c) Maybe our parents or grandparents sinned.

6. The list of Scriptures given in this course is by no means complete. Bible stories, too, give interesting insights concerning the places where people have prayed-like Jonah crying out to God from the belly of the whale. After reading the Scriptures under where to pray, mark the sentence you feel is correct.

a) The church is the best place to pray.

b) If you really want answers, pray alone.

c) We can pray anywhere and God will hear.

7. Answers to prayer. God's answers vary. Some are immediate, others delayed. People receive healing, longer life, children, forgiveness, help, and all kinds of problems taken care of. There is no limit to His provision. On the basis of God's Word, how would you complete this sentence? Indicate the correct option. Some people receive answers that are different from what they expected,

a) and some will never get answers.

b) but all receive answers from God.

c) so maybe they didn't have faith.

8. Our posture during prayer seems to be a matter of personal choice. Some people stand up and some raise their hands. Others bow or kneel. Over a period of time we may do all of these. After reading the verses listed under posture, which statement would you say is correct?

a) Our posture in prayer must hold true to tradition.

b)'The Bible gives us no set of rules for posture during prayer.

Get more than a Sunday sermon. Get to know others seeking God’s guidance and wisdom for life.
We are here to help and encourage you! Send a prayer request now, or call 1‑800‑700‑7000
Can God change your life? God made it possible for you to know. Discover God's peace now.
Download the free myCBN app. Share your prayer requests, receive prayer and pray for others!
Living the Christian life is a journey. Discover steps to bring you closer to Christ.
Give Now