In my last blog entry, I discussed the difficulties we have in actually setting aside time to pray. Another difficulty that we have in prayer is figuring out what, exactly should we be praying for? What should we be praying for ourselves? Is it selfish to pray for ourselves? What should we pray for others? Or, is praying for others just a projection of our own desires for the other person?
Is it selfish to ask for things for ourselves?
In a word: NO! Jesus taught how to pray for ourselves in what we now call the Lord’s Payer found in Matthew 6:9-13. Here we are taught to acknowledge God’s holiness, and ask that His kingdom would be enacted and that God’s will is done on earth in the same way that it is in heaven. For ourselves we are instructed to ask that our needs will be met for the current day, that we will be forgiven, and that we will not be tempted, but if we are that we will be delivered from that temptation. So, there is nothing at along our of order in asking for things for ourselves, so long as what we are asking for is aligned with Jesus’s teaching on prayer.
What should we pray for others?
Of course there are specific prayer needs that arise from time to time, such as a desired healing, for a job, for a reconciled relationship, and so on. However, when there is no specific challenge in a person’s life what do we pray then? Do we prayer that our friend who is a person of means drops a million dollars in our laps? Well, probably not. That is likely not aligned with God’s will and, if we are praying that prayer for selfish reasons, then we are not prepared for that blessing.
But what can we do?
Paul frequently prays for the church to whom he is ministering. I have found these prayers to be extremely valuable in praying for others and for the churches I attend Most of these prayers are for churches not individuals, but they can be used either way. For example, in Paul’s prayer for the church at Colossae (Colossians 1:9-14), we find at least ten things we can prayer for our church and for individuals in our lives
- Filled with the knowledge of God’s will
- Wisdom and understanding from the Holy Spirit
- Live a life worthy of the Lord
- Please the Lord in all things
- Bear fruit in every good work
- Grow in the knowledge of God
- Strengthened by the power of God
- Have great endurance and patience
- Be joyful
- Be thankful
This is not an exhaustive list of things we might pray into the lives of our church and our friends, but it is a good place to start. Here’s a link to a website that contains all the prayers of Paul. In order to narrow down your search, here is a list of prayers that have been most meaningful to me over the years:
- 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
- Ephesians 1:3-14 (especially for those who are not yet Christians)
- Ephesians 1:15-23
- Ephesians 3:14-21
- Philippians 1:3-6
- Philippians 1:9-11
- 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
- 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
- 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Prayer is to the Christian as air is to the human being. Would you join me in a praying for your friends, your family, and your church? Prayer is essential if we are to become the people, individually and collectively, whom God has called us to be. Ready. Set. Go.
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