What do I pray?

27 Dec

Prayer is a pretty big thing. To think that we can talk openly to the Master of the universe with confidence that he hears us, is both humbling and a great reason for rejoicing. Because of Christ’s death, we can “boldly approach the throne of grace”, knowing that the Spirit inspires and directs the groaning of our hearts. As the popular phrase puts it, we can pray “to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit”.

I wonder then, with such a great gift through the gospel, why we don’t pray more. Why does it so often seem like a battle to make time with our Father, and when we do make time, we’re lost for words. Perhaps we need to sort out what we should be praying for. John Piper helpfully shows us here what biblical prayers look like by examining the early Church in the New Testament.

First, they prayed that God would exalt his name and further his kingdom (Matt 6:9-10) and that the Gospel would triumph (2 Thess 3:1). Is this at the forefront of our minds when we begin to pray? I know how often my prayers don’t have anything like that in them, rather a list of my desires; even if they appear to be ‘holy’ often I am just trying to word thing in the ‘right’ way, as though God doesn’t know my heart!

The early church called on God for the Holy Spirit, for example in Luke 11:13. They called on God to save unbelievers (Rom 10:1). These two seem to go together. How will people be saved other than through the work of the Spirit in their hearts? Lord, give me your heart for the lost, that I would cry out to you for your Spirit to change them and bring them to new birth.

Along the same lines, they called for God to direct the use of his Word and for boldness in its proclamation (Eph 6:17-19), for how shall the lost be saved unless they hear, and how shall they hear unless someone is sent. They prayed for signs and wonders from God (Acts 4:30), demonstrating without question the truth of his Word.

Mark 9:29 tells us that Demons cannot be cast out without prayer. The early church also prayed for wisdom (James 1:5), godly leaders (Acts 14:23), workers for the harvest field (Matt 9:38), unity (John 17:20-21) and encouragement (1 Thess 3:10).

Perhaps one of the things which I need to pray most of all is for discernment and a knowledge of God’s will (Phil 1:9-10, Col 1:9). Often my prayers are for my will and not for the will of my Saviour. How ridiculous of me to think I know better than the One who from eternity planned to rescue me from hell and for his glory. Piper goes on:

They called on God for power to comprehend the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14,18).
They called on God for a deeper sense of assured hope (Ephesians 1:16,18).
They called on God for strength and endurance (Colossians 1:11).
They called on God for deeper sense of his power within them (Ephesians 1:16, 19).
They called on God that their faith not be destroyed (Luke 22:32).
They called on God for greater faith (Mark 9:24 ; cf. Ephesians 3:17).
They called on God that they might not fall into temptation (Matthew 6:13, Matthew 26:41).
They called on God that he would complete their resolves (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
They called on God that they would do good works (Colossians 1:10).
They called on God or forgiveness for their sins (Matthew 6:12).
They called on God for protection from the evil one (Matthew 6:13).

Looking at my own prayer life it is so apparent that my prayers are often completely out of line with God’s plans for prayer. Perhaps even worse, most of what is above doesn’t even get a look in. May this list help us to pray better, more often, and more in line with God’s plan for us and his glory. Mark Driscoll helpfully pointed out in his sermon series on prayer that the Bible should never be separate from prayer – the two go together because what we read in Scripture shows us what to pray. How true. Our prayer will never be effective or biblical if we leave the Bible out of the deal. Most importantly, prayer should be a joy, not a duty. Christ died for us. Christ gave us access to the throne room of heaven. The Spirit intercedes for us to the Almighty.

Lord, thank you so much that I can pray because of Jesus. Help me to rejoice in prayer. Help me to pray better as you hace shown us in your word. Amen.

Original content from desiringGod.org

For a fuller theology of biblical prayer, try A call to spiritual reformation by Don Carson.


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