As I gear up for study, I want to renew my prayer life. I’ve always felt a tension between the tremendous importance of prayer and my desperate failure to pray. I’ll write progressively more about praying in months to come. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts rehashed from Facebook.
I often wonder what to pray. No doubt we should be praying for all kinds of things; things that have been on our minds recently, maybe things like Mike Gugliemucci, the Anglican Communion, the church in Australia, Christians in China and India and Iraq. As in Philippians 4:6, we should bring everything before God in prayer. But for what exactly should we pray?
I also wonder if the prayers I pray are ones that line up with God’s will — is it something that Jesus himself would pray in order to bring glory to God? (John 14:13-14)
So I try to model my prayers around the prayers of Scripture, and the New Testament in particular, seeing as that’s where Jesus is in full view through the testimony of the apostles. There is no great theological reason behind this; I just know that Jesus’ closest companions knew something about praying (he taught them how) and that we have records of some of their prayers. The apostles are from a distant culture in a distant time yet, as the ones charged with being Jesus’ first witnesses, they’re our primary lens on Jesus and his priorities.
I don’t think this means that every prayer we pray must simply come straight out of the Bible, just that a prayer modelled on the prayer-priorities of the NT writers is likely a good one. They should know, right?
And they tend to surprise me! For example, the ‘automatic’ Christian prayer, that others would “enjoy good health and that all may go well”, only pops up once, while the word “bless” doesn’t figure in any NT prayers at all!
One of my favourite prayers is from 2 Thessalonians 1:
That our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This sets the foundation for prayer for me: every one of my prayers should revolve around Jesus’ name being glorified, his reputation as Son of God, Lord and Saviour being upheld to everyone. I want to ensure that my prayers in every situation are directed to that ultimate end. Would you ask God to give me the courage to do that?
In the end, whatever we’re praying, it’s extremely reassuring to know that, God’s Spirit is always praying on behalf of his people!
What have you been praying recently?
What’s your favourite prayer in the Bible?
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.