“We’re keeping you in our hearts and prayers.” Isn’t that the line you often hear when news of some catastrophe or calamity befalls a person or group of people? Most of us are totally sincere when we say that but, to my shame, I know many times I have agreed to pray for an individual only to forget all about it until the next time I see them. In order to avoid that I began the practice of pausing for prayer immediately, even if it’s only just a quick sentence or two.
But over the last while I’ve even been re-evaluating that. Not if I should pray, but what I’m praying. Don’t you find that most often our prayers are more or less just asking God make life work the way we want it or expect it to? Fix this, get them out of that, or take this issue away? At times God’s will may indeed be for our lives to work out in a manner that is pleasing or pleasant for us, but that’s not always the case.
In 2 Thessalonians Paul asked for prayer for deliverance from the persecution of evil men. But in Colossians 4:3 Paul asks for prayer, not to be released from his chains, but that he would be effective in telling about the mystery of Christ for which he was in chains. So how can we know what to pray for?
To begin with make certain that you are not simply praying your own will or desire. Be careful not to make the assumption that making a problem go away must be God’s will. Obviously Jesus is the prime example of this when he prayed “not my will but yours be done.” But this brings up the next question, how do I know if I’m praying God’s will or my own? I don’t think I’m being over simplistic when I say just ask him. I have begun trying to develop the habit of asking God what he wants me to pray for in a particular situation . . . and then actually stopping to listen. Often listening involves going to scripture to hear from God there. As you practice this you will be amazed at how clearly God shows you how to pray, and how different it often is from what your initial impulse in prayer may have been.