What to pray for and how to do it
Have you ever wondered what to pray in your prayer life? I have. Prayerful living is not always easy to navigate, is it? In fact, most people often ponder how to pray or when to pray, but spend little time thinking about what to actually pray for.
Well, today I thought “Hmmmm… what prayers should I pray and why?” So, I wanted to explore this notion with you and hopefully we can learn from one another.
First; let me know I’m more than Christian shirts for women, Honey!
Hey, I do more than design Christian shirts for women, ya know. I’m a Christian of about 28 years figuring this thing out too. Just like you, I have “dry” prayer seasons and often ponder what should I be praying for and whether or not my prayers are going to be answered.
The long and short of it is I think prayers should be Biblical and align with God’s ultimate purposes on earth. I think that’s why we (including me) might often pray outside God’s will.
I don’t spend much time thinking about that though, because if something is not in God’s plan…it simply won’t happen. Plain as that, right? Right.
Check out Psalm 98:18
If I should say, "My foot has slipped," Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up. ... I said, "I am falling"; but your constant love, O LORD, held me up.
No need to stress all that stuff about what God wants to do or not. He’s got me covered and will bring His will to pass in my life (and yours too).
Come boldly to the throne…
One of the sweetest comforts the Lord has given us is that we can pray and ask for what we want.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phillipians 4:6
Isn’t that one of your favorite verses? It is definitely one of mine.
I love that the Lord sort of keeps an open door for me to pray how I want to pray.
He allows me to just come and ask. The only catch is I have to come with thanksgiving and gratefulness for what He has already done. Beautiful.
With this established. Back to the topic at hand: what to pray for.
What to pray for: Pray for people struggling.
16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 1 John 5:16 New International Version (NIV)
How important is this, right??? When you see someone struggling, very often, the first “human” response is some form of judgement or internal clucking of the tongue. But, we should be praying for them and praying God strengthens them and gives them – as the scripture states – life.
Think of a young girl who mistakenly becomes pregnant. She needs prayers so much more than judgement or spiritual inaction.
This single mom needed prayer when I was a wild, back-slidden heathen in the world.
I remember choosing a life of spiritual rebellion back in my early 20s. It was horrible.
After enduring many heart-wrenching disappointments, I foolishly gave up on my faith.
Here’s why: my young marriage fell apart. I had this baby to raise, I was, then, uneducated, bitter and circumnavigating several forms of grief without much experience or knowledge about how to do it. At the same time by marriage was crumbling, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack. I was beyond devastated. I couldn’t understand how God would let all that “bad stuff” happen to me. So, I grew angry at Him and abandoned the faith.
“God, You blew it”
I decided I was going to do things MY WAY and I did.
The pleasures of the world seemed to render more pleasure and emotional safety than trusting God, so off into a wanton lifestyle of liquor, fornication and partying I went.
It was fun at first.
Ye, it wasn’t long before I felt the pang of this type of living. I felt out of place in it, but I also felt stuck in it.
Enter the prayers of my mom and friends. My mom never stopped praying for me and holding me up before the Lord. Others did the same.
I have no doubt in my mind those prayers sustained me, protected me and worked to draw me back to the Lord.
My son was about two (he’s now 28 and living for the Lord himself), when I walked down the aisle to re-dedicate my life to the Lord at Sheffield Family Life Center in Kansas City.
All this to say prayer does work. Don’t give up on the lost. Pray for them. That’s one of the things you should pray for – that God draws the lost.
Ephesians 6:18 New International Version (NIV)
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Always pray in the supernatural and in the spirit for all God’s people. Until I wrote this post, I hadn’t thought much about it, but the Bible tells us to pray for others over and over again.
Had you thought about how often He admonishes us to pray for other people or was I the only one in the dark about it? Let me know in the comments.
What to pray for # 1: Pray for yourself.
Ephesians 1:18 New International Version (NIV)
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
Pray along the lines of what Paul hoped for the church of Ephesus. Pray that your heart will be open, educated and knowledgeable.
Merriam-Webster defines “enlighten” as:
the state of having knowledge or understanding : the act of giving someone knowledge or understanding
The strains and struggles of life can darken our knowledge and even sour us a bit. We can view wrong as right and right as wrong. As a result, we need to be enlightened so we can know the “hope” of what God has called us to do.
The Holy Spirit will guide us into this knowledge as we trust and rely on him. He will also guide us into the wisdom of purpose.
Purpose is the intent God had for your heart to beat each second of the day. It’s why you’re alive. My favorite teacher on the subject of purpose is the late Dr. Myles Munroe.
He’s written amazing books on purpose. You must check them out or head to YouTube and listen to his sermons.
One quote is simple, but conveys how we should live on purpose:
We should not pursue money. We should pursue vision, we should pursue purpose; for ourselves, for our country, and for our communities.” – Myles Munroe
“Leaders are pursuing a passion toward a purpose that gives them a sense of destiny.” – Myles Munroe
Pray God opens your eyes to your purpose. Then, you will have heightened hope to live this life out and know how to pray.
He has such great things in store for us and we must live and fulfill His purpose for our lives …if for no other reason simply out of gratitude. He’s done so much for us.
We owe it to Him to live on purpose, pray on purpose and, most certainly, know our purpose in order to please Him.
41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41 New International Version (NIV)
Along the same lines of praying for yourself, you gotta pray that you don’t fall into temptation.
Each day presents new challenges and new attacks (and traps) from the enemy.
Pray every single day that God will use the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you so you can see what he’s up to.
11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. 2 Corinthians 2:11 King James Version (KJV)
We know he’s out to get us, right? It’s a fact.
We are enlightened enough to know he’s trying incredibly hard to pull us away from God’s purpose and fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
What to pray for #2: Pray for your enemies.
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44 New International Version (NIV)
I know this is one of the hardest of hard things when it comes to prayer. Jesus tells us to pray for the people who mistreat us. Not only does He tell us to pray for them, He also models it in Luke:
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34 New International Version (NIV)
Should we, like Jesus, give people who hurt us the benefit of the doubt?
As hard as it is to process, the answer is yes.
Let me step down from my high horse as a blogger and tell you this: IT IS HARD!!!!
Praying for the “meanies” in life takes discipline, faith and tenacity. It’s not for the weak or casual Christian.
You need discipline to pray for people you don’t care for.
How does that look?
It looks like quieting your own inner voice and feelings in order to pray God would bless them.
Let me break it down as clearly as an 80’s hip hop DJ:
It’s praying that they would live in health and be blessed.
It’s praying they would be blessed in their work and labor.
It’s praying their emotions would be healed and whole.
It’s praying they would enjoy good friends and good people in their lives.
It’s praying they would enjoy sweet fellowship with the Lord.
It’s praying God would forgive whatever it is they did to you and anything else they’ve done.
That’s what it looks like and that’s what it means to bless them. It doesn’t mean any of the following:
It doesn’t mean praying God would punish them for what they did to you.
Nor does it mean praying God would take things from them.
Nor do you pray God would cause them bodily harm or “teach them a lesson”.
Is it easy praying blessings when someone hurts you?
Do I always succeed in doing it?
But, I’m learning and growing.
It takes discipline and discipline isn’t always instant.
It’s time and time again trying to be better.
You’re also going to need faith to pray for those that harm you.
One of the reasons you want to slap the taste out of the mouth of someone who hurt you is because you don’t trust God to handle that situation for you.
That’s why YOU want to handle it. You want to take care of it.
That’s a lot of “YOU” references, isn’t it? Read it again and see how many times I typed “you”. There is no “you” in trusting God to avenge you.
Faith, in this scenario, means trusting God to make that thing right and trusting Him to be your Avenger.
He will do it too. He will (and can) handle that person so much better than you ever could.
He’s their Father and can issue a “class A” beat down of much higher quality. So, exercise your faith and trust the Lord to handle that person.
Then there is tenacity: Dogged, insistent, persistent prayer.
Ok. Let me be honest.
I’ve often prayed one painful prayer of blessing for an enemy and then….crickets…I STOPPED! Why did I stop?
I stopped because I wanted to! I hated praying for that person!
It crucified my flesh because my “flesh” or my carnal person wanted to sock them in the eye rather than pray blessings on them. But, that’s not the way.
The way is to continue praying for them and commit daily to interceding on their behalf.
God is so smart.
He knows that as we pray for them our hearts are sure to change toward them.
It’s like David Copperfield magic! It always happens…over time.
The more you pray for the ones you don’t like, the softer your heart becomes toward them.
The prayers get easier and easier.
When you see them, you don’t want to gouge their eyes out with a pencil anymore.
It’s so amazing and is such a faith-builder when you see this process through.
What to pray for #3: Duh! Ask Jesus!
Jesus outlined our prayer style perfectly in Luke 11. You know the prayer:
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
Boom! That’s what you should pray for in one scripture!
We wonder how to pray (so did the disciples) and Jesus signed it, delivered it and sealed it in a nice, pretty bow!
Yeah, I saved the best until last. Jesus is always the best.
Let me summarize:
What to pray for: His sovereign will be to be accomplished down here on earth.
What should we pray for: we should pray God give us just what we need as we need it day by day – not worrying about next year to the point of anxiety, but taking each day at a time and trusting God to deliver what we need little by little.
What should we pray for: We should pray for forgiveness! Walking through your life, you’re going to mess up. When you do blunder, pray for forgiveness. Heck, I’d even say plan to pray for forgiveness every single day…because we all fall short on the regular!
What should we pray for: Pray for the meanies as I mentioned earlier. Pray God would forgive them for what they do and have done. Whew! Easy, it is not, but it’s what we’ve got to do if we want to be forgiven too.
What should we pray for: Pray not to be directed toward temptation? God doesn’t tempt us himself, but, just like Job, some doors can be opened. Pray they are not. What do you think about this?
So, in the end what to pray for isn’t a complicated concept, is it?
We basically pray for ourselves, pray for others and pray that we can forgive the dooty-heads who hurt us.
What to Pray for based on Biblical Examples:
Of course, I’ve got a couple of famous prayers from the Bible to guide us a bit further. I’ll begin with King Solomon.
This Holy Spirit is at the heart of our wisdom.
Solomon was a smart man – and wise too!
The Lord came to Solomon in a dream and asked “What can I do for you?”
Can we say “WOW” to that. Imagine God coming to you and asking you “what you want, Girl (or Dude]?
Amway, Solomon’s response was so stunning in itself.
All he wanted was wisdom to know good from evil.
In my opinion, God knew Solomon’s heart before He even inquired of Him. Maybe that’s why He queried Solomon’s desires? Maybe He wanted to bless him because of His pure heart.
Wild. Well, instead of asking God for a Lamborghini, Solomon asked for wisdom.
I know. They didn’t have cars back then – now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
When Solomon asked for wisdom, God delivered and gave him all the other stuff and vast riches most humans crave anyway.
So, you want know what to pray for: pray for wisdom. I’m not saying pray for it to get “stuff”, but because wisdom is better than “stuff”.
Here’s how it played out in scripture. Note: I’m using the Message translation because it conveys the Bible’s stories so well:
4-5 The king went to Gibeon, the most prestigious of the local shrines, to worship. He sacrificed a thousand Whole-Burnt-Offerings on that altar. That night, there in Gibeon, God appeared to Solomon in a dream: God said, “What can I give you? Ask.”
6 Solomon said, “You were extravagantly generous in love with David my father, and he lived faithfully in your presence, his relationships were just and his heart right. And you have persisted in this great and generous love by giving him—and this very day!—a son to sit on his throne.
7-8 “And now here I am: God, my God, you have made me, your servant, ruler of the kingdom in place of David my father. I’m too young for this, a mere child! I don’t know the ropes, hardly know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of this job. And here I am, set down in the middle of the people you’ve chosen, a great people—far too many to ever count.
9 “Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?”
10-14 God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon’s response. And God said to him, “Because you have asked for this and haven’t grasped after a long life, or riches, or the doom of your enemies, but you have asked for the ability to lead and govern well, I’ll give you what you’ve asked for—I’m giving you a wise and mature heart. There’s never been one like you before; and there’ll be no one after. As a bonus, I’m giving you both the wealth and glory you didn’t ask for—there’s not a king anywhere who will come up to your mark. And if you stay on course, keeping your eye on the life-map and the God-signs as your father David did, I’ll also give you a long life.”
The Message (MSG) 1 Kings 3:5-14 The Message (MSG)
Notice how Eugene Peterson called wisdom “a God-fearing heart” in this translation.
It makes you think of this scripture:
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. - Proverbs 9:10 New International Version (NIV)
When you have wisdom, you avoid the enemy’s pitfalls. You generate wealth and are able to be a blessing to others.
One more example: the IRS man
Well, he wasn’t really working for the IRS, because they didn’t call it that in those days and in those parts of the world.
Nonetheless, pray God’s mercy for yourself.
I love when Jesus told this story and the uppity Pharisee prayed a pompous prayer while the dreg of society, the tax collector, prayed a more acceptable one to the Lord. Here it is:
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 New International Version (NIV)
In the end pray for God’s mercy recognizing your current state. We all have fallen short and none of us have arrive. Stay humble as Jesus said and pray for God’s mercy upon your life and your journey. Amen?
As you can tell, I could go on and on about this subject of prayer.
See, and you thought I was just about Christian women’s t-shirts! No, that’s not it.
I’m so in love with Jesus and rely on Him for my creativity and daily peace of mind.
I trust Him to guide me and am desperate for Him in every area of my life.
These t-shirts for Christian women (and Christian women’s sweatshirts) are just an expression of the love I have for Him.
I hope they bless you too!
Let me know your thoughts about this blog post and how you pray.
I’d also love your prayer tips!
By the way, when do you prefer to pray?
Are you a morning prayer person or an evening person. Does it even make a difference in your opinion?
I love you for reading and be blessed!