I was in middle school playing basketball for the Fall Branch Cardinals. Before every game, the coach would ask one of our players to pray. The prayer was always the same, it was the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. I don’t know that it was terrible, but it was a tradition we did. After some time, it began to feel like a prayer rut to me. Have you ever felt like your prayer life was in a rut?
Remember that prayer is a powerful weapon that God gave us as a gift. In fact, Pastor John Piper says this about prayer, “Prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom. God is more like a general in Command Central than a butler waiting to bring you another pillow in the den.” Of course, God is a Father, Lover, Friend, Physician, Shepherd, Helper, King, Savior, Lord, and Counselor. But let us not forget we live in a fallen world where we constantly are battling three enemies, our flesh, the devil, and the world. So, if we are to have maximum faithfulness in prayer, we must examine the content of the prayer.
Before we look at what should be in our prayers let’s remember what shouldn’t be in our prayers, James 4:1-4 reminds and instructs us not to ask a thing to spend it solely on our selfish pleasures. If you were to survey the prayers of the Bible that God answered you would find various patterns. The main pattern, where God answers the most prayers, concern the advance of His divine work and His Kingdom. An example of the main pattern would be Moses’ prayer for the nation advancing work through the desert (see Exodus 32:9-14). Fewer of the Bible prayers could be considered personal, like Hannah’s prayer for a son (see 1 Samuel 1:9-11). One interesting observation about would be that personal prayers do not contradict the nature and purpose of the divine work, but instead usually enhanced God’s work. For example, Hannah’s prayer produced Samuel, who holds a pivotal figure in Israel’s history (1 Sam. 1:10-20). Try this in your own prayer life. Keep a log of your prayers over a specific period. Dr. T.W. Hunt kept such a long, and he found that seven-ninths of his own answer’s prayers were primarily concerned with the advance of the kingdom work of God, and only two-ninths were personal. Hunt goes on to say, “all of the answered personal requests in some significant way accomplished a divine work that helped others and made a contribution to God’s work in the church.” Here are a few more items the early church prayed for:
• Pray that God would exalt His name in the World. (Matt. 6:9)
• Pray that God would extend his kingdom in the world. (Matt. 6:10)
• Pray that God would save unbelievers. (Rom. 10:1)
• Pray for boldness in proclamation/preaching. (Eph. 6:18-19, Acts 4:29)
Hunt, T.W., The Doctrine of Prayer. (Nashville: The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1986), 75.