who we are

Allison Althoff
Allison Althoff
Natalie Lederhouse
Natalie Lederhouse

Free Newsletters

on TCW

« Twenty-One Things the World Will Say About Christians | Main | Give Me that Old-Time Religion? »

October 21, 2009

Praying Together

What does it mean to pray biblically?

For years I attended a prayer group that included close friends. We prayed for one another, the church leadership, and for any needs we happened to know about. After one of these times, a friend said she was considering dropping out of the group because she felt overwhelmed by the prayer requests. It seemed to her as though everyone’s problems were insurmountable, and although we’d been praying for the same things for months, it didn’t seem as though anyone’s life was getting any better.

So what were we doing wrong? Nowhere in Scripture do I find prayers for Marta’s fibromyalgia, Jess’s unruly children, or Connie’s rotten work conditions. The prayers in the Bible are powerful and life-changing, full of God’s power and glory.

Consider Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:16-19. In fact, read it aloud with feeling:

“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also 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 the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

Wow! Such a prayer puts fibromyalgia, unruly children, and rotten work conditions in perspective. But obviously, we shouldn’t ignore our problems and pretend they don’t exist. How can we transform them by putting them into the bigger context of what God wants to do in our lives?

Make Them God-Centered
When you pray, remember who you are talking to. You’ve been given the privilege of coming before the creator of the universe. This is the God who made everything that lives, and he has given you the honor of bringing requests before him. That’s why so many teachers tell us to start our prayers with adoration. When we tell God how great, powerful, and magnificent he is, it reminds us that he truly is those things. It gives us a sense of awe and expectancy that something great could come out of this conversation we’re having with the One who can do anything.

Paul spent more than half of his prayer in Ephesians 1 extolling God’s virtues. When Paul wrote this book, he was in prison. He could have listed a litany of prayer requests that would have made ours pale in comparison, but instead he focused on who God is. Surely the power of that prayer carried him further than any listing of complaints. It also showed the Ephesians how to pray victoriously in the midst of whatever they were facing.

Make Them Praise-Filled
Paul started his prayer by saying, “I have not stopped giving thanks . . .” He’d learned that the key to praying is not to focus on a list of troubles, but to praise God for what he has done. How can we do that—how can we give thanks in everything, as Paul later admonished us to do in his letter to the Thessalonians?

We have to trust that God knows what he’s doing. Marta has to be able to say, “Thank you, God, for my fibromyalgia. I don’t get why I have to have it, but you do, so I’m going to trust you with it. I’d be delighted if you’d take it away, but if not, I trust you’ll use it for good in my life.”

Jess has to say, “Thank you for my unruly children. They are a gift from you, and I know you will equip me with wisdom to know how to help them. It may be a bumpy road, and they may have to go through some hard times before they learn their lessons, but I’m trusting them to you.”

Connie must learn to say, “Thank you, Lord, for my job. You led me there, so I’m trusting that you want to use me with my co-workers, and that you’ll equip me to do this job well. If you’re leading me elsewhere, I trust that you’ll make that clear too. Teach me what you want me to learn through this difficulty.”

Make Them Life-Changing

My friend was frustrated with our prayer time because it seemed nothing ever changed. Maybe that’s because we weren’t praying for the right change. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of our prayers are for God to change our circumstances. Maybe God doesn’t want to change our circumstances. Maybe he wants to change us.

That doesn’t mean he won’t ever change our circumstances. I’ve seen God supply needs, open opportunities, and heal people in incredible ways. But I’ve also spent years praying for something that never changes. That should be my first clue that I may not be praying for the right thing.

Looking at our three people again may help us think about this. If Marta has been praying for God to take away her fibromyalgia and he hasn’t done it, she should probably focus on how he wants to use it in her life. Maybe God wants her to start a support group for other fibromyalgia sufferers. Or possibly he wants her to express more compassion for others who are suffering by praying for them or sending money to a research organization that is looking for a cure. Perhaps he just wants to get her attention—and as C.S. Lewis said, pain is his megaphone.

Jess needs to pray for her children the way Paul prayed for the Ephesians—that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they may know him better. She needs to pray that her children would know the hope to which God has called them, their glorious inheritance, and God’s incomparably great power. Jess needs to pray these things for herself, too, so that she’ll be able to model such a walk with God for her children.

Connie should honestly express to God her frustrations with her job. If she has a possibility of changing jobs, she needs to pray for God’s confirmation and wisdom about doing so. She needs to get the advice of other godly people to see their perspectives. If she’s done all that and feels that God wants her to stay in her job, she needs to ask him what he wants to accomplish in and through her. Connie should ask God to change her perspective and give her joy. After all, if Paul could find joy while sitting in a prison cell, Connie can probably find joy in her job if she lets God open her eyes to it.

Our group prayers changed after my friend complained. We realized that we were treating prayer as a complaint session, when in reality it’s an incredible opportunity to gain the wisdom, direction, and power of the King of kings who rules all time and places.

Related Tags: Community, Prayer

Comments

Thanks for the important reminder of the meaning of praying :-)

WOW! SO NEED TO HEAR THIS THIS MORNING! CHANGING THE WAY I PRAY FOR MY CHILDREN AND MYSELF. LOVED IT! THNKS, GOD BLESS!

Thanks very mush I am blessed

This is an issue we have addressed in our cell groups, when we become overwhelmed as christians with the burdens of our brethren. I asked my pastor about this, and he told me to pray, to give the problems to the Lord, not to hold onto them. We are only spiritually defeated when we hold onto those problems and begin to work outside of the spiritual realm God gave us. We must not lose sight of Him, and the real reason we are here, to glorify His name, let Him have the victory.

an inspiring message for sure and inspiration to pray the right way for the sometimes overwhelming needs that we have as well as our brothers and sisters

A great reminder of what Jesus said - to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Thanks for the encouragement.

Tanx alot. I have long prayed amiss. Sure it will help re-direct my prayer style

Really nice and so inspiring! It reminds me of the scripture that talks about giving God the Glory in all circumstances for its His will 4us in CHRIST JESUS! I am blessed. Keep on the good work sisters. God bless you!

i liked that it has given me a new perspective on prayer.

What a wonderful article. Great insight into how to pray. We are currently going over a teaching of prayer at church. Someone said something that really helped me. It just isn't possible for one person to pray for everyone and everything! So, don't become overwhelmed when you feel you fail someone because you just can't cover everthing everyday.
Blessings

This article has really Blessed and encouraged me to the extend of wanting to encourage one of my friends, whose wife left with the baby of 6 months (carried all the household safe for his clothes only) and his boss at work has become a big headache to the extend of him wanting to quit. Just like Connie I encouraged him to seek God to use him in his present difficult situation.
God Bless

What a blessing to be reminded to direct my prayers to God's will and let Him work through the lists in His timing and in His way. God bless you as you continue your prayer circle with friends.

Please understand when praying we do give thanks for illnesses - Jesus bore all disease on the cross - instead give thanks for your healing as the word says - we were healed (this can manifest here on earth or in heaven - either way we ARE healed) - give thanks for strength & courage to go through the illness. I enjoyed the blog until giving thanks for an illness - illness is NOT from God therefore why would we give thanks to God for it? thank you

In all things give thanks for this is the perfect will of God in Christ Jesus... Thank you Lord that you are working all things together for the good, and whatever the enemy meant for evil you are turning around for good. Thank you Father that Jesus bore our sickness, illnesses and disease in his body and by His stripes we are healed... Thank you Father that your Word is settled in heaven and we thank you that it is being manifested in the earth today for those in need of your healing touch... in Jesus we believe and pray, Hallelujah Jesus is Lord... Amen!!!!

Excellent article! Just one reminder: all that Paul did in his exemplary prayer was to apply to his difficulties in life the famous words: "Our Father in heaven, may your holy name be honoured!"(Matt. 6:9) The answers to such prayers of application of the Law of Prayers summarized in Matt. 6:33 can be miraculous, breath-taking, and even unexpected surprises as in Mark 10: 46-52; Acts 12: 6-19; 16: 25-34; etc. GBY!

Wow!! God is great and he deserves all of our praise and adoration, I am going to remember that when I pray from now on!

5 MINUTES BEFORE i SAW THIS BLOG i WONDEREEDL IF i WAS BEING TOO CASUAL ABOUT MY PRAYERS TO gOD OR AS i CALL IT MY CONVERSATION WITH THE lORD.tHANK YOU FOR THIS..i KNOWMNOW i AM DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!

your right, is impt to give thanks to God in everything, and prayer can keep us close to Him because we can always pour out every difficulty in life

God supplies every need all the time. This was timely; yesterday I questioned God as to why I haven't secured a position in my new profession. I met someone who encouraged me to keep praying. She recently obtained a position in this field. After reading this article, it reaffirmed that prayer is an expression of adoration for God; this provides the meat of the prayer. The power. It prepares the mind for an in depth conversation with God. For me, it changes my focus to what is God seeking of me in whatever state I am in.

Thanks for the reminder. Am learning to accept my bipolar state & thank God for His helping me stay stable, even if the answer is no for now for a healing. May I be able to to ask for God's grace & wisdom to raise my strong willed child.
God bless.

I needed this! I have been focusing on my circumstances sooo much, thanks for reminding me that I need to focus on how great and awsome God is and his love for me. Nothing is too hard for God! God Bless!

I think the frustration or overwhelming feelings that some people experience may reflect a somewhat simplistic view of prayer--that we bring our petitions to God and they're supposed to be answered. When they're not, we can become discouraged rather than looking at things from a heavenly perspective. God is at work in the situation. True faith would mean that I leave the prayer closet with faith that God is working the situation to His glory.

I am trying to restructure my prayers & make them less about what I want & more about what God wants. God doesn't need a detailed run-down of the situation; He already knows all about it. And God doesn't need my advice. Oh, how many times have we given advice to others & veiled it as prayer? It is the will of God I seek. This is my current prayer. <3

Excellent site. It was pleasant to me.

Post a comment:





Verification (needed to reduce spam):

tags

see more

books we're reading