The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and that we “should always pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). If prayer is THAT important, then we should also ask, “What should we be praying about? What things are MOST important?” and also, “What can we pray about?”
I think it is fair to say that a lot of people reserve prayer for personal crisis situations. God is very often merciful and gracious to us when we pray in a time of trouble. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble – I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:14). But prayer should not be reserved for such situations only. God loves not only to hear our cries, but to hear our heart. And He would love to share His heart with us also – if we would take quiet moments to listen.
Even from the point of view of praying in times of crisis, it is true that the world is constantly in crisis of one form or another – and we live in the midst of an epic spiritual catastrophe if the Bible picture is true – people are going to hell in droves day and night, never to return, never having really had their eyes open to the gospel of Jesus Christ! Surely that in itself should warrant us seeking out a permanent ongoing connection with the Lord in prayer! Surely that means there are very important things to pray about all the time – and that this is a high stakes operation we are involved in.
Paul tells us we can “pray about everything”. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. ” (Philippians 4:6,7 NLT). Don’t say “It’s just a small thing, I won’t bother God about that.” No, if its big enough to worry about, it is big enough to pray about. We need to quit worrying about things and learn to pray about them.
Even though we can and should pray about everything, there are some things which are more important to pray about than others. These are the things that Jesus and the apostles told us specifically to pray for. It is strange that we don’t often hear prayers for some of these things. That needs to change.
One of the primary teachings on prayer is Jesus’ model prayer given to His disciples in response to their request to “Teach us to pray”. Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore pray…” “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins and we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13).
By using the word “manner” Jesus is implying that its is not God’s plan for us to simply recite these words parrot fashion as if it was some kind of incantation which increases in power the more you say it. Its fine to use those words verbatim, but I believe Jesus wants us to use those words more as a template than as a liturgical item. After all, in the same passage Jesus just told us not to pray using vain repetitions. He didn’t follow that instruction up by giving us words to repeat on and on forever. That would be inconsistent. No, Jesus gave us in this model prayer a lot of insights into the kind of content that should be in our prayers to the Father.
This model prayer is saying we should devote time in prayer to recognising the Father as our Father – meaning not only my Father but the Father of all born again believers whom we are called to love. We should desire God’s name to be honored and glorified and esteemed. We should desire that things happen that make people love and respect God the Father more, and our prayers should reflect that.
We should be praying for the manifestation of God’s Kingdom. We need more of the little glimpses of God’s Kingdom which we get in this life, leading up until the time when God’s Kingdom is fully revealed beginning with the Second Coming of Christ. When God’s Kingdom manifests, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit become evident (Romans 14:17), demons are cast out (Matthew 12:28) and the sick are healed. People get saved and start doing God’s will. So pray for that.
We should be praying that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. Not any conception religious people may have of God’s will – which might include sickness, sin, depression, loss and so on – but the will of God AS DONE IN HEAVEN – where such things do not exist. Paul spent a lot of time praying for others that they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9) so that they may be able to “walk worthy of the Lord”. We can’t walk in God’s will consistently if we are ignorant of what it is for us in our day to day lives, and prayer can and does make a huge difference here. We know this because the apostle Paul would not waste his time constantly praying in a way that didn’t make sense or didn’t work.
We need also to pray for provision – “daily bread” – whatever that means for us in our context. We need provision for whatever the will of God is for our lives – which would certainly include food, shelter and clothing – but would also include the time and tools for serving God.
We do need to spend part of our prayer time confessing and repenting of our sins because all sin is dangerous poison for the soul. But at the same time we need to remember that God absolutely requires that we forgive those who have wronged and hurt us – and this before we ourselves can receive anything from God. If your prayers are not working, ask God to reveal if there is any unforgiveness in your heart towards someone. Think if there are people you still complain about. That would give you a clue. It is certain in these last days that many people who you might think you can trust will hurt you and let you down. This can include pastors and parents. Learn to forgive quickly so that you can be blessed. Forgive so you can be forgiven. We all need forgiveness.
We should spend time in prayer asking God to lead us away from temptation. Failure to pray this way means that a person will face more dangerous temptations than they need to. I hope you realise that sin is extremely dangerous. It is like a cancer that can spread and kill if not treated. You need to apply the blood, the Word, the Spirit and the cross to your life on a regular basis for this reason.
We need to pray for deliverance from evil spirits – for ourselves and others. Whether this be oppression from the outside or infiltration into our soul to any degree – we need to get rid of it. Pray about this, too.
We also need to praise the Lord in our prayer life “Hallowed be your name” and remember that the Kingdom, power and glory belongs to Him. There are lots of songs and words you can use to praise the Lord.
Many times in the Bible we are told to be thankful when we pray. There are at least two reasons for this. One is, it is important to thank God for what we already have, and what He has already done, before going on to ask for more things. What kind of spoilt brat keeps asking his parents for stuff, gets it and never says “Thanks!”?
The second reason for being thankful when we pray is that it actually expresses faith. Even before we see the answer manifest, when we are in faith we can thank God for the answer, “believing that we have received it” and it will be ours (Mark 11:24).
A thankful heart is a happy heart. Thanksgiving is an acceptable offering to God the Father and should be happening constantly (Colossians 3:17). “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Pray the Word
We can turn any promise or command from the Scriptures into an acceptable prayer to God. Praying the Scriptures is a great way to pray the will of God. There are many sample prayers and confessions based on the Word on this website which I encourage you to pray for yourself, your loved ones – even for me!
What Else Are We Commanded to Pray?
One of the most neglected items for prayer is that the Lord may send out (force out) workers into His harvest field.
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37,38 NKJV).
Why isn’t everyone hearing the gospel? Why are there so few people that can really cast out demons and heal the sick effectively? It is because laborers are not being sent into the harvest in sufficient quantities. When laborers are SENT, then God also PROVIDES for them. A lot of people would like to go, but cannot, because they are not sent, and God is not guaranteeing to provide for them financially to work in His harvest field until they are sent. But they won’t be sent, except by a miracle from God. It really seems to be like this. We need to pray hard and long for workers to be sent.
There is a cliche about this verse that the disciples answered their own prayer in Matthew 10:1 when they were sent out. I don’t believe that for a moment. GOD answered the prayer. If we can answer our own prayers then we don’t need to pray. In the same way, we need to pray hard that God send out workers. And praise the Lord if He sends us out. It is an honor to serve. And praise the Lord if He sends someone else out. The Lord knows who He wants to send.
All these things which we are commanded to pray revolve around the extension of God’s Kingdom. I do not believe that this is going to happen as we sit around saying “Que sera sera” (whatever will be, will be). No, our prayers change things, and the absence of our prayers also changes things for the worse. God doesn’t get involved in saving people on the earth apart from the prayers of His people praying somehow, somewhere. This explains why a lot of good things don’t happen.
There are a few basics worth knowing about how to get answers to prayer. Remember that God is interested in answering prayer because it glorifies Him, and blesses the people He loves, but to be a useful partner to God we need to have a heart for God where we reject evil because we trust in God’s goodness and wisdom.
Contact me if you are interested in joining our prayer network. I’m developing a special app and website for this. You will be able to request prayer as well as have a plan to pray the Word of God for others you care about.