A friend of mine saw my post on a daily prayer list in 2012 and sent me this note:
“Roger, I tried writing a list of 10 – 50 prayers and I am finding difficulty in doing this. Specifically, I am finding difficulty in praying for specific things for myself. Any help with this will be appreciated.”
It’s a great question. On the one hand, there are people who refuse to ask anything for themselves, and some of these even announce somewhat proudly that this is their stance, and then there are others like my friend, who feel, well, wrong about presenting personal needs and desires to God.
Here are a few thoughts in response:
- Delight yourself in the Lord, and then pray for whatever your heart desires. (Psalm 37:4) The Lord is my chief good. He is my great desire. I want to know Him and walk with Him and delight in Him all of my days. With this in mind, then, I think we should pray boldly for our needs and desires, but ask God to make our desires, His desires. I prayed for a godly wife for a long time, and then after meeting Diane and marrying her, we had two miscarriages, and I got serious praying for children. I have certainly prayed for money or material goods along the way in life. I suppose these were selfish requests, but God “…knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14 ESV). So confess your weakness and ask boldly.
- Never ever ask with a demanding spirit. This seems to be one of the problems with the Israelites’ petition for a King (1 Samuel 8:5 – 7), which displeased God. And though Job was a godly man, he too got a little overzealous in demanding an audience with the Judge of all the earth, so God answered Him out of the whirlwind. Therefore, whatever you ask the Lord for, ask with faith, that is, knowing God can answer; but also ask with humility, remembering that He is a loving Heavenly Father Who knows whether or not your request will be a blessing to you and His Kingdom.
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer. If you organize your prayer times like Jesus taught us to, you will always ask for Kingdom-minded and God-oriented items first. The Lord’s Prayer is a guide to asking, and I’ll be writing a post on how to pray The Lord’s Prayer before too long, but suffice it to say that the first three requests are 1) …that people would honor God, 2) …that His Kingdom would be advanced, and 3) …that His will would be done. That said, if you use another form like ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication), no problem – you don’t have to pray in the form that Jesus taught, but it sure works well for me. It is the basic form for prayer I use every day, and I do think it keeps our hearts oriented on what’s important.
- Pray in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but Yours be done.” This dovetails with not having a demanding spirit. There are some things I pray for in particular, and I frankly wonder if they are God’s will, and when I get to these on my list, I have that sense, whether I say it or not, “Lord, I certainly hold this with an open hand, and I’m not sure I’m in your will here or not, so work it out according to Your infinite wisdom.”
- The bottom line is, pray for your needs and desires, just like a child asks His father, and trust Him to answer according to His will. No one is so mature that they can always know what they are asking is purely unselfish. My motives are a mixed bag, and I’m sure that’s true for all of us. So just pray – pray, pray, pray…and glorify your Heavenly Father when He answers!