It is easy for us to get too focussed on one or two issues in prayer. This might be because they matter to us, or it might be because we have run out of ideas. Praying for our needs, e.g. health, is a good and right thing to do. Yet, do we remember to pray for our spiritual needs as well? Similarly, how much do we pray for other people's spiritual lives as well as their health and general well-being?
If we look at some of Paul's letters, we see some interesting ideas for praying for ourselves and others:
- "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11, NIV)
- "Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." (1 Corinthians 14:1, ESV)
- "making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power" (Ephesians 1:16-19, NKJV)
- "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you," (Colossians 1:3, TNIV)
- "And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding," (Colossians 1:9, ESV)
- "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should." (Colossians 4:2-4, NIV)
- "My dear friends, we always have good reason to thank God for you, because your faith in God and your love for each other keep growing all the time." (2 Thessalonians 1:3, CEV)
Even if we don't use this precise language, we can still pray along these lines for one another. They were themes that clearly mattered to Paul and they would have helped the churches he planted to get a sense for his priorities in prayer, particularly in pastoral prayer for others.
Perhaps you could take one of these ideas and add it to your prayer for today?
Praying like this for others is an act of love. Praying intelligently about details of people's lives and following up to find out if prayers have been answered are great ways of building relationships and communities. Perhaps our vision as individuals and churches can grow through thinking pastorally and theologically about how we pray.
© Joe Lenton, July 2012