Perhaps the most common warning made about prayer is to not view it as a celestial shopping list. Rather than coming to God and asking Him to fix all the things we don’t like, prayer should be a time when we align our heart to God’s. The danger, however, is that prayer can be used to lift up the needs of others at the entire exclusion of ourselves. This is not what God would have for us. If prayer for ourselves is a necessary part of our walk, how can we be sure our prayer is growth-focused instead of selfish? Here are four examples of prayer in Scripture that you can pray for in your own life.
1. Pray to be filled with wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9)
This is something that Paul prayed over many of the churches that received his letters. Rather than viewing knowledge of God as something earned, Paul asked God in prayer to reveal more of Himself to the people he ministered to. All our study and Bible reading is wonderful, but without the Spirit revealing more of Himself to us, it will always be limited. The book of James specifically commands us to ask God for wisdom when we don’t have it and trust that He will provide it (James 1:5-6). Praying for God to reveal more of Himself reminds us that we are entirely dependent upon Him and helps us slip out of legalistic tendencies that make us feel we’ve “earned God.”
2. Pray to not enter temptation (Luke 22:39-40)
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane right before His crucifixion, this was His command to the disciples. Much effort has been put into teachings, articles, and other resources about how to endure temptation, but many times, the answer is avoiding temptation. Jesus also included praying to avoid temptation in His teachings on prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. Sometimes, living a holy life isn’t being strong enough to withstand a temptation, but being smart enough to run from it. Prayer is often where we’ll find victory. One commentator put it this way:
Jesus knew Peter would fail, yet He encouraged him to victory knowing that the resources are found in watching and praying. – David Guzik
3. Pray that your love abounds (Phil. 1:9)
When Paul writes about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians, the list begins with love. Love is the primary characteristic of a believer. Jesus said that believers could be spotted by their love for one another, believers are called to pursue love in their service of one another, and Romans specifically commands us to live at peace with all men. Truly, without love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Growing in our love, however, is not simply a matter of the will. Often times, we’ll discover that we lack in love and need God to give us more. This kind of humble admission pleases God and is something He loves to respond to. If love was what He wanted His followers to be known for, then it’s something He wants to give to His followers.
4. Pray for boldness (Eph. 6:19)
Often, I’ll look at behold who are bold in their evangelism and wish that I was more like them. I know the fear I can have in sharing God’s Word with someone and wish it wasn’t there. That desire to be free from fear is something Paul expressed at the end of Ephesians when he asked the church to pray that he would be bold in sharing the Gospel. We don’t normally associate fear with Paul and his ministry, but this passage should encourage us as it shows the source of Paul’s boldness was not himself, but God. If God is the source of boldness, then we can come to Him and receive boldness. God desires that believers follow after Him in the mission of making disciples of all nations; having boldness to share God’s Word is a major part of that. Remember, He loves to supply what we lack.
It’s important to remember that this list is not meant to be a complete replacement of praying for sick people you know or immediate needs you have. Rather, this list is meant to help you pray specifically for spiritual growth in your life as well. When it comes to praying for spiritual and physical needs, the answer is not an “either or” but a “both and.” Pray for the needs you have in front of you, but also include some things you know you need to work on spiritual. Prayer is one of the most powerful things available to a believer; let’s make sure we’re using it to its full capacity.