Prayer is important. We know this. But have you ever wondered what you should be praying for?
Repentance: Getting Right with God
In Proverbs 28:13, we read: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
Similarly, in Psalms 66:18, we find: “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
Although everything God tells us to pray for is important and necessary, repentance is a first-priority prayer item. We need to make sure that we are right with God before all else. After all, how can we grow in intimacy with God if there is sin that is actively pulling us apart from him?
To Obey: Listening and Responding to God’s Word
We spent the entirety of last week talking about reading God’s Word and the importance of consistent, daily devotions. Here’s why: God commands us to obey the commandments and principles that are laid out in his Word. How are we supposed to obey God if we don’t know what he expects from us?
Proverbs 28:9 says: “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” Although Solomon is referring to the Old Testament Law in this passage, I believe that the same principle applies to the rest of God’s Word as well. If we are living in sin, refusing to obey the commandments found in the Bible, our prayer is an abomination to God. That’s a big word, and an even bigger deal. Our relationship with Him is severed.
In Matthew 26:41, Jesus tells us to “Watch and pray” so that we don’t give in to temptation because the “spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We cannot and will not overcome the temptation to disobey God on our own. We need God’s help. We need his strength. This comes through consistent studying of his Word… and through prayer.
Wisdom: Making Those Big Decisions
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
As you get older, and as you receive more freedom from your parents, you are confronted by a number of decisions. The more freedom you get, the more decisions you have no choice but to make. Who to marry. When to marry. Where to go to university. What career to pursue. It can be insane, and even slightly (okay, really) stressful. Thankfully, we’re told in the book of James that we don’t have to handle these decisions alone. God tells us that he will gladly give us wisdom—we just have to ask.
For me, praying for wisdom often means praying for the small things. Whether it’s wisdom in my response to a hurtful message from a friend or praying that I won’t be rash in the way I handle my relationships, I find myself going before God and asking him to help me handle the situation with wisdom. Remember, there is no situation too small to take before God. There’s a reason we’re told to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17)!
Peace: God’s Got Your Back
Finally, in Philippians 4:6-7, we read: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
There are a handful of places in the Bible (Ps. 55:22, 1 Pet. 5:7, etc) where God tells us not to worry, but to talk to him about our concerns and to allow him to bear our burdens. In Philippians 4:7, quoted above, he tells us that we WILL receive peace if we present our requests to him.
These are just a few of the many things we are commanded to pray for in Scripture. God also tells us to pray for fellow believers, for our oppressors, for our government, etc. I believe, however, that this is a great place for us to start as we work on building better habits in regard to prayer.
As you pray this week, I encourage you to run through this list in your mind. Be asking, “Is there any sin I need to repent of?” Be realizing that you need God’s help with obedience and ask for the conviction to obey His Word. Be considering the upcoming decisions in your life, whether big or small, and ask for his wisdom. And finally, don’t be anxious! Ask God for the peace that transcends all understanding.