Do you ever wonder what the Lord is thinking when you are praying to Him? Sometimes when I pray, I think He must think: “Oh, No! Here he comes again!” I know my prayers often sound like this: “Dear Lord: I, me, my, mine; me, me, me. And Lord, I need, I lack, I desire, I want…me, my, mine; me, me, me. And, Lord, one more thing; I, me, my, mine; me, me, me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
Prayer is the easiest thing to do—but the hardest thing to do consistently well. Sometimes prayer is simply a rapid response to a crisis. Thankfully, our prayers don’t have to be long to be heard. When Peter walked on the water, he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. As he was going down, Peter uttered a three-word prayer: “Lord save me!” (Matthew 14:30). One word of that prayer could not be left out without affecting it. His prayer was short and to the point. And the Lord answered it, saving him from drowning.
One of the best ways to improve your prayer life is to read the prayers of men and women recorded in the Bible. The deep spirituality of our Lord’s prayer in the Upper Room the night of His betrayal, recorded in John 17, is like a graduate level course in how to pray. Hannah’s prayer after dedicating her only son Samuel, to the Lord, is powerful and moving (1 Samuel 1:27—2:10). The prayer of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4-11), confessing, repenting and praising His Lord is inspiring and beneficial, even today. Mary’s prayer after learning she would bear the Messiah (Luke 1:46-55), is so rich and full, it is called her Magnificat, “My soul” from the first words of the verse in Latin. Her prayer of praise includes 15 discernible quotations from the Old Testament.
The apostle Paul’s recorded prayers are great examples of things for which we should pray. His prayers are also striking in what they did not contain. Though Paul’s prison epistles (Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon) were written from a damp prison cell, he never once asked people to pray for his release or comfort. When he did ask for prayer of the Colossians, he wrote: “Praying also for us…that God will open up to us a door for the Word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ…that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Col. 4:3-4).
So, what can we learn about praying from Paul’s prayer? Using his prayer in Colossians 1 as an example, here are some things for which we should pray:
- Pray to Know God’s Will, v. 9 “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
Jesus taught His followers to pray in specifics, not in generalities. He said, “Ask [verbalize it] and it shall be given to you, Seek [act on it] and you will find, Knock [persist in it] and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, emphasis mine).
More than anything else, every believer needs to be “filled with the knowledge of His will.” God has a will for each person. And, every Christian needs to be prayerful about finding and doing His will.
- Pray to Walk in God’s Ways, v. 10 “So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects.”
God’s desire for believers is that they walk, or live their lives in a manner worthy of Him. For the Christian, life is not about pleasing yourself but Him who saved you. Life for believers is about conducting their lives in harmony with God’s Word and his will. Paul even wrote, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). We should seek to “please Him in all respects”…in every way.
- Pray to Bear God’s Fruit, v. 10 “Bearing fruit in every good work.”
The whole purpose of the Christian life is to serve God and bear fruit for Him. Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8). In fact, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Fruit is evidenced in three ways: Converts (bringing others to Christ); Conduct (living clean for Him); and Character (manifesting fruit of the Spirit—Gal. 5:22-26). Let us abide in Him to bear fruit to His glory (John 15:4).
- Pray to Increase in God’s Knowledge, v. 10 “Increasing in the knowledge of God”
The average Christian has a feeble knowledge of God. Some people only know what they learned as children in Sunday School, and have not grown in knowledge, faith or obedience. We should pray to increase in what we know about God (from His Word) and what we have learned about Him (in our walk). Let your knowledge of God be a growing database of information and experience.
- Pray to Grow in God’s Strength, v. 11 “Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might”
God wants you to grow stronger in your Christian life, and will help you. He is the resource for strength in life. As you live in His will, grow in His Word, are indwelt by His Spirit—you can walk in His strength. God’s prophet Zechariah strengthened Zerubbabel by reminding him: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). AND: This promise still stands!