For the past several years, I have been privileged to be included on a prayer list of concerns raised by some precious children in a nearby elementary school. They participate in The Good News Club, an after school ministry for a couple of hours once a week, and part of that time is spent in prayer. They then give the leader their prayer requests and it is sent to the various praying participants via email.
As an older adult, it is heart-warming, and sometimes humorous, to read some of their prayer requests.
- Praise that a child’s mom came back to be with her family.
- Prays that his great-grandmother gets better.
- Pray for her teacher’s daughter, that she stops coughing.
- Pray that a fever blister in her mouth will go away
- Pray that he can pay attention
- Pray that the dog will stop barking
Each request, however, reflects a concern that these precious children have, either at home or at school. In other words, these concerns touch their entire universe.
As adults, we have learned to be a bit more obtuse when we pray. Asking for some specific thing for our own selves might be too brash. So, we will phrase it in some other way so that we might be able to trick God into thinking we are praying for others, when it is actually our own desires at issue. Even when intervening on behalf of someone else, most often we tell God what we want Him to do.
In the Canterbury Cathedral, as in the other cathedrals we visited in England, there were many tombs of various persons and heads of the church. We found it interesting that the archbishops were, almost always, depicted with their hands clasped in prayer.
I don’t know if they were praying for their own soul or if they were praying for their congregation, but I do know that prayers of intervention for others are appropriate. For example, Paul says:
We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong, and our prayer is for your perfection.
2 Corinthians 13:9.
In Colossians 1:3-4 he tells his readers that he thanks God for their faith when he prays for them.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints…
Notice, however, that Paul’s prayers are not a laundry list of things that Paul wanted. He certainly did not see the Father as a giant Santa Claus in the sky who would give out goodies for his personal benefit … he didn’t even pray to be released from prison! Read Acts chapter 16 for the incredible story of Paul in jail in Philippi, which was a leading city in the district of Macedonia.
Rather, Paul’s prayers related to strengthening the spiritual welfare of the believers, to the continued spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for healing to occur so that God’s power would be revealed and He would get the glory.
Paul understood that, fundamentally, prayer is a conversation between two parties … the believer in Christ Jesus and God. But these parties are not peers: they are not equal in any manner. We are the creation, and we are mortal. We are sinners and the best we have to offer God is likened to giving Him filthy rags.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Isaiah 64:6 [NIV]
But for God’s sending Jesus Christ, we would not be able to have any prayer life because we could not approach God due to our sin. Christ’s life, death and resurrection defeated the control sin has over us when He clothed us in His righteousness. That is what God sees … sinners clothed in Jesus’ righteousness who were saved by His Grace through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord.
Thank God for the righteousness that has been given to you through Jesus Christ. Grow in your relationship with the Father, feed it with study of His Word, sit quietly and let Him speak to you so that your prayers are not a one-sided conversation that is a thinly veiled demand that God act in a certain way to satisfy your temporal desires.
While we can, and must, pray for the children and their concerns, our prayers must first be recognition of Who God is and we should give thanks for God’s gift of grace, His holiness, His attributes of love, patience, goodness, beauty, … the list could go on.
Through prayer, we can have an intimate relationship with God, the Creator and Sustainer of all. But we must remember that we cannot just barge into God’s court with our demands even if they are camouflaged as requests. We must have respect and reverence for the Almighty God. So, start your prayer with time in adoration of Him. Then, that adoration will naturally lead to confession of those times when we have fallen short of His desires for us. This will flow into thankfulness for the forgiveness and cleansing from our sin that He gives to us through Jesus Christ. And then, and only then, launch into a prayer of supplication. This pattern of prayer is often referred to by the acrostic ACTS.
- A – adoration of God
- C – confession of our sins
- T – thanksgiving for His cleansing of our sins
- S – supplication for others and then, and only then, for ourselves
Offer God prayers of praise and thanksgiving multiple times per day. Praise Him for His love and wondrous works on our behalf. Praise Him for allowing us to come before Him in prayer. Thank Him and let your spirit be, first and foremost, one of gratitude in prayer. Then see if your prayer life takes on new vibrancy when you intercede for others.
A singer from my youth was George Beverly Shea, who frequently sang at the Billy Graham Crusades. On his album Echoes of My Soul, he sings a song entitled “Early in the Morning”. Listen and think about what you can thank the Lord for today!
Father, I thank You for giving me the privilege of coming into Your presence through Your Son, and my Savior, Jesus Christ. I thank You for promising to hear my petitions and I know that You will answer them according to Your divine will. I praise Your name for Your grace and love, extended to all those to believe in the name of Your Son. Strengthen us in prayer as we seek to serve you in our world.