“Prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. . . . We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence.” – Tim Keller, Prayer
Prayer is our personal and corporate communion with God. It is how we engage in relationship and conversation with our King, Lover, Savior, and Shepherd. We are both commanded to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and to seek God’s presence continually (1 Chronicles 16:11). Overall, there are 650 prayers listed throughout the Bible. Our call to pray is not something that should be taken lightly but with consistent and expectant joy. It is a joy and grace that we can come before God in prayer and petition for ourselves, and even more so for others. 1 Timothy 2:1 urges us to pray for all people, and James 5:16 commands us to confess our sins to one another pray for one another. It is a great privilege to pray at all, but how much more of a privilege is it to be able to pray for the people we love? With this in mind, let us consider how prayer should include both our own petitions and the petitions of others.
There is no special formula or quick trick to learn to pray. Our prayer life is cultivated over time through our understanding of God’s grace, continued study of God’s Word, and consistency in prayer. It is only through our understanding of God’s grace that we can come to pray rightly. If we pray with the mindset of God as a genie in a bottle, or with the idea that we can win God’s favor, then we have deeply misunderstood what God has done, and the purpose of prayer.
Prayer is an act of communion that we have gained through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the cross and reconciled us back to God. His sacrifice made the way for our sin to be fully covered so that we can have full access to God through prayer. Before making any petition or prayer, we must rightly acknowledge that we can come to the throne of God because of Jesus’ atoning work. This grants us hopeful expectation as we pray and believe John 15:7:
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Not only do we come with hopeful expectation, but we come to God in prayer as His words abide in us. We must pray in response to God’s Word because prayer is first and foremost communion and a conversation between ourselves and God. Even when we don’t know what to pray, we can come to the throne of God, and joyfully expect Him to move because the Spirit intercedes for us.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” – Romans 8:26-27
With this at the forefront of our minds, we can begin praying by looking to Jesus and how He taught His disciples to pray in the Lord’s Prayer.
As we contemplate the Lord’s Prayer, let us look at each statement and phrase, and consider how we might pray for others in response to God’s Word with an understanding of grace:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name-
We start our prayer by first acknowledging whose we are. God is our Father, and we are His children. Placing this at the beginning of our prayers helps to remind us that God is a good Father, who loves to give good gifts (Luke 11:13, James 1:17). We follow this by placing God in His rightful place— on the throne. To hallow God’s name is to give Him the due honor that He deserves. This leads us to begin our prayers with songs of praise and to ask God to extend His power over every area of our lives—emotional, physical, and spiritual. Therefore, we should pray that others find their identity as a child of God and honor Him as their Lord, praising Him for the good works He is doing in their lives.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven-
As we move out of our praise of God, we move into praying through God’s revealed will in His Word. First, we pray that God’s kingdom would abound. We pray that the gospel would be proclaimed among the nations and that the Word of the Lord may be honored in our churches and evangelism efforts (2 Thessalonians 3:1). We pray that God would save the unbelievers in our lives, and the unreached people groups in our world (Romans 10:1). Even more so, we pray for the boldness of others as they proclaim the good news of the gospel to those they come across (Acts 4:29).
Not only do we pray that God’s kingdom come but that His will be done. We want to put our own will to death and seek to submit to God’s will through prayer and obedience to His Word. Just as Jesus prayed these words in the Garden of Gethsemane before His death, we pray that God would grant this for those we are praying for—grace to joyfully bear with whatever His will brings. This, and only this, will provide consistent peace amidst circumstantial upheaval and relational discord, as we trust God’s sovereign plan.
Give us this day our daily bread-
As we come before God seeking our daily bread, we petition for the needs of others.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6
Philippians 4:6 gives us permission to present all our requests to God, whether little or big. This is where we rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping. We pray for those who are suffering and sing praises for those who are doing well (James 5:13). We ask that God grant the knowledge of His will and all spiritual wisdom and discernment for others (Colossians 1:9). We pray that their faith would be strengthened (Luke 22:32) and love would abound (Philippians 1:9-11). We mimic Romans 15:13 as we pray:
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Not only do we pray these things for those that we love, but we are also called to lament over the wrong-doing and hurt of others. The Psalms offer practical and peaceful ways to pray for others when there has been a sin against you. Therefore, we lament over the injustice and the hurt, but we also obey Jesus’ command to pray for those who have persecuted us or have been persecuted.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:43-45
Prayer – Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors-
In a world full of sin and brokenness, we will inevitably sin against God and one another. Therefore, we must make a regular practice of confessing and repenting of sin (1 John 1:9). Repentance is turning away from sin and shame and turning toward the Lord (2 Chronicles 7:14). When we do this, we ask for forgiveness for the ways we have grieved Him and failed at loving others, and trust in His mercy and grace towards us. Repentance helps us to see ourselves as we are—sinners in a need of a savior—but forgiven and loved so we can forgive and love others well (1 John 4:19).
When we come to the Lord on behalf of others, we pray that God would lead them into confession and repentance and then plead with God to forgive those who do not yet know Him (Luke 23:34). If there is hurt between others, we remember the great grace that Jesus has had on us and ask God to help them forgive those who have wronged them. We pray that relationships be reconciled, and unity in the body be found, as we ultimately submit to whatever God has planned (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Peter 3:8).
Prayer – Lead us not into temptation-
Jesus before His death told His disciples to be watchful and pray that they might not enter temptation (Matthew 26:41). May we have the same mindset for ourselves, our people, and our churches. Riches, power, influence, and glory tempt us to think we do not need God, just as poverty, fear, affliction, and cynicism tempt us to lose hope and become angry with God. Either way, the temptation we face on this earth can become weighty and warrants our prayer against it on behalf of others.
Prayer – Deliver us from evil-
Last but definitely not least of the petitions, we pray for protection from evil. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We lift others up for spiritual protection, to be sober-minded and watchful. We pray they have the strength to resist the devil, firm in the faith, believing that God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish them no matter the trial faced (1 Peter 5:8-10).
Finally, as we pray for others, we finish our prayers by trusting in God’s power and grace to grant what is good, as they are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). It is here, that we seek to end our prayers with peace and contentment as we trust in the whole truth of God, despite any circumstance, scare, or celebration we may be looming.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/TinnakornJorruang
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life.
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