Does anyone have a prayer request?
The question is often asked in prayer meetings and Bible studies. The responses usually contain some element of immediate physical needs and very seldom do any petitions for spiritual growth arise. Then after moments of sharing, a few people or sometimes just one person says a quick prayer to cover the requests before moving on to the rest of the meeting.
While I am not against gathering prayer requests and it is often my practice when leading a Bible study, the Lord is challenging me to consider if this is the best, biblical, and the only way we should be engaging in intercessory prayer?
There we were sitting at our favorite table and meeting spot. She was sharing how powerful it was to be praying in her home but how in the midst of her prayer time, the enemy slithered his way into her thoughts and whispered,
“This is a waste of time and it is too late.”
She quickly dismissed the thought and proceeded with her prayer time. But what the enemy didn’t realize is that by opening his mouth, he was also showing his hand. In Satan’s boastfulness, he forgot that God is NEVER too late and by voicing his feeble attempt at sowing seeds of uselessness, he instead gave us the ammunition we needed to pray for 40 days. He showed that he was scared and wanted to prevent her from succeeding in this area for her home and family and what resulted was the 40 Days of Focus Prayer For Friends guide.
Simple enough, the guide encourages you to pray for four friends for forty days. It also invites you to find a scripture verse to pray for each particular request. As I prayed and sought the Lord for who He wanted me to ask to pray for as well as their requests, God revealed to me some areas to consider when praying.
Pray In The Spirit According To God’s Will
When receiving prayer requests from others, we tend to jump right in and assume we know what and how to pray for any given request. But as Wayne Jacobsen reminds us in the article Do You Ever Refuse A Prayer Request?, our assumptions may not be aligned with God’s will.
As we receive prayer requests and begin praying for others, it is a good reminder to start our prayer time by asking God to show us how to pray over the request and then listen. Henry Holloman in the book, The Forgotten Blessing: Rediscovering the Transforming Power of Sanctification, expresses the importance of relying on the Spirit to control and direct our prayers.
Twice Scripture commands believers to pray “in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20). To pray in the Spirit requires that we rely on the Spirit to control and direct our prayers. Praying in the Spirit is not just one way to pray; it is the only way for Christians to pray in God’s will.
Seeking to understand what God’s will is in any given request before just assuming we know what He wants us to pray moves us to evaluate our current requests before the Lord.
Evaluate Your Current Requests
As mentioned in the opening, all too often our prayer requests center around current physical needs and comfort while lacking any spiritual depth. After receiving my friends requests for what they desired to be prayed for forty days, I noticed that there were more requests prone to spiritual growth over the immediate healings, provisions, etc. that typically come up in a traditional Bible study or prayer meeting. It was as if when we knew that we would be consistent and persistent in praying over a particular area, we gave more thought to what God wanted us to pray. Holloman notes the negligence we tend to fall into when it comes time to pray:
Requests for spiritual needs for oneself and for others is a major neglect in most Christian prayers.
But we are not left hopeless in this area. Holloman continues,
We can reorder our priorities about prayer requests by studying the biblical prayers, and by noting the strong emphasis on spiritual requests.
The idea of extended focused prayers brought us more in line with praying in the Spirit than just taking prayer requests. Thus, interceding for spiritual needs surfaced.
Intercede For Spiritual Needs
It is a whole lot easier to pray for a physical need than it is for a spiritual. Physical needs are less threatening because they do not take as much relational time as a spiritual need requires or sometimes even demands. But Scripture teaches us that if we are to intercede on behalf of our fellow believers, we must be willing to take the relational time to pray for and with others. Again Holloman challenges us in this area by looking at the example of Paul and then asking a very poignant question.
Paul prayed primarily for the spiritual growth of other Christians. Each Christian should ask, “Am I faithful in praying for the sanctification of fellow Christians and for their specific spiritual needs as well as their physical needs?”
Interceding for the spiritual needs for ourselves and others takes time, but it also takes endurance.
Pray It Through
Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
In the book How To Pray, R.A. Torrey gives a great picture of what staying alert in prayer requires. He writes:
How seldom we pray things through! How often the church and individual get right up to the verge of a great blessing in prayer and just then let go, get drowsy, and quit. I wish these words “being sleepless unto prayer” might burn into our hearts.
The moment you stop praying could be the very moment God wanted to move in the life of your friend or family member. God’s will is going to be done, but He desires for us to participate in it with Him. What blessings we miss out on when we stop praying due to discouragement.
The resistance is strong.
We have an enemy who wants nothing more than for us to get discouraged in our prayer time. But again, we do have hope. Consider Daniel’s petition before God and the amount of time it took him before he received an answer.
“Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for 21 days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to help you understand what will happen to our people in the last days, for the vision refers to those days.” Daniel 10:12-14
Can you see the enemy’s tactic in discouraging Daniel and desiring for him to believe God does not hear or answer?
Before you stop praying, remember we have a God who hears and answers and we have an enemy who wants to separate us from God.
Press on dear believer!