A friend is going through a challenging time and asked me to pray for him. It wasn’t a toss-off request like I hear sometimes where someone casually asks, “say a prayer” without much expectation that I or someone will pray or that it will have any affect, and not a blanket request such as those that sometimes go out as if in the hopes that if enough prayers go up God will be moved (as if He has a magic number in mind unknown to us and is sitting up there going “999,997, …998, …999, 1,000,000! Ok, guess it’s time to help out on that tax audit. No, wait a minute, that was a prayer for healing; they’re still 200,000 prayers short.”)
My friend’s request was sincere in the hope and expectation that change was not only possible but that help would indeed be on the way. I share that expectation and agreed to pray. In my life and that of my family I’ve seen prayers big and small answered regularly, sometimes dramatically and sometimes in surprising ways. It’s not because I’m especially righteous or, given my advertising background, really good at coming up with juicy phrases that really “sell” God on the idea. Instead my experience is that the best prayers are the ones the line up with scripture, aka the word of God.
In Isiah 55:11, God says His word does not return to Him void, but accomplishes what He desires. Another scripture says there is no word of God that is not able to be. Once I understood the power that was in His word I stopped praying in terms of my “wish” list and tried to line up with His “will” list; how did my needs or the needs I was praying for fit with what His word said? I realized that God does not look after our needs to fulfill them. If that was the case, who would still have needs? No, I believe God looks after His word to perform it. This could easily get into a long, minimally useful discussion of doctrine and works and that’s not what I’m trying to stir up. My point is that I’ve seen the most change in my life and in others when my prayers are pulled from scripture and not from my imagination.
In my friend’s case, while I know his request is aimed at a specific need right now, I believe the answer he’s looking for is included in a much larger package. It is a major challenge in his life, however, and too big to trust to my smooth words or big thoughts. Instead I’m praying for him using the words of a guy who knew a thing or two about getting God’s attention: the apostle Paul. My family and I have used the following prayers for ourselves and others often and seen great things happen as a result. Understand, however, that my faith isn’t in the writer of the words or the words themselves, but in the Author. I include these prayers here for your reference as well; pray them for yourself, your family, your friends, your church, and especially for your enemies! “Imagine” what these words would look like if they came to pass in their lives!
* Insert your name, or the name of the person you’re praying for.
For this reason, ever since I heard about *’s faith in the Lord Jesus and *’s love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for *, remembering * in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give * the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that * may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of *’s heart may be enlightened in order that * may know the hope to which He has called *, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for those who believe.
This is my prayer: that *’s love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that * may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.
For this reason, since the day we heard about *, we have not stopped praying for * and asking God to fill * with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that * may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that * may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified * to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen * with power through His Spirit in *’s inner being, so that Christ may dwell in *’s heart through faith. And I pray that *, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that * may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Remember, “Amen” means “so be it!”