Prayer

Pray for Spiritual Needs, Not Just Stubbed Toes

Think about the last time you were in a group prayer time. What kind of needs were prayed for most? I would guess physical needs. The illnesses and financial provision among others.   

 

It is very appropriate and right to pray for these requests, but my fear is that we too often neglect praying for spiritual needs. Recently I wrote about praying specifically, and now I want to focus on the content of those specific prayers.

 

If anyone sees a fellow believer committing a sin that doesn’t lead to death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t lead to death. There is sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that.” (1 John 5:16, CSB)  

 

This verse is clearly about a spiritual need–a believer sins. We can confidently pray for wayward sinners because God will restore abundant life. John has written much about sin in First John. He is clear that believers will still sin (1:8), but that they will not be characterized by a lifestyle of sin (3:8-9; 5:18). Jesus (he who was born of God) protects his followers and Satan cannot overtake them (5:18).

 

One of the blessings of being part of the family of God is that when we sin, we have a community of people who should prayerfully encourage us back to righteousness.

 

“We naturally pray for those who are ill, and we should just as naturally pray for those who are straying away from God. It is just as natural a thing to pray for the cure of the soul as it is to pray for the cure of the body. It may be that there is nothing greater that we can do for the man who is straying away, and who is in peril of making shipwreck of life, than to commit him to the grace of God.”  ~William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 138.

When we see a brother committing a sin, we are to approach God on his account. We are to pray that he would find the fullness of life again. We are pray that whatever is trying to steal, kill, and destroy him would be bound from him and that he would be restored to Christ. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV)

What do you do when you see a brother committing sin?  

  • Ignore it? Maybe you worry about offending him by pointing it out.
  • Gossip? If your first response is to gossip rather than pray, you need to get rid of the log in your eye first (Matt. 7:5).

 

How can you make a practice of praying for spiritual needs?  

 

  • Change your prayer list. In your personal list, add a category called “spiritual requests” or something similar and add these kind of requests: those who need salvation, those who need to turn from active sin, and those who are struggling to keep their eyes on Jesus through difficult times (spiritual needs are almost always present in times of suffering).
  • Our church recently changed our weekly prayer list in our Ministry Guide to include these three categories: thanksgiving, mission, intercession. This is a way of teaching people how to pray. The “mission” section is like our spiritual requests (not for specific people usually but more church-wide requests related to our mission of carrying out the Great Commision).

 

    • Actually get to know people. Praying for spiritual needs will probably require you to get beyond the how are you/I’m fine passing conversation that requires no attention to the person. Be interested in him. Get to know his soul. Talk about struggles and real life situations. Be authentic.

 

  • Ask a better question. If you are leading a group time, don’t open prayer time asking does anybody have any prayer requests?  Most people will go into default mode of sharing about Grandma’s stubbed toe.  Instead, ask: who can we pray for that is struggling spiritually or needs their soul strengthened through difficulty right now? Your responses won’t be so much about that toe now.

 

 

Pray for spiritual needs and experience the abundant life that Christ offers.

 

For What Are You Asking? A Lesson on Praying Specifically

2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.   (James 4:2-3)

 

For What Are You Asking?

You won’t see specific answers when your requests are so vague. Do you ask for anything outside of what God’s good character already provides?

 

Me: God, be with Sally today.

God: I already am. I’m omnipresent and promised never to leave you or forsake you.

Me: Lord, bless the Smith family.

God:  They are blessed. They woke up breathing today and ate breakfast. They have clothing and shelter. Is there anything else you’re thinking about?

 

A great example of specific prayer is in Mark 10:46-52. Let me summarize it: a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside in Jericho. When he heard that Jesus was walking by, he cries out twice: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

Jesus called Bartimaeus over to him and asked this question, which could greatly change your prayer life:  What do you want me to do for you?

Do you see how Jesus pushed Bartimaeus beyond vagueness to specificity? Have mercy on me is not a bad prayer, but Jesus could have easily said: I already am merciful: you’re not in the pits of hell suffering for your sin right now. Instead, you’re still on this earth.

Specific prayer forces you to consider your situation and fine-tune your request to God’s will.  It forces you to consider the desires of your heart and align them with God’s will.

Look how Bartimaeus fine-tuned his request: Rabbi, let me recover my sight.  Now we see what mercy really meant to him. This request must have been in line with God’s will because he healed Bartimaeus, resulting in others praising God (Luke 18:43).

 

Tips for Praying Specifically

  • Consider Jesus’ question: What do you want me to do for you? Don’t be tempted into selfishness (James 4:3 is clear about our motive), but let it push you beyond vagueness.
  • Keep a prayer journal of specific requests, and then record specific answers. I keep a black Word notebook in my back right pocket so I can write down requests as I think of them or are asked to pray. Looking back over what you were praying and how God has been answering prayer will help you fine-tune your requests to His will.

 

What helps you pray specifically and consistently?

5 Ways To Strengthen Your Faith During Your Commute

  1. Enjoy silence. This idea seems crazy in such a busy world, but it might be the most peaceful time of your day! Sure, you’ll hear vehicles and other sounds, but let silence be a calming morning mercy to help prepare your mind for a productive day. On the way home, let it help you digest the day’s activities, or prepare for being present at home or ready for evening activities.
  2. Pray and/or meditate. It is kind of like Jesus’ getting away in the mornings (Luke 5:16); we just do it in a vehicle. Talk to God while you drive (this might help with your road rage too!). Or use this time to meditate on a passage you read recently. Justin Taylor’s article at the Gospel Coalition summarizes Donald Whitney’s methods of Scripture meditation—try this.
  3. Listen to the Bible.  The YouVersion app (and others) have audio versions of certain translations. Imagine how much of the Bible you could hear while driving! Hearing it will help store it in your heart (Ps 119:11) and will never return void. Many newer vehicles have bluetooth connectivity that would allow you to listen through your phone, or you can find Bibles on CD, maybe even at your library.
  4. Learn with podcasts and audiobooks.  If you’re in the car for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, why not challenge your mind with new information or be encouraged by leaders in different fields? In your podcast app, look up a topic that interests you and explore the options. Again, with bluetooth connectivity, you can listen through your phone in your car. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you are listening to Five To Focus! But search through the Christianity category and you will find many options. Bonus tip:  Most podcast apps allow listening at 1.5x or 2x speed, and you usually can hear every word still while taking less time to listen to a podcast. Audiobooks are very popular now with services like Audible and even OverDrive (free options using your public library card account).
  5. Make Phone Calls. Maybe you’re in a sales position and need to speak with your clients. Maybe you need to talk with a family member or church member. Or maybe you’re a pastor and just need to check in with some of your church members. Imagine if you just made one call a day during your commute. That’s 4 to 5 more contacts with church members every week—and it’s effortless and helpful.

 

Of course, be safe and pay attention to the road!

 

What do you do during your commute?

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