The Problem With Prayer
This morning a friend shared with me that she's already struggling with a New Year's resolution she made. As 2023 began, my friend resolved to pray daily for the different people in her family. Although she’s been faithful to do this, she explained that her prayers have been focused on a lot of the things many of us tend to pray about for the people we love: things like good health, safety, and happiness.
The problem is that after praying this way for eleven days, my friend felt like her prayers had become superficial. Or as she put it, “My prayers feel like they got no meat on ‘em.” The result is that - after only eleven days - my friend has become discouraged in keeping her resolution to daily pray for her family.
I can understand her frustration and the feelings that her prayers were superficial, because I’ve wrestled with the same issue. So I shared with her what God has encouraged me with, and it’s found in Ephesians 1:16-17. In that passage, the Apostle Paul writes, “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” I love this passage because in it Paul told the Ephesians specifically what he prays for them. And in doing so, he gives us clear directions on how we should be praying for each other as well.
Paul's prayers for the believers in Ephesus are focused on wanting God to give them wisdom and understanding, so that they will grow in their knowledge of Him. So when Paul decided to pray for his friends, he didn’t choose something that seems good from the world's perspective. Instead, he chose to pray for the thing that’s the most important in his own life - knowing God. Listen to how he put it in Philippians 3:8, where he wrote, “What’s more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
What Paul helps us understand between these two passages is that the best thing we could want for those we love is not necessarily good health, or a better job, or an easy life. It’s that they would grow in their relationship with God. It’s a shift in thinking because it requires us to acknowledge that the best thing we can have in life is an internal thing. It’s not comfort, or good health, or security, or any of the things we tend to think are important. Instead, it’s knowing God. So that should form the foundation of how we pray for each other.
Does it mean we don't pray for the practical or physical needs of our family and friends? Not at all - God cares about every detail of our lives. It just means that even in those specific prayers, we ask that God will use everything to draw our family and friends closer to Him, and to help them grow in their knowledge of Him. So today, let's pray for the people in our lives. But let’s pray that first and foremost they will draw closer to God, making Him the top priority in their lives.