Is it wrong to pray for oneself? about how to make "ends meet"? about how to overcome? Just what should one pray about?
MANY do not know what to pray about. We are often asked, "What can I pray about?" Some say, "I ask God to forgive, to guide and direct me. I ask God to bless the work, the ministers, and the Church. What else is there to pray about?"
The Bible makes plain that the FIRST STEP in learning what to pray about is to realize WHOM we are praying to. Did you take time today to get down on your knees and become acquainted, in prayer, with God? Or are you waiting for the right "feeling"? the right mood? Are you, day after day, "putting off" praying until tomorrow because you do not think of anything to pray about? — because you just don't feel comfortable praying to God? Notice what Jesus instructed His disciples to pray about when they asked him to teach them to pray. Jesus said — as quoted in archaic English in the King James Version, "When ye pray, say, OUR FATHER which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name" (Luke 11:1-2). We must first acknowledge the greatness of our HEAVENLY Father. Our faith increases when we realize that what He has promised He can and will perform! He is the God of Heaven — the Ruler of the whole universe. Abraham strengthened his faith by giving glory to God. "He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised" (Rom. 4:20-21, R.S.V.). David was a praying man. David constantly gave glory and praise to God. His last public prayer is given in the Bible and is an excellent example of how to give God Glory and Honor — of what to pray about, "BLESSED are thou, LORD God of Israel our FATHER, for ever and ever. Thine, O LORD is the GREATNESS, and the POWER, and the GLORY, and the VICTORY, and the MAJESTY; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the KINGDOM, O LORD, and thou art EXALTED as HEAD ABOVE ALL. Both RICHES and HONOR come from thee, and thou RULEST over all... In thy hand it is to make GREAT and to GIVE STRENGTH to all. And now therefore, our God, we THANK THEE, and PRAISE thy glorious name" (I Chron. 29:10-13). Do you glorify the majesty, the power, and the wisdom of God in prayer? After you have praised and honored God and hallowed His Holy name then you pray —
"Thy Will Be Done"
Notice carefully that Christ next set us the example to pray: "Thy Kingdom come, THY WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Mat. 6:10). What IS God's Will for this earth? We can know! God makes it clear in His Word what His Will is. In Mat. 24:14 we read: "This gospel of the Kingdom SHALL be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations." This one verse teaches a great deal about HIS WILL. HOW is this work of preaching and publishing the Gospel to all the world being done? It is through the "World Tomorrow" broadcast, the PLAIN TRUTH, the GOOD NEWS, the CORRESPONDENCE COURSE, the BOOKLETS, the advertising in READER'S DIGEST, the Letter Answering Department, the evangelistic campaigns, the baptizing tours, the local visiting teams, even through the Ambassador College ENVOY — and especially through EACH and EVERY minister of God. Are you praying for the success and effectiveness of ALL THESE THINGS? It is GOD'S WILL that you do! Pray for the "World Tomorrow" broadcast. Pray that each time it goes out over the air new people will be caused to listen to it. Pray that doors to reach each section of the world, not now being reached at this time, will be opened. Pray that God will train and send out laborers to reap the harvest of interested listeners of the "World Tomorrow" broadcast (Mat. 9:38). Pray that God will send the right students to Ambassador College, men and women who have the ability and talents and the submissiveness that He can use in His Work. Don't forget to pray that the students who are already in Ambassador College may bear more fruit. Pray for the co-worker letters, that God will lay it on the hearts of the readers to support this WORK with their prayers, their tithes and their offerings. And how long do you think it would take you to pray for each and every minister, carefully, diligently? Ask God to give them the power of His Holy Spirit, His knowledge, His wisdom, that He might use them as instruments through whom He nourishes the flock He has chosen. Ask God to use them to preach from the scripture the words that are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16). Don't pray these exact words. Jesus didn't say: "Pray this." He said "Pray thus!" Build upon and expand these suggestions. You can think of many other things to pray about when interceding for God's ministers. These are but a few examples, a small beginning of things to pray for. You can think of many others. Praying for each phase of the work is important. In fact, the very existence of the work of God depends upon your prayers. For example: When we pray that God lay it on the hearts of the people of this country to send tithes and offerings to support the cost of preaching and publishing this Gospel message to the entire world, it is His WILL to honor that prayer. He goes into action. He directly intervenes in the very lives of the people of this country and MAKES them send in more money than they would have otherwise. Thus, through daily prayer you add to the list in heaven of those you are helping to lead down the path that leads to eternal life. Your reward is certain. PRAYER is YOUR ministry. Lack of prayer will keep you out of the Kingdom of God! God expects you to do your part. That is His will.
"Give Us Our Daily Bread"
Did you know your DAILY BREAD is dual? Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger" (John 6:35). Come to God through daily prayer and Bible study and He will supply your DAILY spiritual needs. You have more daily need of spiritual food than even of physical food — but God here promises you both, if you will only ask Him. Why is it that some who know God wants to supply us daily with all our needs immediately begin to ask God for things that satisfy the lust of the flesh. Their prayers are usually very short and filled with I's, me's and mine's. It's "God give me this" and "God give me that." "Ye ask," retorts James, "and receive NOT, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:2).
Jesus also said to ask God to "forgive us our trespasses [or debts], as we forgive our trespassers [or debtors]" (Mat. 6:12). Have you asked God to forgive your every sin, your every shortcoming, your every weakness, your every stumbling — and those of others? Do we ALSO forgive our debtors — those who offend us? We MUST forgive everyone who has stepped on our toes, everyone who has offended us, everyone who has wronged us in any way whatsoever. God forgives us only as we forgive others! Remember that forgiving means forgetting. Yet we know that in some local churches there are people who CANNOT BE FORGIVEN by God because they still REFUSE to forgive their brethren. Brethren, this must not continue! And finally He said, "Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." God tempts no man. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:13-14). Watch and pray that you be not drawn away by lusts and enter into temptation (Mat. 26:41). Watch, keep awake. When wrong thoughts begin to come into your mind, FLEE QUICKLY to God in prayer. Put your trust in Him. Or else God will allow you to stumble in temptation till you learn to put your whole life in God's hands. We are not to pray this sample prayer that Jesus gave — word for word. We are to use it as an outline for our daily prayers. Few realize that Jesus also gave innumerable OTHER DETAILS to pray about in His Word. These all MAGNIFY the main principles mentioned in His outline of prayer. They should all be fitted into the pattern Jesus gave the disciples. We are instructed to pray for those in authority (I Tim. 2:1-3), for our enemies, for those who persecute us (Mat. 5:44); for the brethren (Eph. 6:18); that we may escape the things to come (Luke 21:36); for the sick and afflicted (James 5:14-16); for your own requests (Phil. 4:6); for the ministry (II Thess. 3:1); and for the churches (Eph. 1:16; Col. 1:3; Philemon 4; I Thess. 1:2).
Pray for Ourselves?
Of course! But not for ourselves only. If your prayers include others and theirs include you, think how many prayers are said ON YOUR BEHALF! But if you are selfish and pray only for yourself — and everyone else did the same — then ONLY YOU would be praying for yourself. A student at Ambassador College discovered quite by accident the amazing principle that the Law of Love is a Living Law. He had tried to overcome a certain weakness but had failed again and again. He felt miserable and dejected. A friend revealed that he too was having trouble overcoming the very same temptation. This student felt so miserable himself that he hastened to go and pray EARNESTLY for his friend. He said, "Oh, God, don't let my friend be as weak and rotten as I am. Strengthen him, take this temptation from him." This student was amazed to discover that after having prayed for his friend, his own overpowering weakness left him! It was suddenly as if this temptation no longer existed. This student learned that when one has some sin he is unable to overcome, if he will pray for all others who have, or even might have the same weakness, the God of Love rewards him for praying for His OTHER children. Try it. Pray for all the men and women in the Church who have, or who even might have — the same overpowering temptation you have and see for yourself that God will reward you for showing Love to His OTHER children by strengthening you. He can and will remove your temptation from you. Remember, if you pray for others, and all the others pray for you and others, think how much more help you have than if you alone prayed for just your problem. Therefore pray that God will imbue us all with His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). Ask God for the gift of repentance so all can overcome sin. Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5), power, understanding, and knowledge. Pray that God will implant in His people the DESIRE to study and pray until all are filled with the Spirit of God, with understanding and a true sense of values. When you read the Bible and don't understand a verse — that is something to pray about. If you are falling short of obeying His instruction — that is something to pray about. For some of you there are almost as many things to pray about as there are verses in the Bible! Don't just limit the things you pray about to the points mentioned in this article. Ask God to show you what else HE wants YOU to pray for. HE will show you IN HIS WORD many other things to pray about. Whatever you do don't let your prayer become a mere ritual, a vain repetition. Be diligent. Be persistent. Prayer and Bible Study must be first in your life, or you are putting something else before God. We receive what we ask of God "because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (I John 3:22). Prayer has to become heartfelt — full of thanksgiving, praise and joy. It should be a spontaneous and natural talking to God. The more you pray, the more you will understand how to pray. God KNOWS that many of you faithful brethren are praying. He also KNOWS that others have not prayed as they should. God's ministers have said, "YOU ARE CONVERTED TO THE DEGREE THAT YOU PRAY FOR GOD'S WORK!" If you have been PUTTING OFF prayer until tomorrow DO something now. Force yourself to begin to study and pray. Don't put off your own salvation!