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What to Pray About

Quite often in my Christian walk, I struggle to come up with things to pray about without saying the same things over and over.  When I say the same things a lot, it becomes “routine,” and I begin to lose focus.  I know I’m not alone, so I figured this was a good opportunity to teach myself and others at the same time.  It can be tempting to stop praying altogether when we become bored listening to our own prayers.  Fortunately, the Bible is full of ideas for improving our prayer lives.

But wait - does that mean it’s wrong to pray repetitious prayers?  Well . . . yes and no.  The Bible is pretty specific about that.  In Luke 18:1-8, we find a parable in which Jesus teaches about a woman who was very persistent, and then in Matthew 26:36-46, Jesus Himself prays three times in a row that God would not require the crucifixion that He knew was imminent.  However, in Matthew 6:7-8, Jesus also warns about praying vainly with empty words like the Gentiles did.  So, we see that our prayers can repeat the same things over and over, but only if done in the right way with a sincere and humble heart.  With that in mind, what SHOULD we be praying for? 

 First and foremost, we should be praising and thanking God!  The song Count Your Blessings comes to mind (a feat none of us can actually attain!), and of course, a wonderful example of praise can be found in the 8th Psalm: 

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Next, we should confess our sins and our anxieties.  Lay them all out for God, asking for forgiveness or help as appropriate.  This humbles us and causes us to rely on God’s mercy and grace. (1 John 1:9, Proverbs 28:13, 1 Peter 5:6-7, Mark 9:24)

There are many situations and people we should be praying for.  Some are specific to our lives today (like a family member with a medical need), and some are generic to everyone (like government).  1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” It doesn’t matter who is in charge and whether or not we agree with their decisions.  We still must pray that God’s will be done through the actions of our government so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.

We should pray about other churches. A perfect example of this is in 1 Thess. 1:2, where Paul states: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,” In fact, each time Paul writes a letter to a church, he mentions that he has been praying for them! Not only should we pray for other congregations, but we should pray for those who are teaching and leading them so that they will be brought to a better understanding of God’s word and be able to spread the Gospel to more people. This is especially true for congregations like those in China where all the members are women, or churches that don’t have anyone qualified to lead as elders.

There are SO many other things to pray about. Some of these things have specific scriptures linked to them, while others are simply general principles. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to discuss them in depth, but here are a few to consider:

  • Wisdom (James 1:5)
  • Forgiveness (Psalm 6)
  • Healing (James 5:13-15)
  • Safety (Psalm 140:4)
  • Go through the informer/ directory  Visualize those who sit within two rows of your seat  The lost, whether never baptized or they’ve fallen away.
  • Your teachers/mentors
  • Your parents
  • Your children
  • The elders 
  • Men we support
  • Engaged couples or newlyweds
  • The military
  • New converts
  • Peace of mind (Phil 4:4-7)
  • Important decisions
  • Widows and orphans
  • Ability, wisdom, and opportunity to teach others the Gospel

 Ultimately, there are many, many people and things that someone can pray about. In fact, more ideas can come from reading through prayer hymns in our songbook. All you must do is start praying and keep it up.  Form habits and routines, and perhaps even keep a prayer journal, as you consider one last scripture, 1 Thess. 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Because there is always something more to pray about (again!).

-  Ben Smith