For What Should I Pray?

By Don Willis

And be also told this parable to certain can who trusted In themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his bread, saying, God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for every one who exults himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted (Lk. 18:9-4).

Not every prayer is an approved prayer. Simply being religious (as was the Pharisee) did not assure that God would hear his prayer. He said his prayers, fulfilled his human need in prayer; yet, the prayer was never accepted by the God of Heaven.

Jesus, teaching His disciples how to pray, instructed them: “After this manner therefore pray ye. . . ” (Mt. 6:9, KJV). There are seven petitions in the model prayer. The Hebrews attached a mystical and holy meaning to the number seven, here signifying completeness in the types of petitions. Three concern the glory of the wonderful name of God, and four the frailty of mankind.

In the model prayer, one first recognizes the (1) Glory of God’s name; (2) the Glory of the Kingdom; (3) the Glory of God’s will on earth as in Heaven; (4) the Glory of God’s Sustenance; (5) the Glory of His Deliverance from past failures; (6) the Glory of His providential Deliverance from temptations; and (7) God’s Deliverance from the evil one. The prayer of the Lord is a perfect model, and we should accept it as He gave it.

The self-centered, self-sufficient individual cannot truly pray, for he feels no need of God! He thinks he is strong, when he is weak. He has turned his back on the supernatural and refuses to confide in divinity which knocks at the door of his heart. The attitude of the one whom God hears is, “I am weak, but Thou art mighty. Hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.” In one’s weakness, lay hold on the Divine power God has placed in prayer!

One feels inadequate to say he has a list of things for which one can and should pray. I am persuaded that God is interested in every thought that we have on our minds and that we desire to place in His trust. Therefore, one can add to the list that I shall include as it fits his particular needs.

Spiritual Items For Which One Should Pray

In the model prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” We all understand that the kingdom is already come (Heb. 12:28; Col. 1:13; etc.). Objectively, the kingdom has been in existence since Pentecost. Subjectively, many are not yet in the kingdom. In this sense, one might still include “Thy Kingdom come” in an evangelistic sense. Possibly, one reason we have experienced a slowness of growth is because we do not more often pray for the Kingdom to come!

In Luke 17:5, realizing the difficulty arising in forgiving those who sin against us, the Apostles said (thus, a prayer) unto the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Prayer is important to our growth in faith. One realizes that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10: 17). Faith is enhanced by prayer! Too seldom do we hear in prayer, “Lord, increase our faith.”

One should pray for spiritual growth and maturity. Since Christians so depend upon God, and we recognize the need of closeness to Him while we traverse our sojourn upon the earth. “. . And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).

Pray for the preachers of the Word of God. Pray that they might speak with boldness. “. . . And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). Pray “. . .that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ” (Col. 4:3). Pray for the work of evangelism in the local work, and for one’s personal involvement therein.

Too, be thankful! This is a command. “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is the will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Be thankful to God, to Christ, to the Spirit, to the preachers who taught you, to the elders who watch for your soul, to the brethren in the Lord, to the love that abounds.

Personal Items For Which One Should Pray

Jesus taught one to pray for his daily bread. That’s a command. Some teach that personal needs are not to be included in prayer. Jesus did not so teach! Human weaknesses and incompleteness should drive one instinctively to prayer, and become the ultimate means of establishing an abiding fellowship with God.

In weakness we turn to God for rest. The crosses we bear are often heavy, and we grow weary. One becomes so tired that he cannot find peace in any of the normal pursuits of life. In prayer, we receive the strength to “rest in the Lord.”

In weakness we turn to God for strength. Faced with the business competition, the striving of men for position and power, we realize our lack of strength to fight and win. There are moments in which we feel so small and insignificant. Suddenly, in prayer, we find the strength from above. Recall God reassuring Paul, “. . . My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

In sickness we turn to God for strength. “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him. . . ” (Jas. 5:14). Much sickness arises from mental and emotional maladjustments. One is irritable and unstrung because of people and things. Nervous and impatient, we find fault with everyone. Morbid influences possess our minds and cast dark shadows upon both body and soul. We take our beds and seek relief in hospitals or ocean cruises. Whether the illness be real or imagined, the Great Physician is just as near as our prayers. Health is the gift of God, and every breath we draw is by His mercy. In an atmosphere of prayer, God is able to heal and bless!

In loneliness we turn to God for companionship. Who has not had moments when he felt he had been deserted by everyone, even friends and family? Everyone else seems happy. Everyone else seems to have found the proverbial gold at the end of the rainbow. No one cares about us, and have passed us by, have forsaken us, and we are left alone! Others have found the way, but the path we are traveling leads to a blind end. Like the Psalmist, “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul” (142:4). Then, prayer opens a door. We find a Friend “that sticketh closer than a brother” who is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities” and offers us a “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Truly, “What a Friend we have in Jesus!”

In temptation we turn to God for deliverance. All are tempted at some crucial hour of life. Life is a continual battle zone. Our unaided strength is seldom sufficient to gain the victory. In prayer, we find one who fights for us. He delivers us out of our troubles and sets our feet on higher ground. Remember: God “…will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10: 13). God controls the severity of the temptation. He will not permit it to be beyond our ability to withstand. And then, He always provides a way of escape.

In sorrow we turn to God for comfort. A heavy heart is one of the greatest burdens. Loss of property, health, position or a loved one plunges one into gloom. The only one who can truly wipe away our tears is the Comforter, and He is best found in prayer. Every great character possesses some scars, and through the tears of sorrow are found the gates of heaven.

In sin we turn to God for salvation. One outside Christ needs to accept the power of the blood, and render obedience to the gospel in order to be made free from sin (Rom. 5:9; 6:3-4, 17-18; Heb. 5:9). Even after initial obedience to the gospel, we frequently break God’s laws, overstepping the boundaries of good and evil, doing things we ought not do. Even Christians often miss the mark set by God for moral activity. Evil thoughts, deceit, pride, foolishness, anger, etc. are common sins to all of us. Adultery, murder, theft, etc. are tragedies that wreck many lives. Prayer offers a way to God! The Christian needs to repent and recommit himself to the Lord. There is mercy and forgiveness, and a new life awaiting to those who call upon God in genuine faith, repentance, and a willingness to do His will in obedience in their lives.

In death we turn to God for our immortal hope. Prayer has always been a channel of blessing in the hour of death. We leave all earthly possessions, all physical advantages, even our closest family ties. Only here can we have the hand of God to guide us through the dark valley.

Prayer Is The Solution To All Of Life’s Problems!

The Value Of Intercessory Prayer

Paul informed the brethren in Ephesus that he made “…mention of you in my prayers” (1:16). He told Timothy, “. . .I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. . . ” (2 Tim. 1: 3).

When Paul gave command, “Rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep” (Rom. 12:15), this would include remembrance in prayer! Pray for brethren both in sorrow and happiness.

Pray for the weak brother in Christ! In an effort to restore the weak brother (Gal. 6:1), one’s attitude is so important. Prayer will assist. Paul further commands us to “bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1). Prayer is essential for our weak brother, but also for us in reaching out to them!

Pray “on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Give honor to the king (1 Pet. 2:17), rendering unto him the things that belong to him (Mt. 22:21).

And, pray for the lost of the worldi Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10). Paul said, pray that “God may open up to us a door for the world” (Col. 4:3) It is difficult to understand why the same gospel will reach one lost person to obedience, but the other’s heart is untouched. We might pray for God to “open her heart to respond to the things spoken . . .” (Acts 16:14)


Peter encourages, “. . . casting all your anxiety (cares, KJV) upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). “We love, because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). “If God be for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31) “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

When the road is rough and the way is dim,
Jesus knows, Jesus cares,
When the darkness comes we can go to Him,
Jesus knows, Jesus cares.

When the heart is sad over one untrue,
Jesus knows, Jesus cares.
Go to Him in prayer, He will strengthen you,
Jesus knows, Jesus cares.

When you say good-by to your dearest friend,
Jesus knows, Jesus cares.
He will comfort you until life shall end,
Jesus knows, Jesus cares.

He knows from His throne above,
He cares with a perfect love!
Go to Jesus for peace, go to Him for rest;
Jesus knows, Jesus cares.

-Paul H. Epps

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 15, pp. 453-454, 461
August 1, 1985