Where do I begin? I believe in prayer and have made a commitment to be more intentional in it along with fasting. As I asked Jesus to help me know how to better hold that time with Him, this question came to mind, “How am I to pray?” More specifically, how am I to pray during these tumultuous times? What is to be the area I focus on during my time with Him?
Finding the right fit
Several years ago, I joined a prayer group that prayed for our nation. In the center of the prayer circle, in which we sat, was a picture of the president of the United States. Later we prayed for the world. The president’s picture was then replaced with a map of the world.
I’m sure we used the circle to help us focus our attention and prayers. The Lord already knew who the president was. And since God created the world (and everything in it), I’m sure geography wasn’t an issue for Him. Thank God for leading us in how to pray because sometimes we really don’t have a clue.
What does the Bible say?
The Bible provides some general areas for our prayers. Here are a few to help point us in the right direction.
Who are we to pray for?
- our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2)
- our enemies (Matt. 5:44)
- the saints (Eph. 6:18)
How are we to pray?
- without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17)
- believing (Mark 11:24)
- according to the will of God (1 John 5:14-15)
Why are we to pray?
- so people will come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4)
- so God’s kingdom will be realized (Matt. 6:10)
- to keep us from temptation (Matt. 26:41)
Let the Holy Spirit lead
In Romans 8:26-27, the Apostle Paul makes the case for relying on the Holy Spirit to guide our prayers.
(In the same way) the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of God.
Prayer circles are helpful and important to the Kingdom, but sometimes it’s best to let the Holy Spirit lead us in our prayers. For example, He may lead us to pray for specific people or circumstances. All the while leaving the outcome to His sovereign will. This type of prayer, intercessory prayer, invites us to cry out on behalf of another.
“I just want to testify”
In March our church prayed for a baby born prematurely. The hospital saw this child’s chances of survival as slim to none. But our church prayed without ceasing. The hospital was in awe as the baby not only survived but ultimately thrived. Our baby went home in August as a witness to the power of intercessory prayer.
In April, we invited friends and family to pray for New York City. They were, at that time, the epicenter of the COVID pandemic. We prayed, and I tell you, things shifted the following week. Now New York City is viewed as the model for managing during this pandemic. And they praise God for His mercy and grace.
At the end of July, our small group prayed that the violence in our city would cease. While I haven’t been able to access the impact with monthly statistics, I believe our prayers made a difference. Why? Not because I have the numbers to prove it but because of what God says in His Word. John writes in the close of his epistle about the certainties of faith, including our prayers.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:14-15
We asked according to God’s will. We are commanded not to kill (Exod. 20:13). It is the Lord’s will that we love one another (Rom. 12:10) and be reconciled to each other (Matt. 5:23). This is God’s revealed will. We therefore believe God heard our prayer and that we will have the petitions that we asked from Him.
Pray for this moment
Prayer changes things, especially when guided by the Holy Spirit. God alone knows where He wants us to join Him in His work. In doing so, we get the opportunity to observe His glory and His power. This strengthens our faith and encourages us to pray without ceasing, even when we don’t see immediate results (2 Cor. 4:18).
The failures and faults of 21st century living require more than man can provide. Why? Because the problems we face deal with the conditions of the human heart—selfishness, hate, jealousy, envy, and covetedness—just to name a few.
The prophet Jeremiah accurately described our current condition in the world when he said “the heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Man’s heart has not changed. Only God can heal what ails us.
As we look at the conditions of this world, know that God is ever present and vigilant. He neither slumbers nor sleeps, and is aware of the people, places, and plans that need our prayers (Ps. 121:4). Our task is to be more intentional and disciplined in our prayer life.
As a nation we need God’s direction and intervention. While politicians and special interest groups have their place, we need to place our full confidence in God. He is the only One who can lead us to His desired outcome for the world (Jer. 29:11). Let’s put God and His will in the middle of our prayer circle and see where He leads us.