By Annie L. Alford
Lord, if it is your will”, is a phrase that has hindered the answer to many prayers; not because the request was not in God’s will, but because the insertion of the phrase was an indication that the petitioner doubted that he would get an answer. All faith must have a scriptural base, and there are scriptures to teach us what we ought to pray about. A study of God’s Word will help us to be sure we are asking in God’s will, then we can have the unwavering faith that brings an answer from the throne of grace.
“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Exodus 32:11-13
“And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever. ”
“And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou has written.”
I Timothy 2:1
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;”
1. For Whom Should We Pray?
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in authority….” (I Timothy 2:1-2).
FOR WHOM & FOR WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY?
Anytime we pray for people, we pray in the will of God. And how we pray for them is determined by each individual’s need as seen by the one who does the praying. In the above verse of scripture, all men are mentioned. And “first of all” lists the importance of praying for all men in top priority.
A. For Those In Authority
“For kings”, Paul says, “and for all that are in authority.
Rulers and men in authority need to be held up before the Lord in prayer because in whatever capacity they serve, they serve under God. No matter how much they know, nor how capable they are, they still need God, because they are still men. God, who knows past, present, and future alike, puts men up and takes them down.
Nebuchadnezzar, by his own testimony, learned this lesson the hard way. (Daniel, chapter 4). In the second chapter of Timothy, verses one and two, it is evident that Paul is speaking of the civil or political leaders of this world. And the end of our prayers, supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks for these men, is, hopefully, quiet and peaceable lives.
If the elected or appointed rulers of our world need our prayers, do not those who are in authority and in places of leadership in our churches also need prayer? Certainly, they do! The greater the responsibility of a man the greater his need for divine guidance.
It is easy to see the shortcomings and failures of those whom God has placed in authority, but it is definitely more profitable to pray for them.
We want our pastors to be the best, to teach the best, to be the most lovable, and most worthy of honor and respect. Then, it is our duty to pray for them until God answers. We want our Sunday School superintendent and teachers to do the best possible job, but do we call their names in prayer, sending such a request to Him who answers?
B. Missionaries, Evangelist, Teachers
Whether they labor in the foreign fields or home fields, our missionaries should have a place in our prayers.
“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38).
“For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” (I Corinthians 16:9).
Jesus asked that we pray that laborers be sent into the whitened harvest fields. And Paul wrote back from those fields of the many adversaries. We who stay at home can never fully realize the impact of meeting the adversary, far from the comfort of home and friends. But we can, in our relative comfort and ease, find a place to pray, and make mention of the needs of these brave and faithful people who were willing to go.
One foreign missionary who visited us recently asked that we pray, above all things. “Please don’t lump us all together and just say, ‘Lord bless the missionaries’; but call our names before the Lord,” he said.
It is so easy for us to generalize when we pray. But one missionary may be trying to raise money to support his efforts, another may be sick, another facing team of devil possessed people. Their needs are individual, and we should pray for those needs we know about, and tarry in prayer, giving God a chance to remind us how we ought to pray.
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course….” (II Thessalonians 3:1).
“Pray for us….” (Hebrews 13:18).
C. The Lost
While we are praying for the man of God who is on the field, we need to remember to pray for the lost he is seeking to save.
“And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now if thou wilt forgive their sin….” (Exodus 32:31-32).
Moses was so anxious that the Lord forgive the children of Israel that he even asked to be blotted out of God’s book if they were not forgiven. We know that men must repent for themselves, yet we also know that no one can come to God except he be drawn of the Spirit. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him….” (John 6:44). Acts, chapter eleven and verse eighteen speaks of the Gentiles having had repentance “granted unto them”.
Some of the sinners we know are bound by one or more of the many habitual chains of sin. These must be released, and we who rejoice so in our freedom, need to feel the compassion for the lost that will drive us to our knees in travailing prayer. Name calling prayer is what is needed. Not just “save sinners”, but “save John Doe from drink, draw him by your Spirit, grant him repentance”.
D. One Another
Considering we are all one big family, it should come naturally to pray for each other. “…And pray one for another….” (James 5:16). We know so much about each other because we are so closely associated. Therefore, it follows that often in prayer, the needs of known saints flash before our minds, and then is the time to intercede for that particular need. It may be sickness; it may be a financial or spiritual need, but it should be given due consideration in prayer. Often prayer requests are taken lightly when the need is greatly felt by the one who made the request. Requests should be taken seriously.
Most people who pray, find it relatively easy to pray for themselves and their families. Some find it no trouble at all to spend time in prayer for sinners, other church members, teachers, pastors, even rulers; But it takes the utmost of consecration to pray earnestly, and fervently, and compassionately for one’s enemies.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44).
The Scripture may not be so easy to obey as it is to read. But in obedience to, it is found a source of true victory. It is necessary to forgive all wrong committed against us, in order that we be forgiven our wrongs. It is not the wrong committed against us that makes us feel so awful, it is the inner reaction to the wrong. That human desire for vengeance and retaliation must be conquered. There is no other way to conquer it but in submissive prayer. When we pray for those who persecute us, or despitefully use us until all is clean between us and our maker, we reach a plane of joy and peace no other kind of prayer can bring us.
2. For What Shall We Pray?
There are so many things we can pray about and still be praying in the center of God’s will, we need not waste our time asking amiss.
A. Cleansing and Salvation
First, in my opinion, is the need to pray for personal cleansing. When Isaiah found himself in the presence of God, he immediately felt a need for the cleansing touch of God.
“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips….” (Isaiah 6:5).
1) David saw his need of cleansing. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalms 51:7).
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19).
When we have received a needed touch for ourselves, then we can pray for the cleansing of others. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5).
“Ask ye the of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain….” We need in this day the refreshing latter rain of God’s Spirit for ourselves and for others.
Daily we are faced with decisions that affect our lives and the lives of those around us. We need to pray for direction from God to make the most profitable decisions.
“For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.” (Psalms 31:3).
“Lead me, 0 Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.” (Psalms 5:8). “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me….” (Psalms 25:5). David sought guidance from God, and so should we. With all the doctrines that fill the world today, we need the Holy Ghost to guide us. We can ask for and have that guidance. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth….” (John 16:13).
We need peace as individuals, as families, as churches, communities, and countries. The whole world needs peace. “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:3). Since Jesus promised us His peace, we can feel free to claim that promise in prayer.
D. Wisdom and Knowledge
We cannot hide behind a cloak of ignorance. We can pray for knowledge of God’s will and way, and wisdom sufficient to walk therein.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5).
“Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee….”
“Teach me thy way, 0 Lord….” (Psalms 86:11).
E. Protection From Evil
“And jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” (I Chronicles 4:10). Jacob prayed, “…If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go….” (Genesis 28:20).
Because we know by the word of God that these men received the protection they asked for, we know we can receive the same if we ask.
When we, like David, acknowledge God as our Rock and Fortress, we can shelter in the safety of His name.
“Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.” (Genesis; 32:1 1).
Few people have so drastic a situation as Jacob had when he prayed the above prayer. But there are many situations in our life from which we do need deliverance. It is comforting to know that, like Jacob, we can pray and get an answer.
Often the children of Israel prayed for deliverance when they were oppressed by their enemies, or in bondage to them.
Deliverance from sin in this world is one thing we can pray about, and appreciate greatly with a mere glance around us.
G. Success In Our Work
All who have ever worked any length of time for God are brought face to face with the truth, that “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it….” (Psalms 127:1). We need God’s blessings on our efforts, whether trying to earn a living or build a church. We can have those blessings by asking. Bible records convince us. “…and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea the work of our hands establish thou it.” (Psalms 90:17).
H. Spiritual Growth
Our own spiritual growth and perfection should be a concern that we never neglect in prayer. We can be built up in prayer. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,” (Jude 20).
Paul prayed for the spiritual growth of his converts. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” (Galatians 4:19).
The subject of whom and what to pray for is quite lengthy. But we have certainly covered enough areas to keep us busily praying for a long time to come without ever feeling that we might be praying out of God’s will.
When we consider it is not His will that any should perish, but is His will that all should come to repentance, then we can call names in prayer a long time. By the time we pray specifically for every soul we know, both saint and sinner, who needs repentance, we have prayed an extended prayer.
Yet, we have not mentioned all the other various needs of those ranging from rulers to slaves. Every day brings new problems and new victories, and with these, new reasons to pray.
As long awe pray for men, women, boys and girls, and the things they need in this world and in the world to come, we can expect to receive an answer.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
The above article “From Whom And For What Should We Pray?” is written by Annie L. Alford. This article was excerpted from chapter six in Alford’s book Teach Us To Pray.
The material is copyrighted and should not be repainted under any other name or author. However, this material may freely be used for personal study or purposes.