My Will Be Done
God’s will is always done, even if bad things are happening to us (Rom. 8:28) so we should pray for His will and not our will to be done. God’s will cannot be altered or changed by human activity but God can even use the evil actions by men for His good (Gen. 50:20). So even in man’s scheming and wickedness, the will of God is never hindered and is always done. In other words, He can use evil to accomplish His will even though He is not the source of that evil. If you look at the cross, you see the greatest travesty of justice ever, yet God used that great evil to redeem a people for Himself by means of the Redeemer. We can pray for our will, but God’s will is going to be done anyway. More importantly, we should pray for God’s will to be done in our life over our own will and that means we will be doing what is the will of God. Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3-5). Pray for God’s will to be done and then do it to the best of your knowledge.
Forgiveness for the Same Sin
First John 1:9 has brought a lot of comfort to a lot of people, as it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It doesn’t say He forgives us if we keep asking for forgiveness for one particular sin. Even if we commit a terrible sin, our sin is never greater than our Savior. We don’t have to keep asking for forgiveness for the same sin. Imagine you’re a parent and your child comes to you and apologizes for breaking the lamp. The next day he or she apologizes for the very same thing, day after day. The parent would finally say, “Hey, that’s been forgiven. You don’t need to keep bringing it up. Don’t you trust that I’ve forgiven you?” Do you see the connection between the earthly father and our heavenly Father in that story?
Praying for God’s Wrath
What I mean by praying for God’s wrath is that we should not be praying for harm to come to our enemies. Remember the so-called Sons of Thunder who asked to have fire come down out of heaven and consume the Samaritan village that had just rejected Jesus and His message (Luke 9:54). At this remark, Jesus “turned and rebuked them” (Luke 9:57) and told them that’s not the way we react. You and I are told to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Rom. 12:14), not call fire down from heaven! “Repay no one evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17), “but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). On the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Rom. 12:20). In other words, let his or her conscience bring them to repentance, but leave justice up to God.
The Rock and the Hammer
Sometimes when we pray for people who are lost, we pray for their problems to be solved. They might be going through financial problems, relationship difficulties, or health issues. Instead of praying that they would have all their problems solved, why not pray for God to use these trials to draw them unto Himself. When we try to solve our lost friends and family members’ problems, we might be getting between the rock (the crisis) and the hammer (God’s hand). I am not saying don’t help people, but pray these problems bring them to God so that they might have everlasting life in Jesus Christ.
Stop the Persecution
I can’t remember hearing missionaries request prayers for their persecution to stop. They know that it’s to be expected. The Apostle Peter said don’t “be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1st Pet 4:12-13). The truth is, every time the early church was persecuted, it grew (Acts 8:1-4). Persecution always spreads the church, not stop it, so don’t pray for persecution to stop, but for it to glorify God and spread His church. Of course we should pray for their safety and other persecuted Christians around the world, but persecution should be expected, and God can use evil for good (Gen 50:20).
Stop this Person
Some people just naturally rub the fur the wrong way, and I do too I’m sure, but some people have real enemies in their life and that person constantly bullies them, makes fun of them, and might even sabotage their work. You can understand why it’s tempting for us to pray for God to take them out of our life. They might be our boss, our neighbor, or even a family member, and they sometimes badger people for their faith or the way they dress, or the car the drive, or the job they have. Instead of praying for God to take them away, pray for God to use this person’s evil for good, as in the case of Joseph’s brothers mistreating him (Gen 50:20). Peter tried to stop Christ from going to the cross; aren’t you glad he failed? Woodrow Kroll said “Cherish your enemies; they might be a blessing in disguise.”
Praying and Doing
If someone is looking for a job and they sit by the telephone and pray for God to make it ring, that’s probably not going to work. Instead, we ought to pray for our need before God, and then get up and start moving and see what we ourselves can do. God often works through other people, so ask for help, speak up, and ask others to pray for you. When we’ve done all we can, that’s when God can do all He can. It’s good to pray when we’re in need, but it likely takes action on our part too, and if we do our part, only then might God do His. The saying, “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible, but the principle is there.
It is so easy to pray “Christianese” and not in plain language that is easy to understand. Some of the best prayers I’ve ever heard were from children because they prayed from the heart and weren’t concerned with what others thought of their words. They were honest, sincere, and genuine, and God will hear and answer those types of faith-based prayers.