20 Things to Always Pray About

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Jesus—The Man of Prayer

It’s been said before that the Bible is the best prayer book. As such, it teaches us how to pray, tells us for what to pray, presents model prayers, and sets before us as its central character the man of prayer Himself. Psalm 109:4, speaking typologically of Jesus says, “In return for my love they have become my adversaries, but I am all prayer.” Jesus, as a man of prayer, lived on every word that proceeded out through the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). The fact that Jesus was fasting those 40 days (fasting is typically accompanied by prayer in the Bible) and the fact that He quoted this verse, certainly indicates that Jesus lived by praying over the Scriptures in communion with His Father. Even on the cross as He was dying, He lived by praying the Scriptures. When Psalm 22:1 came off the Lord’s lips at the ninth hour, I don’t think He was quoting the Scriptures in a ceremonial way or for aesthetic effect or simply for prophetic fulfillment. Here was the man of prayer, praying the Scriptures to the end.

In total, Jesus prayed three times on the cross. Each prayer was Scripturally sourced:

  1. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. –Luke 23:34, from Isa. 53:12
  2. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? –Matt. 27:46, from Psa. 22:1
  3. Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. –Luke 23:46, from Psa. 31:5

If we are to be His extension and reproduction, then we need to learn to pray the Bible. The entire Bible should be received by means of prayer (Eph. 6:17-18). However, there are certain verses that are crucial to incorporate into our regular prayer life. If we miss these, we miss a lot. Below are 20 verses that we should pay special attention to in prayer. These verses embody big-picture burdens that will add depth, weight, and balance to our prayer habits. I’ve taken the list, slightly modified, from Witness Lee’s chapter on prayer in Crucial Truths in the Holy Scriptures, Vol. 3, Ch. 32.

20 Things to Always Pray For

1. For our condition before God and for our spiritual life, especially for our being kept from sins

Clear me of my secret faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; do not let them have dominion over me; then I will be blameless and cleared of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, O Jehovah, my rock and my Redeemer. –Psa. 19:12-14

2. For God to search us, know us, try us, and lead us

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is some harmful way in me, and lead me on the eternal way. –Psa. 139:23-24

3. For the Lord to direct our hearts into His love and endurance

The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the endurance of Christ. –2 Thes. 3:5

4. For the Father to give us the Holy Spirit for our experience

…How much more will the Father who is from heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. –Luke 11:13

5. For the Father to give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Christ

That…the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him, the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. –Eph. 1:17-19

6. For the Father to strengthen us into our inner man so that Christ may make His home in our hearts

That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit into the inner man, that Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be full of strength to apprehend with all the saints what the breadth and length and height and depth are and to know the knowledge-surpassing love of Christ, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God. –Eph. 3:16-19

7. To be filled with the full knowledge of God’s will and to walk worthily of the Lord and please Him in all things

We… do not cease praying and asking on your behalf that you may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and growing by the full knowledge of God, being empowered with all power, according to the might of His glory, unto all endurance and long-suffering with joy. –Col. 1:9-11

8. That we would stand mature and fully assured in all God’s will

…Always struggling on your behalf in his prayers that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. –Col. 4:12

9. For God to perfect us in every good work to do His will

The God of peace… perfect you in every good work for the doing of His will, doing in us that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ. –Heb. 13:20-21

10. For God’s eternal purpose to be done on earth

…Your name be sanctified; Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth. –Matt. 6:9-10

11. For the Lord to thrust out workers into His harvest

Beseech the Lord of the harvest that He would thrust out workers into His harvest. –Matt. 9:38

12. For the saints’ experience and for the apostles’ speaking

…Praying at every time in spirit and watching unto this in all perseverance and petition concerning all the saints, and for me, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known in boldness the mystery of the gospel. –Eph. 6:18-19

13. For the word of the Lord to spread and be glorified

…Brothers, pray concerning us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified… –2 Thes. 3:1

14. For God’s work concerning His sons

Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My hands, command Me. –Isa. 45:11

15. For the revival of God’s work

…O Jehovah, revive Your work in the midst of the years; in the midst of the years make it known… –Hab. 3:2

16. For the turning and recovery of the church

Turn to us, O Jehovah, and we will be turned; renew our days as before. –Lam. 5:21

17. For the oneness of the church

…Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given to Me, that they may be one even as We are. –John 17:11

18. For the salvation of all men and for those in high positions

I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men; on behalf of kings and all who are in high position, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and gravity. –1 Tim. 2:1-2

19. For the salvation of the Jews specifically

…My petition to God for them is for their salvation. –Rom. 10:1

20. For the Lord’s return

…Come, Lord Jesus! –Rev. 22:20

 

What verses do you regularly pray over?

The What and How of Prayer

shoe cobbler

The Christian life is a life of prayer. Martin Luther said, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” But prayer, like making clothes and mending shoes, requires learning and practice.

And while He was in a certain place praying, when He ceased, a certain one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples. –Luke 11:1

If we are going to pray properly, we need to learn what to pray for and how to pray. Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 focuses primarily on these two things. ‘The what’ refers to the content of our prayer. The Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 gives us four categories to care for in our prayer life:

  1. God’s name, kingdom, and will
  2. Our daily needs (present)
  3. Our failures (past)
  4. Our deliverance (future)

This prayer is incredibly balanced in content (see above), scope (past, present, future, heaven, and earth), and priority (God, then us, then the evil one). What can’t be subsumed under these categories? We should overlay the pattern of this prayer onto all our prayer life. It is not designed to be mechanically recited but acts like an organic template that we should expand according to the Spirit’s anointing and the present situation.

Without this prayer informing the content and thrust of our prayer life, we may flounder. OR we may lapse into babbling and trust simply in the length of our prayer (Matt. 6:7). A long prayer, however, is not necessarily a good prayer. A long prayer may lose its focus, get off track, or dissolve into generalizations, especially if we are praying out loud in a group. It doesn’t have to, but it may. An example of an inspiring and focused, lengthy prayer is Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:4-19. But for the normal, day-to-day prayer life, Luther’s word, again, may be spot on: “A good prayer should not be lengthy or drawn out, but frequent and ardent.”[1] Watchman Nee said:

When we pray, there must be not only the desire but also the word to express the desire. Sometimes in our desire we have something we want, but the more we speak the further away we seem to be from our desire. We must also be watchful to guard against this. Satan’s strategy is either to hold us back so that we do not pray or push us forward while we pray so that the more we pray the more we are lost. Therefore, when we pray we have to guard ourselves so that our words will not deviate from the center. Once we discover that our words have deviated, we should come back. We must be watchful to aim in the right direction and persist to keep out unnecessary words. We have to guard ourselves from praying the prayers that are not prayers at all.[2]

The value of a prayer doesn’t lie in its length, diction, or homiletic development. Prayer should be the expression of the inner sense of our spirit, guided by the revelation of the Scriptures. The Spirit and the Word are the two biggest keys for learning how to pray. The combination of the two is potent. But the most important thing about prayer is just to start praying.

 


 

1. Martin Luther, A Simple Way to Pray
2. Watchman Nee, CWWN, 22:212

Prayer: A Divine Imperative

prayer divine imperative

And He told them a parable to the end that they ought always to pray… –Luke 18:1

The Christian exists under a very specific categorical imperative, an ‘ought’—we ought always to pray.

We ought not only pray when things are bad and times are perilous. We ought to pray (and I know I am considering this verse as a principle, apart from its context in Luke) because prayer is good in itself. It would make for a fine universal law. Prayer is central to what Paul calls our most rational service, something in harmony with the highest reason (Rom. 12:1, 12). This is because prayer is the most fundamental human response to the sovereign and living God, whose goodness brought us forth and gave us meaning. I’m thinking of prayer in the sense of communion and fellowship, not in the sense of request for things. The prayer of fellowship creates union. Prayer is a thoroughly human act that expresses faith, dependence, humility, simplicity, and openness. Emil Brunner said, “Prayer is faith in actu.”[1] Witness Lee said, “To pray is to testify that it is ‘no longer I, but Christ.'”[2] To always pray, then, is to always live Christ by faith. This is the only way, as far as I can tell, that unceasing prayer is possible. In another place, commenting on praying in the Lord’s name, Lee says, “When a person lives in the Lord, by the Lord, in union with the Lord, and is mingled with the Lord, spontaneously a part of his living is prayer.”[3] I’d say THIS is why the Lord wants us to pray, categorically, because this brings us into union with Him for His expression in our lives.

Midway Between Perfection and Nothingness

As a created beings, we are contingent beings, existing midway between perfection and nothingness (since we are created ex nihilo and created unto Christ). Man is made in the image of God and an image strives towards union with its prototype. “It belongs to the nature of an image to strive to become the perfection upon which it is modeled.” [4] This striving was classically expressed in the opening paragraph of Augustine’s Confessions:

Man, a little piece of your creation, desires to praise you, a human being ‘bearing his mortality with him’, carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you ‘resist the proud’. Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.[5]

Turning to God in Prayer

God’s being is the sum of divine perfections, yet He has created another reality alongside Himself, calling “not being as being” (Rom. 4:17). Barth said that, “God does not grudge the existence of the reality distinct from Himself.”[6] In fact, He wills creation to be (Rev. 4:11). He “gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25). But that union with God that man desires (Eccl. 3:11) because he is His image and that God desires (1 Tim 2:4) is not automatic or coerced. God has given to us a sort of ‘creaturely freedom’ to decide whether or not to turn to Him in faith and cling to Him in prayer. Because the universe was created through the Son (Col. 1:16), it has picked up His characteristic of adhering to the Father as His source. Creation mirrors the Son by ceaselessly depending on God for its existence. However, for the inanimate universe this action is spontaneous and constant—it is an ontological necessity. For humans, it must be free and conscious. Thus God allows man a real say in things. Acts 13:46 expresses this mystery:

Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly and said, It was necessary for the word of God to be spoken to you first. Since you thrust it away and do not judge yourselves worthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

It is possible to turn away from God, to thrust away His offer of eternal life, but by doing so we fall away from the only One who is (Heb. 11:6; Exo. 3:14) and are “brought to nought” (Gal. 5:4). God grants us this freedom. But it is also possible to turn to God and rise to union with Him. He does not grudge us this freedom. Augustine’s recounting of his realization of this is beautiful:

When I first came to know You, You raised me up to make me see that what I saw is Being, and that I who saw am not yet Being. And You gave a shock to the weakness of my sight by the strong radiance of Your rays, and I trembled with love and awe. And I found myself far from You ‘in the region of dissimilarity’, and heard as it were Your voice from on high: ‘I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on Me. And you will not change Me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into Me.’[7]

The Deceit versus The Reality

If we become unmoored from this experience, we drift into a pseudo-reality, “the region of dissimilarity”, and become subject to vanity and the lie. Paul charges Christians to “put off the lie” (Eph. 4:25), which is the totality of our old way of living apart from Christ, “our former manner of life… which is being corrupted according to the lusts of the deceit” (Eph 4:22). In this passage in Ephesians 4, there is a contrast between ‘the deceit’ and ‘the reality’, which are tied, respectively, to our old man and our new man. Since this is a matter of our living, and since prayer is how we live Christ, unceasing prayer is how we put off and put on. That former manner of life can still haunt us, but by practicing a life of prayer we are defended by the whole armor of God and our loins are girded with the divine reality (Eph 6:14) so that we can live as the new man, a man in union with God.

All this to say, prayer is an ought, a divine imperative, because only by prayer can we realize the highest good, God’s will for man—union with the Triune God in all the concreteness of human life, for His glory.


 

1. Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative, p. 313
2. Witness Lee, Life-Study of Mark, p. 244
3. Witness Lee, Lessons on Prayer, p. 229
4. David Meconi, The One Christ: St. Augustine’s Theology of Deification, p. 40
5. Augustine, Confessions, I.I.1
6. Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, p. 54
7. Augustine, Confessions, VII.X.16