I would not call myself a prayer warrior. I do pray…often…daily…regularly. I even have a prayer list. I pull it out at least once a week, read over it, add to it and highlight prayers that have been answered. But, I’m no prayer warrior. You know the person who exercises regularly but will never be a professional athlete or body builder? That’s the kind of prayer person I am. I strive to keep my praying in shape, but I don’t think I’ll ever be elite.
I’m okay with this. I don’t feel guilty about it all. However, in my efforts to keep my prayers in shape I am always looking for ways to pray more effectively. I don’t mean that I am trying to be more eloquent or even spend more time. I just want to do it better…fine-tune my prayers. Especially when it comes to praying for my boys. I call them boys, but three of them are closer to manhood than they are to boyhood. I guess that is why I feel the urgency to pray more effectively for them.
The pull in my mind is to pray for their situational challenges. Things like success in school, activities with friends, protection when they are driving or good attitudes. My tendency is to gravitate toward the hardships they are encountering that are making their relative comfortable lives uncomfortable. The normal teenage, young adult challenges that in 10 years will mean nothing. Although these things are not insignificant, I’m not sure these requests are the most effective prayers. Here’s why: even if all of my prayers for their current challenges were answered today, they would wake up tomorrow with a new set of problems. I can’t pray their troubles away because life on this planet will always be laced with trouble. Jesus said that. He wasn’t kidding.
So really, how effective is it for me to spend my time praying for their normal challenges to end when there is another round of problems just waiting to take their place. Am I really helping them by asking for their adolescent discomforts to go away? Maybe there is a better way to pray. Prayers that will help them learn from their troubles, grow through their obstacles, and even be used of God while they persevere.
Fine-tuning my prayers happens best when I use Scripture. I recently came across this prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for his friends in the city of Philippi:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Paul does not pray for their challenges to change or cease to exist. He prays for their love to grow implying that love is needed more than easier circumstances. Notice these key words in his prayer and their meanings:
Love – their love for God and others
Abound more and more – their love for God and others would be a growing and controlling influence in their lives
Knowledge – they would learn to love God and others the best way
Discern – they would learn to love what is best…choosing best over what is good
Pure – a sincere love with selfish motives filtered out
Blameless – a love that will not cause others to stumble
As I came across this prayer I thought, What if I prayed this way for my boys? What if, instead of praying for their troubles to cease, I began to pray for their love to grow? What if I prayed for them to have a knowledgeable love, a discerning love, a pure and blameless love? I can’t pray all their challenges away, but I can pray their love for God and others will increase. In the long run this prayer may help them more than praying for their immediate discomforts to go away.
It is possible that God is using pain, disappointment and struggles to make them better people. If that is the case, when I pray for their discomfort to go away I am actually praying against what God is trying to accomplish. However, I can’t go wrong by asking God to give them a better, stronger, more intense love for Him and the people He wants to reach through them. This is a fine-tuned prayer.
Let me give you an example of how I might do this. Without specifically naming one of my sons, I might use Paul’s prayer as a model to pray for my son:
Father, please teach my son to love You more in the challenges he is facing at school and in sports. I ask his love for You would be so strong that it would influence the way he acts around his girlfriend, his teachers and our family. Let his love for You not be boring or routine. Instead let it grow. Let this love give him discernment in his choices. Let it root out selfishness in his heart. Let it help others find you as walks the halls of his school. Father, let him love, follow and share Jesus so that on the day of our Lord’s return he will be found faithfully living for You. I pray this in Jesus’ name.
We can pray this way for anyone. It doesn’t just have to be our kids, but I think I will start with them. I think they need me praying fine-tuned prayers.