What Shall We Pray For? -- By: Tom Wells

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 01:3 (Summer 1992)
Article: What Shall We Pray For?
Author: Tom Wells

What Shall We Pray For?

Tom Wells

What shall we pray for? I can imagine a certain frustration in reading that question. You might say something like this: Surely a spiritual Christian does not need to ask that question. There are enough needs in the world to keep me busy for the rest of my life. There is food for prayer everywhere!

Of course, you would be quite right.

Nevertheless, I do not think you reacted that way to my question. Why not? I said that I could imagine such a frustration. The fact is, however, most Christians have more than once asked themselves, “What shall I pray for?” without coming up with a satisfactory answer.

The early followers of Christ asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). We may be tempted to write them off as babes in Christ, but mature Paul wrote to the Romans of our common weakness, “We do not know what we ought to pray for” (Rom. 8:26).

Why don’t we know what to pray for? Let me suggest some reasons.

First, the number of choices seems to be infinite. For instance, anything that it is right to want, it is right to pray for. Think of it! “You do not have, because you do not ask God,” we read in James 4:2. Do you want something? As far as you can tell, is it a good thing? Then ask God! That is James’s message. There you have a wide open door for literally millions of prayers, but that fact is likely to seem overwhelming when you think about it. How can you choose what to pray for, out of such a vast ocean of possibilities?

Here is a second thing that may hinder us in knowing what to pray for. Our theology may get in our way. Suppose we believe that God is sovereign and has decided what will happen in history. What difference, then, will our prayers make? Suppose we believe that man’s free will is the decisive factor in day-to-day living. What can God do then? Aren’t His hands tied? From either perspective, we come upon important theological hindrances to prayer. Each of

these views has its own ways of explaining why prayer is still meaningful, but they are not obvious to the casual observer. Just thinking about these things may keep us from choosing what we will pray for.

There is one kind of prayer, however, that bypasses these difficulties. I want to make it the subject of this article. I am speaking of prayer that asks God to do precisely what He has already made up His mind to do. The obvious advantage to this kind of prayer is that our prayers will...

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