Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.Colossians 4:2 (NLT)
Our prayers often times consist of what we want from God. Something along the lines of “Dear Jesus, please help today to be nice, amen” is fairly typical. For students, the prayer often times goes something like, “Please help me not to fail this test!” Still, other prayers are for life-situations, “God, please help me to get this job.” There’s nothing wrong with these prayers. God wants to hear from us, and He wants us to express our thoughts to Him on things that are going on in our lives. But, often times, our prayers can lack depth. Let me explain.
When we only pray about our wants, the focus of prayer is less on God and more on us. Prayer, by its very nature, is supposed to help us focus on God. In fact, much of our prayer life shouldn’t be expressing our thoughts at all. Our prayers should focus on God’s thoughts. As the Apostle Paul writes, “Pray in the Spirit at all times.” In other words, we need to be tuning into the Holy Spirit and let Him tell us what to pray for.
I’ve had several instances in my life when I’ve heard the Holy Spirit say, “Pray for [fill in the name].” Sometimes the Holy Spirit allows me to have knowledge of what a person is going through (sometimes not). He then prompts me to pray for relief, healing, leading, comfort, guidance, or whatever is needed at that moment in time. I believe this is truly what it means to “pray in the Spirit.” Our desires, our wants, our requests line up with what God wants.
This, of course, makes perfect sense when we wrestle with the question, “Why didn’t God answer my prayer?” One of the things we need to evaluate is whether our prayer lined up with the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes prayers are answered in different ways. I’ve prayed for many people to experience healing who did not receive it in this lifetime. However, I know they will at the return of Jesus Christ. But, when we pray to get that job, or something like it, perhaps it’s not God’s will for us.
Today, and every day, when you pray, submit to the Holy Spirit. Begin your prayers with a desire to hear God’s desires. Listen throughout the day for His leading. Pray accordingly. And, as Paul says, “Pray on all occasions.”