Yesterday I listened to part of a sermon series by Dr. Charles Stanley titled “Lifting the Level of Praying”. One of the points that he made that really stuck with me was that the apostle Paul never seemed to have self-centered prayers. Rather, the prayers that are recorded in his letters are always kingdom- or Christ-centered.
Paul doesn’t ask for his fellow Christians to be delivered from their trials and suffering. Instead, he asks that God increase their wisdom and understanding and endurance through their circumstances.
Dr. Stanley used one of Paul’s prayers in Colossians 1:9-14 as an example of how we can elevate our level of praying for others (and, I believe, for ourselves as well):
So we have continued praying for you ever since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. God has purchased our freedom with his blood and has forgiven all our sins. (Col. 1:9-14)
Quite often, whenever I or someone I love is faced with some trial or suffering, my instinct is to try to pray them or me “out” of that situation, to pray for deliverance. I don’t think that’s wrong, but many times God wants us to remain in that situation because of lessons He’s trying to teach us. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for blessings, but many times we end up being more blessed (by God’s standards) through struggles than we do from earthly prosperity.
I want to have the attitude that Paul had in seeing the good in suffering, and recognizing the wisdom and strength that come through it. Instead of praying a lot of “Bless me and bless them” prayers, I want, like Paul, to pray for patience, endurance, joy, and power.
For many years I’ve had what I consider a fairly consistent prayer life, but it’s not always been deep. I want to take my prayer life to a new level and focus more on what God is doing in my life and the life of those I love.