I want to talk about praying for ourselves. I want to give you tools to help in those times when you do not care about God nor the things of God. How do we get out of dry spells? I believe we need, what I call, the desire to desire God. When we don’t care we need to want to care. We need to catch ourselves and beg God to help us out by His strength.
I want to show some biblical prayers to prove that in those times we can pray our way out. Don’t be tricked into thinking, “I shouldn’t pray,” “I have a free will,” “God can’t intervene,” “I need to do this on my own or it won’t count.” I want to show that we can pray that God will help us love Him, have greater joy, etc.
As a disclaimer, I know that some of these verses are not self-directed prayers. I bring them up to show that prayer for one’s character and God’s inner-working within their hearts is legitimate. It then follows that these could be directed to ourselves also. Let us see examples for five areas in our lives where we can fall into trouble:
Pray for yourself, for boldness to proclaim the gospel
Acts 4:29-31. The apostles Peter and John had healed a beggar who had been lame from birth. The authorities saw this, and saw that they had done so in the name of Jesus. They were worried that many would turn to Christ. Thus, for political reasons, they warned the apostles not to preach anymore and sent them off.
So what did they do? The apostles began to pray. They asked that God would grant them the confidence in their speech, and that God would heal people. What was the result? Verse 31 states, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” And so we too can ask for boldness. Whether it be that of man, rejection, or failure, fear can consume us when we are about to evangelize. Pray then, like the apostles, that God will embolden you to speak up despite the fears.
As seen in this account, our boldness rests in the Holy Spirit’s presence. This seems to be the trend in Scripture. After commanding the Great Commission, Jesus says He will be with us always (Matt. 28:20). Paul said to Timothy that we were given Spirit of power rather than one of timidity (2 Tim. 1:7). Back in the Old Testament, the Lord encouraged Moses, “I will be with your mouth,” (Exo. 4:12); or to Ezekiel, “When I speak to you, I will open your mouth,” (Ezek. 3:27); or when commissioning Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will deliver you,” (Jer. 1:8). This is the same as the Scripture above, where they were filled with the Spirit and then they preached with boldness.
Therefore, along with praying for boldness to share our faith, we could also ask to be filled with the Spirit. We could also ask that God will help us know and feel His presence as we go out. Along with that, we could also pray for a deeper understanding of His gospel in order that we may better know how to communicate God’s message the lost. We could ask for a deeper burden for the lost. Just as the apostles did, we can ask for God to open doors (Col. 4:3) and that in those times He will give us the words to say (Eph. 6:19).
Pray for yourself, to have a greater love for God and others
John 17:25-26. Although this statement is not exactly an intercession within His prayer, yet we can take this as a purpose statement–a desired goal of Christ as a result of His teachings. Here it is: “That the love with which You loved Me may be in them.” Do you see what He is saying? The love that God has for Christ will be in us–we can love Jesus just as much as God does! Let us pray this when we do not love God as we ought!
Consider Philippians 1:9 for another example. Paul prays that “[their] love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.” It is not so much that Paul asks God to make our love less wishy washy or emotional. In this prayer, the love is not the object to which the knowledge is being added, but rather it is the knowledge to which we are to add love! He is not praying for a knowledge-filled love, but for a love-filled knowledge. The thought is that when we have this deep love abounding in our knowledge and discernment, then we will approve of the excellent things and we will bear fruit to the glory of God. We can pray for ourselves, that He will give us this love. This is another way we can ask God for more love.
Or again, in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12 Paul prays that the God would cause the church to love one another more! It would be an act of God and His Spirit which brings about the fruit of love in this church. Paul could pray that! We can pray that for ourselves when we cannot love somebody in our church–or perhaps an enemy of ours.
It seems as though the New Testament records God’s answer to that prayer. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul praises God that they do love one another more! This is amazing. Paul was praying that God would give them a deeper love in the first epistle, and by the time he sat down to write his second epistle he had been notified of a noticeable increase of love in that church.
Again, what is a further prayer we can pray? Our love for God and for others is rooted in God’s love for us (1 John 4:9). When we seem to be trapped in apathy, let us pray for a deeper understand of God’s love for us! Paul did this for the church at Ephesus. “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that you may know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God,” (Eph. 3:16-19).
Pray for your righteous walk in general
In Psalm 141, David begs God to protect him from sin and from the influence of unrighteous men. Listen to his attitude as he cries out in verse 3, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” David knows that his mouth is dirty and full of vanity, and may often slip. He needs God to help his speech be honoring to Him. He also prayers, “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice deeds of wickedness with men who do iniquity.” He knows how intense peer pressure can be, and is feeling the weight of it upon his fickle heart. He needs God to help him take a stand for what is right and not to follow the ways of the world.
Paul often prayed for his churches that they would bear fruit for God and live righteously. Thus, we know that we can pray these same things for ourselves. Observe how Paul prays in Philippians 1:9-11 that they would be “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ” (emphasis mine). He also prays for the Colossians, that they would “walk worthy of the Lord,” that they would “please Him,” and that they would “bear fruit in every good work” (Col. 1:9-12). For the Thessalonians he prayed that God would “fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power,” and this was all to the glory of His name (2 Thes. 1:11-12, emphasis mine). Read over these apostolic prayers and others. Make supplication for yourself in the same way you do for others.
Our righteousness is rooted in God’s work through us. From the above prayers, God is the one who fills us with that fruit; God is the one who helps us walk worth; and God is the one who fulfills His desires in us. We are prepared by God to have a walk defined by good works (Eph 2:10), and God is the one working in us to accomplish His will (Phil 2:13). Through Christ we have died to self and are raised to new life– no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness (Rom 6). He gives us His Spirit who helps us bear fruit in our lives (Gal 5, etc). By the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13). The list goes on! Therefore, whatever sin is weighing you down—in whatever addiction you find yourself entangled, run to God and His power to overcome it!
Prayer for yourself to have greater joy
Sin brings us in a terrible downward spiral: In a time of dissatisfaction we look to something other than God for pleasure. This sin, rather than granting joy, brings depression. In that state of depression we seek comfort, but instead of repenting we believe the lie that a particular sin will bring fulfillment and relief. After falling into sin again, we find ourselves in an even deeper depression, with even deeper yearnings for satisfaction. But even at this point also we do not repent, but choose the temporal “satisfaction” that sin offers, only to fall into deeper depression. This pattern continues until we either finally turn to God with many scars, or die in our sin.
Have you ever been there? I have. I believe King David has been there also, and we see this particularly in Psalm 51. He had no joy in his time of sin, and he begged God, “Let the bones which You have broken rejoice,” (Ps. 51:8). He was hurting! He could not rejoice on his own because sin held him from his greatest love. He needed the Lord’s forgiveness and comfort in order to rejoice again. Also in verse 12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (emphasis mine). He knew that if he was to have joy again, it needed to be an act of God. A reading of Psalms 32 and 38 will also give us this picture. Sin brings about pain, and repentance brings about blessing and restored fellowship and joy in God.
Not only in times of sin can we pray for a greater joy, but also we can pray for joy in general. Paul prayed for the Romans that God would fill them with joy and peace (Rom. 15:13). Thus we know that God will answer that prayer when we beg on our own behalf.
Our joy is rooted in Christ’s work, God’s faithfulness, and the certainty of our future. The fact that a persecuted and hated man can leap for joy (Luke 6:22-23); the fact that an imprisoned man about to be beheaded can rejoice (Philippians); the fact that, after being flogged, men can rejoice over suffering for Christ (Acts 5:41); the fact that a man can be “sorrowful yet always rejoicing,” (2 Cor. 6:10); and the fact that our inner man can be renewed while our outer man decays (2 Cor. 4:16), all prove that our joy rests in something not of this temporal life. We can rejoice when persecuted or imprisoned because our hope is not in this life. May we then, along with praying for joy, pray for a stronger faith in God’s promises, eyes to see beyond the temporary trials, and a deeper understanding of our hope in Christ and the future glories of heaven to which Paul says our trials are “not worth comparing” (Rom. 8:18), and which is “far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Pray for a deeper hunger for the Word
It is all too often in my own life that I do not desire to read God’s Word. I am so quick to choose some form of entertainment which can in no way help my soul. What should I do in those times? What can help me turn to my Bible? Perhaps a simple prayer from Psalm 119: “Incline my heart to Your testimonies” (Ps. 119:36). Or mimic his prayer immediately following, where he asks God to turn his eyes away from vanity and toward His Word (Ps. 119:37). We can pray that for ourselves too!
Our hunger for God’s Word is rooted in the fact that it is infinitely valuable. The wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ are called “treasures” (Col. 2:3). We are to value wisdom higher than we do gold (Prov. 4:7-8; 8:11; 16:16). So along with begging God for the desire to read the Bible, may we also ask God to show us how valuable and precious it truly is. We can ask to be shown the failure of all other outside guidance, that we may see our hopelessness apart from His guidance. Or to show us the folly of living not according to His Word, and so forth.
In sum, whatever area your walk with Christ lacks, do not hold back from prayer. Run to Him for help! If you have been missing church and neglecting your Bible, pray that God will give your heart these godly affections. Even if you do not desire to get back with Him, pray in Jesus’ name for the desire to desire those things!