We want God to change our circumstances. God might want to change our perspective.
Many of the prayer lists I see are full of requests for physical healing, marriage difficulties, prodigal children and parents, the occasional prayer for our leaders and our country, people working through grief, and the infrequent petition for an unbelieving friend or relative to come to Christ.
All of those are absolutely legitimate requests: it’s entirely appropriate and biblical that we pray for them, diligently, frequently, and fervently.
But I’ve very rarely seen a prayer request that looked like this:
We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. (Col 1:9b-12)
Paul the apostle is the author of the Bible book of Colossians which was originally a letter to a church in a place called Colossae in what is now Turkey. He spells out–intentionally and specifically–for the Colossian church how he prays for them, and his prayer list doesn’t look like my prayer list:
Instead of praying for God to remove them from all difficult situations, he asks God to:
- Provide knowledge of his will (v. 9)
- Give spiritual wisdom and understanding (v.9)
- Enable them to always honor and please God (v. 10)
- Equip them to bear all kinds of good spiritual fruit (v. 10)
- Grow as they learn to know God better (v. 10)
- Provide strength and power, for endurance, patience, and joy (v. 11)
- Instill constant thankfulness (v.12)
God may very well heal, encourage, fix, save, and mend when we pray. We celebrate those miracles large and small and it’s entirely correct to ask for them. I do. But the prayers in the scriptures often make those things secondary, while Paul’s requests in this passage seem foundational. And unassailable.
We pray for an easier life, but Colossians 1 reveals a prayer for stronger character. I really prefer the easier life, and am seriously concerned God might not answer my prayers the way I want. But on my better days I pray for stronger character. Which one is unshakable, both here and in eternity? 100,000 years from now, which one will be more important?
The difficult circumstances we ask God to fix for us are temporary. The character traits Paul mentions in the passage above are enduring.
Do your prayer requests look like those in the Colossians passage above?
How do you normally pray?
Is there something God is calling you to change?