Early in my ministry most of my prayers were nothing but asking God to do something for me or my family. Of course, asking God for something is certainly okay with God, but our prayers should also include praising God, confessing sin, offering thanksgiving, and praying for others.
Years ago, I learned from T. W. Hunt that there are two kinds of asking prayers: prayers of petition and prayers of intercession. We need to remember that Jesus invited us to ask Him when we know of a need.
- Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (NIV)
- John 14:14: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
- John 15: 7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
- John 16:24: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
Let’s examine both types of asking prayers and begin with intercessory prayers. These are prayers that you pray for someone. You ask God to do something for a person or groups of people. Intercessory prayers should be:
- Very specific. In most cases, you should use names and share specific requests. To say, “God bless all the missionaries” is way too broad. How do you want God to bless them? What do you want God to do for them?
Your requests would have much more meaning to you and God if you would pray for specific missionaries. Pray for specific needs.
- Based on biblical realities. If you pray that God would help your friend to make a million dollars, I am not sure that prayer will get God’s attention. He is not Santa Clause!
- Ask for things that will honor and glorify God. Matt. 14:13 says, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
- Ask for God’s will to be done. You may want healing for a person. God may want to take this person home to heaven with Him. His will is most important.
Now let’s look at prayers of petition. These prayers are for yourself, your family, or a group to which you belong. Please note that the Bible has many examples of prayers of petition. Abraham asked for a son (Gen. 15:2). Hannah prayed for a son (1 Sam. 1:10-11). Hezekiah prayed for healing (2 Kings 20:1-3). Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed for a son (Luke 1:13). I’m sure that you can name more illustrations of petition prayers in the Bible.
Also, remember that the model prayer contains three personal requests (Matt. 6:9-13). These requests include asking for:
- Daily bread
I believe it is also appropriate to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). In addition, you will often find help and guidance. Remember that Jesus prayed a whole night before He selected His twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-13). Of course, one should always ask for God’s will (James 4:15). Don’t be guilty by praying with wrong motives, James said it this way: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
Whether you are praying intercessory or petition prayers, I would suggest one more requirement. Jesus said in Mark 11:24: “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Belief is very necessary in asking prayers.
Let me assure you that I am still learning about prayer and how to pray. As I have learned to apply these biblical truths and principles, God is refining and growing me in my prayer life so that my asking will be in line with God’s will. Praise the Lord!