June 3, 2022 | By Jay Ashbaucher
God has created a physical world in which its objects have seemingly infinite variety. For example, although trees, or people, have many similarities, no two trees, or no two people, are exactly alike. When it comes to prayer, there are similarities in how to pray, but it is also true that each person has her or his own way of connecting with God, and God with them. Therefore, I cannot tell anyone there is one way to pray, for how we pray will vary from person to person. However, I can share things I am thinking about or learning in my own prayer life that may provide an insight useful to someone who is wanting to get better at his or her praying. This will begin a series of articles on the subject of prayer.
I struggle with how to pray for others. God’s word says that if we ask anything according to God’s will He hears us, and if we know God hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests we have asked from Him (1 John 5:14-15). My struggle is because I do not know the will of God for the person I am asked to pray for, so how can I pray according to God’s will for them? Thus, I have little confidence in my prayer that God will hear and answer the request. As I was thinking about this verse, it came to me, whether by my own reasoning, or by God’s Spirit, that even if I do not know God’s total will for the one I am praying for, I can pray for them according to what I know about God.
For example, suppose someone asks me to pray for the healing of a health issue that never seems to get better and greatly worries them. Doctors have been trying to figure out the cause, but nothing has yet been found to correct the problem. The ailing person wants prayer for God to heal them, but I do not know God’s will for them, that is, whether God has a specific purpose for allowing them to go through this trying situation or not. I may not know if God will heal them, but since I know God, I can pray for them based on the knowledge of God that I get from the Bible.
We can all pray for others, or for ourselves, based on our knowledge of who God is. We can make our request on behalf of the person we are praying for based on knowing what God is like, and therefore, what He is likely to do. To show how this works, I offer the following prayer as an example.
“Father in Heaven, I know that you have done healing miracles for many. By demonstrating your power through your healing, those who you help can know you are real and that you care for them. I ask you to heal this one I am praying for, and I pray that if they do not believe in you, by meeting their need, they can trust you and come to believe your message of how to have and enjoy a new and eternal life. I also know that you have healed persons simply because you have a heart of compassion for them and are gracious and merciful to help them because of your great lovingkindness. I ask you to heal the one I am praying for because you are a compassionate God. I don’t come to you with any arrogance or demands that you heal them. I know we are all unworthy of your grace because of our sinfulness. Yet, in spite of our sin, you show kindness. I also know that you want us to tell others of your great works, not because you are a proud and boastful God, but because you want people to know of you and your marvelous love for them. Lord, I pray you would heal this person because they need healing and because it would bring glory to your name and it would help your cause of bringing your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Lord, I am aware that if people think they are healed because of my prayers, that would not be good for them or me. I don’t want to be known as a person with special powers or one who has a special ‘in with you’. Even your Son, Jesus, recognized that people came to him for the wrong reasons, not because they wanted to hear his message about God and salvation and how to have a loving relationship with you, but because you could give them what they wanted, as if you were a magic genie and would meet all of their bodily needs. Jesus even told them that they came to him for the wrong reason (John 6:26-27). Lord, if you answer my prayer, if need be, I will remind them of how awesome you are and I will seek to help them develop a relationship with you of love and humility, not one of simply getting what they want or need. Your word says that your kindness leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). I ask you to heal this person I am praying for so that your kindness would lead them to become humble and give glory and honor to you. You want us to become like Jesus, and to grow in love and trust in you, and to learn to practice Christlike attitudes and righteous ways. Hear my prayer, O Lord, for it seems to me it would further your reputation as a loving God, and help people want to be holy as you are holy. I also know that you have good reasons for not always answering our prayers as we want, and that we need to accept that fact. But for the furtherance of your name and your glory, and so Jesus may be known, I ask you to heal this one I am praying for who so desperately needs your healing, Amen.”
This example of a prayer based on what we know of the character of God gives us more confidence that God would grant our request, even though we do not know God’s will for the person we are praying for. Regarding God’s character and his will for people, even though some verses in the Bible confirm that God will change his mind about things, and others say God does not change his mind, it seems that God does change his mind about some things because of prayer on someone’s behalf (see for example, Exodus 32:11-14). Such a thought that it is possible that God will change his mind about certain things gave courage for David to pray to God to save the life of his baby, even though God had said his baby would die. The baby did die, but David believed in the character of God’s grace, that he might possibly override this situation (2 Samuel 12:13-23).
God knows us and wants us to personally know him. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Your have sent” (John 17:3). Jeremiah said, “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24). I am learning to talk to God and boldly ask him to grant my requests based on what I know from the Bible of God’s character. I do not presume to know what God will do, but I know who God has revealed himself to be and I can appeal to his revealed character, for example, that “He is the God who heals” (Exodus 15:26). I do not need to be afraid to talk to God and remind Him of who he is. We believe that God cannot lie and will fulfill the promises he gives us in His word. Why, then, based on verses like 1 John 1:9 and Lamentations 3:22-23, can we not also believe in the faithfulness of God to act according to his character? Having a close relationship with God, and knowing his character, can help us know how we can pray for others.