… the Bible’s prayers are rarely about health, travel mercies, finances, doing well on a test, finding a job, or the salvation of unsaved relatives. Of course, these are legitimate things to pray for, but they are a minor emphasis in Scripture. Even so, these topics typically dominate most church and small group prayer requests. They easily miss the real action of God’s dealings with his beloved people.
In contrast, the driving focus of biblical prayer asks God to show himself, asks that we will know him, asks that we will love others.
It names our troubles.
It names our troublesome reactions and temptations.
It names our holy desires.
It names our God, his promises, and his will.
When someone asks, “How may I pray for you?” Powlison asks us to imagine the impact of responding like this:
I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and have been inattentive and irritable to those nearest and dearest to me. Please pray for me, that I will awaken and turn from my preoccupation with work pressures, recreations, health problems, or money. God promises to help me pay attention to him. Ask him to help me remember and focus. Ask him to help me to take my family and other people to heart. Pray that I will take refuge in him when the pressure is on. The Lord is my refuge, but I’ve been taking refuge in TV and food.
He also answers the question, “How can we help people change the way they make prayer requests?”
First and foremost, model what it’s like to be in touch with where you really need God’s mercies, strength, and wisdom.
Second, help God’s people to study what the Bible shows and tells about prayer. Learning to pray is not mainly about how often we pray, or the techniques and elements that go into prayer. It is about how to need the right things, and how look in the right direction for what you need. What is the Lord’s Prayer asking for? What are the Psalms asking for? What about God comes into view in the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms? This is what we ought to be asking for from others, and how we ought to be praying for each other.
Read the whole thing here.
[via Justin Taylor]