Pastor Terry Tatum
Over the past few weeks we have been in a sermon series titled How to Pray. Pastor Craig has helped us learn ways to pause in prayer and rejoice in prayer. Today we are going to discuss How to Ask in Prayer.
I need to confess up front that I struggle with prayer. It’s not that I have a problem with praying itself or that I have trouble talking with God. The issue is that I struggle with asking God for things.
I don’t want to be that pesky kid who keeps saying “I want this” or “I want that.” I feel bad when I ask God for things. I guess I’ve always just assumed that He has bigger and better things to do than worry about me. Have you ever felt that way?
On the other end of the spectrum, there are folks who seem to continually ask God for things. I must admit I have always had a difficult time understanding how some people could be that way. To be honest, it seems a bit self-centered.
But maybe I have it wrong. In fact, I know I have it wrong because I’ve discovered that the people who ask God for things constantly are often closer to what God desires from us than I am by not wanting to ask for anything at all. I know for sure that the ones who ask with the right heart and a good mix of praise are!
What I’m learning and what I hope to share in this message is that thinking the way I often do, that “God has bigger and better things to do than worry about me,” is wrong.
God is in the middle of all the little things we do each day. He is our Father, and He wants to help us and have a constant dialogue with us. And yes, He wants us to ask Him for things!
We are just as loved and just as important to God as anyone else. And since we are all loved by God, it is critical that we know how to ask God for things both for ourselves (petition) and for others (intercession).
The words “petition” and “intercession” are churchy words, that we often don’t take the time to explain. So let’s look at them a little more in depth.
Petition is when we ask God in prayer for things we need, such as “God please help me with…” or “God please help my marriage,” On the other hand, intercession is when you pray for someone else.
The Lord’s Prayer, which we have been studying, is the perfect example to look to in order to better understand petitioning prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer is the way Jesus told us to pray. Did you notice that four different times Jesus tells us to ask for things?
Asking our Father for things is exactly what we should be doing. But as you can see here, we aren’t just asking for material things to make life better, we are to ask in all facets of our lives.
Give us this day our daily bread: “Please just give me what I need today.”
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us: “Forgive us and help us forgive others.”
Lead us not into temptation: “Help me stay away from bad things.”
Deliver us from evil: “Don’t let us fall away from You.”
Jesus even goes so far as to make us this promise in Matthew Chapter 7 about asking in prayer:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (Matthew 7:7-9 NIV)
Paraphrase: “If you ask this is what will happen.”
But there’s another reason Jesus taught us to ask in prayer. It’s because asking in prayer actually helps us become a better person. Did you know that asking in prayer develops humility, dependence and faith?
Humility: We go from believing “I can do it on my own” to “I can’t do it on my own.”
Dependence: We go from thinking ‘I don’t need anybody” to telling God, “I need YOU!”
Faith: We move from a mindset that “Maybe God can help” to a full confidence that “I know He can help”.
Making petitions in prayer is not selfish. In fact it is exactly the opposite. It helps us to more fully develop as a Christian.
Interceding for others in prayer does the same thing.
Not just because I am a pastor, but because I am a Christian I feel like it is my job to pray on behalf of others as often as I can. Why? Because Jesus prayed for others and as Christians we are to emulate the life of Christ as much as possible.
Did you know that Christ intercedes for us? We’re told this in the Bible:
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34 NIV).
Asking on behalf of others is a way of showing our love for others. We care enough to not only take the time to pray but to go to our Heavenly Father on behalf of someone else and make requests.
I’m convinced that interceding in prayer for others is just about the most loving thing we can do. But it’s one of those things that many of us don’t know how to do.
So, how do we intercede (ask) for others in prayer?
First, break it down. When I pray for someone in our church family I get very specific. “God heal _______”, “God soften _____________’s heart”, “God help _____________ find a job.”
Step out on faith and be specific when you are asking God for help.
Second, pray for today’s needs rather than tomorrow’s wants. Tomorrow is coming whether we like it or not, but it’s not here yet. A word of advice: “If you want God to help with your future, start by asking him to help you right now”.
Third, share it with others. Pray immediately and, if possible, with the person who needs prayer. If you encounter someone and you feel like their needs are important enough to take to the creator of the universe, why wait to pray for them? Stop what you are doing and pray for them right then and there. If you are not with the person you are praying for, find a way to let them know you have prayed for them.
Fourth, keep track of your requests. Use a notebook or an app on your phone or whatever works for you. When you pray for others follow up with them to see how the things you prayed for are going.
The Apostle Paul urges us to intercede for “all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2). And if you don’t think your prayers have power, you’re wrong. The Bible tells us how powerful our prayers are:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14).
When you pray for your own needs or stop and intercede on someone else’s behalf, you are doing so with the power of the Almighty. You are His child, and He loves you. He wants to help you and others. Pray boldly and confidently for others, because you can be assured that God loves you and them and wants to help.