It used to bother me. My mom prayed about everything. Sure, there were the things that people normally prayed for. She fervently prayed for her family in every way imaginable: health; God’s providence; wisdom for the future; and known needs. She knew the needs of others and wove those into ours in the daily family prayer times. My brother and I grew up hearing them grow in the scope of their prayers. Soon missionaries, governments and various needs of the church were consistently prayer for in our presence. The impact of that consistency is felt today. But there was more than that. She prayed about the “little things” too.
If there was a birthday party or special event on the coming weekend, she would pray that there would not be any rain that day. “What about the farmers?” I would protest. “They need the rain.” God, I contended, was concerned with the “big stuff” prayers, a very small scope of what I perceived made up the scope of my mom’s prayers. Despite my weak attempts at trying to enforce what were legitimate prayers and what weren’t, one thing stood out: My mom knew her God was able to answer her prayers and brought all of her desires to Him.
It as much later in life that I began to notice a trend in my prayer life due to her faithfulness. It seemed that my prayers were primarily for others. And while it is important to pray for others, it often betrayed something of the self sufficiency I continued to exude. I got excited about missions, and prayed earnestly for the salvation of others and those in great need of God’s healing. However, there seemed to be a stark lack of prayer for the “little things” in my life. Apparently, I had a plan for those kinds of things that made it unnecessary to bring it to God in prayer. Praying for those little things seemed like frailty. I was saved, and now all I needed to do was study the Bible and be obedient. Prayer was mainly what I was offering up for other people or as a last ditch attempt on my own behalf; the “small-scope-big-stuff-prayers.”
Yet, the New Testament portrayal of how believers prayed was markedly different to the self-sufficiency-maintaining prayers that I offered. There we find believers called on God to: (1) exalt His name in the world (Matthew 6:9); (2) extend His kingdom in the world (Matthew 6:10); (3) cause the gospel would run and triumph (2 Thessalonians 3:1); (4) give them the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:19); (5) vindicate His people in their cause (Luke 18:7); (6) save unbelievers (Romans 10:1); (7) direct the use of the sword (Ephesians 6:17-18); (8) give them boldness in proclamation (Ephesians 6:18-19); (9) heal wounded comrades (James 5:14-15); (10) heal unbelievers (Acts 28:8); (11) provide miraculous deliverance (Acts 12:5,12); (12) raise the dead (Acts 9:40); (13) supply His troops with necessities (Matthew 6:11); (14) grant wisdom (James 1:5); (15) establish leadership in the outposts (Acts 14:23); (16) send out laborers (Matthew 9:38); (17) grant success to missionaries (Romans 15:30-31); (18) provide unity and harmony among believers (John 17:20-21); (19) provide the encouragement of togetherness (1 Thessalonians 3:10); (20) give a mind of discernment (Philippians 1:9-10); (21) provide knowledge of His will (Colossians 1:9); (22) know him better (Colossians 1:10); (23) provide power to comprehend the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14,18); (24) provide a deeper sense of assured hope (Ephesians 1:16,18); (25) provide for strength and endurance (Ephesians 3:16); (26) give a deeper sense of His power within them (Ephesians 1:16, 19); (27) not allow their faith to be destroyed (Luke 22:32); (28) give them greater faith (Mark 9:24 ; cf. Ephesians 3:17); (29) prevent them from falling into temptation (Matthew 6:13); (30) complete their resolves (2 Thessalonians 1:11); (31) allow them to do good works (Colossians 1:10); (32) protect them from the evil one (Matthew 6:13), (33) cast out demons (Mark 9:29); and (34) forgive their sins (Matthew 6:12).
It seems that the New Testament stands as a witness against the prayer approach that I had childishly practiced and tried to enforce. If the above is a mere sampling of what believers prayed for, and it likely is, it is fair to say that they brought almost everything imaginable to a God who they knew was more than capable to answer according to His infinite wisdom. Praying for the small things wasn’t a sign of the weakness rather it was a sign that the majesty of God had grabbed a hold of human hearts.
Righteous people have always had a unique comfort with their great need for God, and that has driven them to the One who is able to richly supply (cf. James 5:16). Perhaps the reason why the prayers of a righteous man accomplishes much is because they pray for so many different things too. Perhaps the reason why we don’t pray enough is because we do not know our need nor God’s mighty enabling enough.
By God’s grace, I’m beginning to become more aware of my frailty and God’s absolute sovereignty. The scope of my prayers has also grown alongside that awareness. God is becoming more precious, the Rock of Ages in which to hide. And steadily I bring more and more to hide there, knowing that apart from His enabling I’m helpless. My prayer for us is that the theology that we have come to learn about our great God would transpire into a great need of Him as expressed in prayer.