I wonder what you like to pray for? If any of us took a good look at the content of our prayers, we would likely find that most of us – me included – focus a lot on practical requests. And that’s fine: Jesus encourages us to ask God for what we need today (our daily bread), and there’s no harm in naming those things. Or indeed for naming others who need particular things, too.
But I always find it helpful to look at the content of biblical prayers – especially the prayers of St Paul in the letters he wrote. Whenever I read them, it seems to open out a new dimension for me in prayer. It’s like Paul is praying on a different plane, you might say a deeper foundation. It’s the difference between asking to be given bread and asking to learn how to bake – at least some of what we need. Now that would be something, wouldn’t it?
And it usually starts with our minds. Before Paul prays about people’s lives, he prays – like he does here – for ‘God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.’ (v9) If we know God’s will, then it’s much easier both to pray for that will to be done, and also to try and do it. We’re no longer stumbling along in the dark, but walking more confidently in the light.
It’s deceptively simple, but powerful. And as I’ve tried to grow in my own walk with Jesus, I’ve learned to give more time in my prayers to asking God for wisdom to know what to pray for. I’ve found that offering this prayer – which is usually answered more surprisingly clearly than you might think – both fills me with more confidence, boldness and inspiration then to pray whatever that is, and also saves precious time and energy, which can be invested in other ways.
But let’s observe that this wisdom is given by the Spirit. It’s vital that we give time in our prayers asking for God’s Holy Spirit to fill our minds as well as our hearts. To think ‘God-thoughts’, to take the words we read in the Word to heart. Word and prayer go hand-in-hand: and as the two feed off each other – the Word inspires our prayers, which inspires us to go back to the Word for more, which inspires our prayers in turn, and so on – so we receive a different, more nourishing kind of bread. We start to co-operate a little in the baking process, so to speak.
Don’t hear me wrong – I’m not preaching a gospel of self-reliance here. The Christian life is God’s gift at its heart: it’s just that Paul encourages us to pray for different gifts, a different kind of bread you might say. This kind of bread, Paul says, is remarkably energising, if verses 10-12 are anything to go by. We’ll look a bit more at this bread next time.
But today, let’s take a few moments to pray verse 9 for ourselves and for any situations where we particularly need wisdom and understanding. Ask God to reveal that wisdom to you by his Spirit – and may that wisdom feed your prayers and energise your walk with Jesus today. Amen.