William Barclay said that “True prayer is asking God what He wants.” Too often our prayers are driven by our own perceived needs and selfish desires instead of focusing on what God wants to do in us and through our situation. We are focused on the here and now, but God’s eyes are also on the next and the not yet. He is capable of foreseeing every possible twist and turn our lives might take, and is always making a way for us to use the gifts He has entrusted to us in a way that furthers His Kingdom and glorifies His character. While Jesus longs for our happiness, He knows the quickest route there is to steer us toward holiness.
We pray for health and prosperity, but what He really wants is for us to care for the sick and the poor. Our eyes are on ourselves, while He is focused on the injustice that surrounds us. We are focused on finding comfort and security, but His Word spreads through trial and persecution. In other words, our prayers are often in direct opposition to what God wants to accomplish in the world. Jesus told His followers that whatever they asked for in His name, He would do for them (John 14:12-15). We’ve taken the original intent of praying in alignment with His will, and turned it instead into a cliché we throw onto the end of our prayers.
Ending our prayers with the phrase, “in Jesus’ name” does not impart some mystical quality or blessing to our petition. Unless our prayers are aligned with the mission of Christ, they will be weakened and less effective. It isn’t that God isn’t concerned with our daily stresses and struggles; it’s that He has a greater perspective on our circumstances than we could ever imagine. He cares deeply for us and what hurts us hurts Him as well. He longs for us to become the person He uniquely created us to be. First and foremost however, His concern is with the salvation of the world. After all, when our brief time in this life is over, we will find the peace, rest, and joy for which we yearn.
To pray prayers that are immensely powerful and effective, we must pray in alignment with the will of God for all humanity. Our primary concern must be that all people will come to respect and understand the infallible character of God. Our prayers should be that everyone would feel the unstoppable and uncontainable love of Christ. We should pray that every individual would comprehend that they have unsurpassable worth in the eyes of Jesus. Imagine if we were consumed with prayers like these. If the Church would come together in one voice asking God to bring these things to pass, can you imagine the effect it would have on the world? When we seek the will of God and our heart burns as His does, everything else will pale in comparison. Then we will pray true prayers; prayers of hope, love, and the realization of God’s Kingdom here on earth.