Have you ever felt you lacked the words needed to pray over your situation? You may think you're hampered because you don't see all the sides of the problem. How should you pray when you don't know what to pray? You want to pray according to God's will, and not according to your own bias, but you have such strong emotions about the situation you find it difficult to discern the proper stance to take in prayer.
Someone might say, "It doesn't really matter how I pray over the situation because God is sovereign and He will do what He pleases." While it is true that God is sovereign and He does what He pleases, He has chosen to give us what we ask if we ask in Jesus' name. "'Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son'" (John 14:13, NKJV). Answered prayer is God's idea not ours. According to James 4:3, two things may hinder receiving our answer to prayer. Our motives or our methods may be wrong.
The Proper Method of Prayer
What is the proper method of prayer? Praying God's Word is one way to offer the perfect prayer. When a situation arises in our lives we should first go to God's Word. What is His will in this situation? His Word is the perfect basis for any prayer.
Let's say you are single and you meet someone new at work. You wonder if you should pursue a relationship with the person. Although the person doesn't know Jesus as his personal Savior, you're thinking of pursuing the relationship, hoping that the person will eventually become a believer. God's Word says not to be unequally yoked or connected with unbelievers, and someone who is walking in the light should not have fellowship with someone who is walking in darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14). Therefore, if you know God's Word, there's no need to pray about whether to date the unbeliever. The only prayer to pray in that situation is a prayer of salvation for your friend. You know you cannot continue a dating relationship with an unbeliever and still be in the perfect will of God for your life.
Do you see how God's Word and praying effectively go hand in hand? No matter your circumstance, whether you need healing, direction for your life, freedom from fear, or deliverance from a bad habit, God's Word has the answer. "So shall My word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11, Amplified Bible). Praying God's Word establishes His plans and purposes in our lives, and we know His plan for His children is always a good plan. Whatever plans you may have for your own life pale in comparison to the wonderful plan He has for you. (See Jeremiah 29:11-14.)
When you know what God's Word says about your situation it gives you confidence and assurance when you pray. James 1:6 says when we pray we must pray with faith and not waver (author's paraphrase). How do we get that kind of solid faith? "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17, NKJV). So the perfect method of praying is praying God's Word.
We know certain things are black and white in the Bible. God's Word clearly says do not murder, do not steal, and do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. But how do you get direction in other areas that are not so clearly taught in the Bible? If you have two job offers, how do you know which one is the right one?
You can still trust God's Word to give you direction. I have marked several passages in my Bible that I read and speak out loud when I need personal direction. I pray these verses back to the Lord, telling Him that I believe what they say and I fully expect to know what to do in my situation. I love Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (NKJV).
Once I have prayed God's Word, renewing my confidence in His ability to lead and guide me, I may ask Him to please close the door on the job that is not for me and to open wide the door for the job He wants me to have. When you ask the Lord to make His will clear to you, and You trust Him, He will guide You just as He has promised in His Word.
The Proper Motive in Prayer
According to James 4:3 we must have the proper motive in prayer. The best way to measure our motive is by reading 1 Corinthians 13, the "love chapter." How would that ensure a proper motive when we pray? If our prayer is based on love, then our motive will be pleasing to God. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). If we maintain an attitude of love, our motive will be right.
If you've been offended or hurt by someone, you may not be walking in love and your prayers may be hindered. A few years ago I was deeply hurt by a friend. My friend said some things that I never would have expected her to say. At first I found it difficult to pray over that situation. Anger and pain would well up inside me and I knew it wasn't pleasing to God. So I began to daily read aloud 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. I was honest with God and said, "Lord, you know that my friend has betrayed me. I feel so angry and hurt. Please help me to love those who hurt me and say evil things against me. I want to walk in love as You commanded. Lord, I know You would not ask me to do something and not enable me to do it. Your Word says to love your enemies. So I forgive my friend and I commit to love her no matter what."
The pain did not go away immediately. I had to choose to love based on what God's Word said because I had no emotional feelings of love. But as I began praying for her family, her health, and her job, the pain decreased.
I read 1 Corinthians 13 often, reminding myself that love is not a response to how others treat me, it is a choice I make. Things did not change overnight. But over a period of a few months God turned the whole situation around. My friend came to me one day and apologized for the hurt she had caused me. As she began to share her feelings, I realized that she had said those things because of her own feelings of fear and rejection. Our relationship was restored and we are friends today.
Like me, you may wonder if your heart is right when you pray over relationships or circumstances. Is your motive pure? Let love be your standard. Seek to develop in the area of love by memorizing and meditating on Scripture passages such as 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 3.
We can pray the perfect prayer and believe God for the outcome. As our prayers are answered, He is glorified and our testimony grows. The more answers we receive in prayer, the more we want to pray. We begin to see God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven. We recognize the awesome fact that we are partners with God and He chooses to work through the prayers of His people.