Editorial: Bigger Prayers

It’s almost the new year. Often, one of our new year’s resolutions is to spend more time praying. But what if we not only prayed longer but bigger? For example, we may pray for believers battling sickness. Usually, our prayer is for them to be healed if it is the Lord’s will, and there is certainly scriptural precedent for such a request (Jas 5:16). But are there other petitions we can make for suffering saints? After all, the Lord seldom grants the physical healing we long that fellow-believers receive. I don’t want to downplay how wonderful it would be to receive healing, but how about praying that believers receive strength to endure their trial with joy (Rom 5:3)? How about asking that they experience the sweetness of the Lord’s presence (Isa 41:10)? How about requesting that God may be glorified in their circumstances (2Th 1:12)? What about praying that their trial may have an evangelical purpose (Col 4:3)? We may be missing out by failing to ask for bigger things, maybe even better things.

If you’re anything like me, you pray that the Lord will change the circumstances that have brought hardship into other people’s lives. Such a prayer is natural since we have a deep care for one another; it breaks our hearts to see others suffer. We want God to fix things and to make our lives go back to the way they were before trials entered the picture. But again, God seldom changes our circumstances, and hardship always has purpose. One purpose is greater conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29). What a tragedy if God were to “fix things” by making our lives go back to the way they were before trials came and we missed out on greater likeness to His Son.

Now, even if God doesn’t change our circumstances, there are some big things we can pray for, many of them found in the prayers of the Apostle Paul throughout his NT letters. And these are prayer requests we can make for all believers, no matter our circumstances. Ponder each of these for a moment before rushing to the next sentence. Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would know God better (Eph 1:17). He prayed that the Philippian believers would grow in their love for one another (Php 1:9). He prayed that the Thessalonian Christians’ faith would increase (1Th 3:10) and that they would glorify Christ in their lives (2Th 2:11-12). He prayed that the Christians in Colossae would grow in spiritual wisdom (Col 1:9). He also asked that they pray for him, that he would be able to effectively evangelize, even while in chains (Col 4:3-4). There was something bigger than his release from prison. He doesn’t ask them to pray for open prison doors but open gospel doors. These are big prayers indeed.

But these big prayers will demand better knowledge of the Lord’s people, which will only come about as we interact more with one another. Also, bigger prayers will require bigger faith. And we shouldn’t forget that bigger prayers, when answered, deserve bigger thanks.

So here’s a great new year’s resolution from a John Newton hymn:

Thou art coming to a King;
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.