What Should We Pray For?

Linda WLiving as Anabaptists

The topic of prayer still preoccupies me. Previously I wrote reflections on how to pray. And now it’s what to pray for? What do we want from God?

Generally, the items out of our control and reach are subject for a wish list from God. The items of greatest concern become our prayer priority. Similarly, good happenings that we did not achieve or earn ourselves, become topics for gratitude toward God. We often call them “blessings.”

But asking God to delay a plane we’re about to miss, or to make a chronic illness go away, or to ‘zap’ an evil person, etc., is expecting God to intervene in the affairs of the world. That becomes very tricky. Should God prevent the results of a foolish or even mean act? Can two warring parties both reasonably count on God-sent victory? Can we simultaneously expect rain for my garden and sun for my neighbor’s vacation? I believe that God has given humans free will; that means God does not “run our world.” And that’s a good thing, especially when we want, or don’t want, something quite different from what is in everyone’s best interest.

So then, what should we ask for? I believe God wants to work in our hearts. If asked with humility and confidence, God will help us to be better people, to weather undesirable situations and events with calm and grace, and to sort out issues we feel unable and inadequate to tackle.

That leads me to think I asked the wrong question. We shouldn’t be praying for something so much as praying about it. For example, “Lord, you’ve laid this project on my heart, but I have no idea how to do it. Please help.” Or, “I’m stuck. I botched this situation. Forgive me and let me see a way through.” Or, “Lord, I fear I’m going blind. Please help me cope well if that’s to be.”

Do you think praying ‘for’ is different from praying ‘about’? Do you think having God work on your heart is more important than having God “bless” you with stuff, or ease your life? If you are an Anabaptist Christian, is it okay to want both?