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Friday, February 21, 2014

What Christians should pray for in our private prayers, according to Philip Yancey

The graphic above is also a link to my Flickr photostream, where it is available in larger sizes.

In his excellent book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006. See here for the book's web site.) Philip Yancey has a chapter on "What to Pray For." In it, he discusses these appropriate subjects for prayer:
Heart Desire
Yancey writes: "What is the point of prayer if not to express our heart's desire, especially when it matches what we know to be God's will on earth?" Of course, many of my prayers, and probably many of yours, are for things about which we do not know God's will for certain.
Peace, or Trust
Here Yancey is not speaking of world peace, but of praying for peace, because we believe that the matter we are praying about, whatever it may be, is in God's good hands.
Faith, or Trust
Yancey describes a special kind of faith, which he calls fidelity - "a hang-on-by-the-fingernails faith against all odds, no matter the cost."
Complaint, or Lament
Many prayers in the Bible are complaints to God, such as the book of Lamentations, a good many of the Psalms, and the complaints of Mary and Martha about the death of Lazarus. We think that God should have acted, and He doesn't seem to have done so.
God's presence Yancey believes that we should pray that the Holy Spirit would live through us. We must act that way, too!
The author describes his own prayers for AIDS victims in Africa as an example. He says that he prays for health-care workers, and for philanthropic and governmental activity aimed at helping AIDS victims, and prevention.
No one deserves God's grace, but we should pray for it for ourselves, because God gives it to us, and no one deserves it. Paul prayed for grace for the new churches, in his letters.
By this, Yancey means praying that we may be prepared for death, of ourselves, or of those we care for. He isn't talking about praying that we will go to heaven. He is telling me that I should pray that I will have a Christ-like attitude toward those around me as I begin to suffer from whatever it is that will end my life, and that I will manifest a Christ-like attitude toward anyone in that state, for example with dementia, if it becomes my responsibility to care for them.
Probably no one is as grateful to God as much as she should be, or grateful for all the things she should be. We take so much for granted -- air, beauty, water, the ability to listen and look, for example.

A great deal more could be said about each of these topics, and Yancey has said quite a bit about each of them.

Yancey writes: "At its best, my prayer does not seek to manipulate God into doing my will -- quite the opposite. Prayer enters the pool of God's own love and widens outward."

I have previously posted on what the New Testament church prayed for. There's almost no overlap with Yancey's discussion, in part because he is writing about personal prayer. I have also posted on the ACTS scheme of praying.

I originally posted this a few days ago, saying that I expected to modify the post in the near future, adding a graphic, and more explanation. I have added the graphic, and re-worked the post, on February 26, 2014. Thanks for reading, and looking!

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