I was at a soccer game three years ago and ended up talking to a dad who I had known from the past. He was a believer and knew that we had returned to St. T. and he asked me a question that went something like this: if you have believing parents praying for their team to win on both sides, what would happen? I was a little stunned by the question. I’ve prayed for our daughters when they have played sports and I am sure that I have prayed that they would win from time to time! I think it’s wise to consider the content and the motive of our asking prayers more closely. Sometimes we pray that things will go well for our happiness and our comfort and those prayers may have their place but I’d suggest that some of the time we pray because we want things easy…we want to be protected. We want to be shielded from pain but rarely does that spur on our growth as believers. In fact if everything always went the way we wanted it, that would stunt our growth.
We’ve been in a mini series on prayer. We looked at adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and now supplication. We are to petition God with our concerns. But if you have spent any time around any church or any prayer group or small group, the request are often us-centred. Does God hear the request for Aunt Edna’s big toe to get better? Sure He does. Does He care? Sure He does. There is nothing wrong with praying for healing and we’ll get there in a post or two but I believe the Bible teaches that God wants our requests to be about Him and His glory. Scripture is key to help us pray in a way that most glorifies God. Scripture has a couple of warnings about what we pray for and one of them is right out of James 4.
 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3 ESV)
Not all of our prayers make the Father smile. Some are not spurred on by His glory and His advancing Kingdom. Some prayers are self-centred and self-seeking. Could we pray that our kids would respond well to a loss in the game? Could we pray that our kids would be good sports whether they win or lose? Could we pray that teammates and parents would see the fruit of the Spirit in our kids as they play so there would be evangelistic opportunities? Could we pray that us, the parents, would show self-control as we react well to poor refereeing?
The Word is so instructive on what to pray for.
 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 ESV)
I was interviewed at a church a couple of months back and they asked me if I could share any big answers to prayer in my life. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were looking for but I did point them to this verse. As we abide with Jesus and His Word abides with us, we pray differently. Think of a person who regularly reads, studies, meditates on, memorizes, and hears the Word preached. What comes out of her mouth in prayer is going to be shaped by the Word. As for the guy who rarely cracks the Bible open, the world and His own flesh will shape his prayers. If we are people who abide with Jesus, our passions and desires start to be shaped by His desires. The Word tweaks our prayers to be God honouring and God glorifying.
 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 ESV)
Delighting in Jesus is key to getting our prayers near the bullseye. As we delight in Him we start to desire the right things. Delighting in Jesus shapes our desires…for the good.
The Word is so key to our prayers and what started as one post will turn into several as we consider asking prayer. When we were away last weekend I was reading Piper’s book “When I Don’t Desire God” and one chapter focuses on the Word shaping our prayers. So over the next few posts I really want us to dig in and see what our prayers are to look like in light of the Word.
We all need help from the Word to pray well. We are co-learners and co-labourers as we fight for joy and long to see Jesus’ name exalted as we pray. So hang with me and we’ll let the Word be foundational for the prayers we pray: for ourselves, our family, our friends, our church, and the world.