Whether as the result of watching the news, reading prayer bulletins, or simply being concerned for needs we come across, there can be so many, and such big, prayer-worthy topics and situations that we feel we ought to be praying about. But if we were to try to pray for them all, we would soon feel overwhelmed and maybe even switch off from praying about anything.
It is so easy to default to praying almost exclusively about matters close to home and heart, but in reality, most of us have some elasticity and we could bear more burdens in prayer than we actually do, and bear them better. In this article, we are considering ways in which the Lord can take us wider in our prayers.
When praying about major topics it often helps to start by focusing on a specific person or situation, because you are familiar with the details. For instance, perhaps you are concerned for education. Rather than trying to approach such a huge abstract subject from scratch, why not start with a teacher who you know, and then move on to pray for their department, and then their school. And then from there for schools in the region.
Before you know it, you are praying for education right across the nation – and all because you started by praying for a person you know.
Isn’t this rather like entering the ankle-deep shallows, and then gradually moving out into deeper water? We will often be surprised how the Spirit takes us wider and deeper, and so grateful that we gave Him the chance to lead! But had we started with the subject of education itself, it might well have seemed far too big and intimidating, and your prayers might well have become too generalised. It is only too easy for our prayers to resemble a ‘wish list’ rather than being focused and specific petitions that the Lord can answer.
By beginning in prayer for the person we know, we have found a way to move from a concern for an individual person to the wider, making them, as it were, representative of whole communities, professions and nations, rather as an ambassador represents his country.
Another way we can partner with the Lord in praying the things that are on His heart, is by praying in tongues, allowing the Spirit of God Himself to reach out to Father God through our spirits. If we have the gift, let’s not neglect it!
We can make use of all sorts of audio and visual cues to prompt us to pray. For instance, we might pray for those suffering from Covid-19 every time we hear a siren, or for refugees when we put on our shoes. We might place a pebble in a bowl to give tangible substance to prayers for a friend, or light a candle to ask that the Lord visit those who are waiting for something important.
Another approach might be to press the pause button to freeze the frame when you are watching some TV programme or media clip that particularly captures your attention. Use the image as a starting point for wider prayer.
These are all ways in which to develop our individual prayer life, but don’t forget to turn to good account the power and special blessings that come when we deliberately harness our friendships and groupings in order to step out and pray wider. It is amazing how much happens simply because of our determination to seize the moment and say those all-important words: ‘Let’s pray together!’
To put that the other way round, how many opportunities are missed when we don’t! Yes, this will mean overcoming the reluctance to take such an initiative – and quite possibly genuine opposition from the enemy who is ever intent on deterring us from prayer – but it is so good to make this our regular practice.
The Lord has given us the gift of prayer so that we might participate in seeing His Kingdom come and His will being done on Earth. It is a good gift and He needs us to be sharp and incisive in handling the sword of the Spirit, in full assurance of faith. May we see through all the distracting tactics of the enemy, and refuse to consider whatever assessment of the situation he suggests to us.
One thing to watch out for in our prayer life is the way in which burdens – even those that the Lord has genuinely laid on our hearts – can so easily slip from the spirit into our soul. If we find our concerns going endlessly round and round in our soul, chafing and grating like a brake that is catching, we can end up meeting more with our fears and worries than with the Lord Himself. It is good to ask Him to keep us alert to the warning signs of this happening. For example, if we are beginning to feel as though everything depends on us, we do well to heed the advice of John and Paula Sandford, and ‘resign the General Managership of the Universe!’
It is so important to recognise when our ability to function in the Spirit is becoming impaired, so that we find ourselves increasingly consumed by some cause, and mentally and emotionally weighed down. This is the time to ask the Lord to reposition the burden. He is ever so willing to do this, but we may well find it easier if we consciously enlist the help and ministry of faith-filled partners, friends and elders – rather as a car benefits from regular servicing.
These God-given ‘mechanics to our soul’ can speak with authority into our lives, and help to disentangle burdens that have become so tightly wrapped around our souls that they have begun to choke the flow of the Spirit. Praise God for those who apply the living and active Word of God for us, wielding a blade so finely honed that they are able to cut between soul and spirit, leaving no scar to tell the tale. (Heb. 4:12) May the Lord show us who to turn to when we are in need of such ‘servicing’ in order to reposition the burden – and pray to be such a servant yourself to others!
It is good practice too to take time away from the soul front and our burdens altogether from time to time – just as we are wise not to peer too long at our screens without taking a break. Even a few moments of rest and retreat (a chapter of a good book, a walk, or whatever best unwinds and refreshes us can do wonders to restore our perspective, and to enable us to return to the spiritual fray reinvigorated. By God’s grace we soon find spiritual burdens flowing unhindered again through us to the throne of God via the ‘stopping place’ of the Cross.
May the Lord revitalise each one of us now, and help us develop our spiritual muscles to lift the burdens He gives us with strength and confidence and full assurance of faith.