We wrapped up our small group as we usually do, with a time for everyone to share their prayer requests. After we closed in prayer, Tom approached my husband and me. He was considering dropping out of our small group because he felt overwhelmed by the prayer requests. It seemed to him as though everyone’s problems were insurmountable, and although we’d been praying for the same things for months, it didn’t seem as though anyone’s life was getting any better.
Tom’s comment was a wake-up call about the way we handled the prayer time in our small group. My husband and I did some soul and Scripture searching to find out what we might be doing wrong. Nowhere in Scripture did we find prayers for Sally’s arthritis, Mark’s unruly children, or Bonnie’s rotten work conditions. The prayers in the Bible were powerful and life changing, full of God’s power and glory.
Consider Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:16-23. In fact, read it aloud with feeling:
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Wow! Such a prayer puts arthritis, unruly children, and rotten work conditions in perspective.
So, should we ignore our problems and pretend they don’t exist? Not at all. Instead, we should transform them by putting them into the bigger context of what God wants to do in our lives. We can still take the prayer requests, but consider praying for them in the following ways.