How can I know what to pray for?

Knowing what to pray for is as easy as knowing what is on your heart and mind. Jesus makes this staggering promise in John 14:13–14: "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."

Likewise, in Psalm 37:4, God tells us, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." We can boldly approach God as a generous Father in heaven (Romans 8:15). Jesus said, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11).

Sometimes the answers to our prayers, no matter how well-intentioned, will be a firm "No" from God or a very long-delayed answer in a form we weren't expecting. Yet, we can ask, and He wants us to.

As we grow in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, though, we also learn more about what is important to God, how He tends to work, and that there are things we simply cannot fathom on our own. A child may first use their voice to ask their parent for a treat or a toy that they want, but their questions will mature over time. They will learn that to ask for candy before bedtime will most likely result in a "No." So, too, do we mature in our walk with God and in what we ask of Him.

Romans 12:1–2 gives us a key to how we can come to know the will of God: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

We don't know what to pray for by being like and thinking like everyone else in this world. We renew our minds by reading the Word of God in the Bible (John 8:31–32), by listening to wise counsel from other Christians (Ephesians 4:11–16; 5:15–21; James 1:5), and by asking God Himself what to pray for (Psalm 19:14; 37:3–7; 38:18).

The Bible gives us many examples and instructions on things to pray for. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1–4 says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Jesus gave His disciples an example prayer in Matthew 6:8–13. It includes worship of God, request for God's will to be done, supplication for daily needs, confession of sin, and request for protection. Philippians 4:6 says, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (cf. Hebrews 4:14–16).

There are times, of course, when human words and wisdom will not be enough, when our hearts are too heavy to pray at all. We can be assured that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26).

Use God's Word to pray, ask a trusted Christian friend for recommendations on prayer books or to share about how they pray, and pray with other mature Christians. All of this will help you grow in your prayer life. And if you ever come upon a situation you don't know how to pray for, simply ask God what He wants to happen in His perfect will.

Related Truth:

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What types of prayer are mentioned in the Bible?

What is the importance of praying for others?

Is praying Scripture effective?

How does a person pray in Jesus' name?

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