One of the clearest indications that we’re growing in our understanding of the gospel is a continuous reordering of our prayer lives. What we chose to talk about when we’re alone with God is one of the best indicators of what’s important to us. In a lot of ways, prayer is a wonderful diagnostic tool for our hearts.
All too often, I’m not comfortable with what my prayers reveal about my priorities. Like most of us, I can be extremely self focused. My prayers tend to be about me, my circumstances, my needs, my problems, my desires and how God can help me have a better day according to my definition of “better.” Sometimes, it feels like other people, our church or our city only get thrown in at the end as a formality. Praying for others is something “professional Christians” are supposed to do, so I make sure that box is checked. But what often goes unprayed for is my own heart. It seems like I’m more interested in my circumstances than my heart.
But as we grow in the gospel, that gets inverted. All of the sudden, we find ourselves praying for our hearts more than our circumstances. So, the new gospel shaped prayer priorities look like: my heart, others and then my circumstances. No, there’s nothing wrong with asking for our daily bread or making our requests made known to God. We’re told to do that (Matthew 6:11, Phil 4:6). But the psalms filled with far more prayers for our hearts than for our circumstances. Consider just a few:
- “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Ps. 90:14)
- “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10)
- “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (Ps. 84:2)
The gospel shaped heart realizes it’s greatest enemy is the sin within, not the circumstances around. So, we pray for our hearts.
Then, we pray for others. As God transforms our hearts, we can’t help but look to the world around us. We see needs, suffering, injustice and people desperate for a knowledge of Jesus. All of it breaks a heart shaped by the gospel and that shows up in our prayers.
Finally, we get around to praying for those things the Father already knows we need.
So, what do your prayers say about your priorities? Heart, others, circumstances. Which gets top billing in your time with God?