By Melissa McLaughlin
How do I pray according to God’s will? How do I pray the heart of God?
As I ponder these questions, one of my childhood memories comes to mind. I was in second or third grade. Each month, the teacher passed out a form for students to order paperback children’s books. When the books arrived, the classroom filled with the sound of excited chatter and flashing smiles. Each book touted a shiny new cover, glistening under the classroom lights, beckoning my childlike heart.
Though my parents graciously provided for all my needs, on this one day I desired something more. I asked my parents if I could order the book, Pippi Longstocking, from the monthly book order. How I longed to hold a glossy new book in my hands.
My dad promptly slipped upstairs and dug up an old copy of Pippi Longstocking that had been lurking on our family bookshelf of tattered, used, hand-me-down books given to us by other families whose children had outgrown the stories.
One glance at the bedraggled book and I was appalled. The cover was shabby and faded. A corner had been torn off the front. The inner pages were brown and brittle. It seemed my dad could not understand the serious nature of my concern. I passionately explained how I needed a new copy of this book because this frayed and worn copy was clearly unacceptable. The new books that came from the book orders at school had front covers with vivid colors and a brilliant sheen. This just would not do.
I scampered off to play, confident that my dad now understood the gravity of my request. In no time at all, my dad sauntered over to me with the same tattered old book. He had covered it with Saran Wrap and carefully tucked in and taped the plastic wrap edges underneath the covers. With a bright smile and sparkling eyes, my dad proudly displayed the newly refurbished Pippi Longstocking book.
Yes, the cover was indeed shiny, but the scruffy old book was still underneath. His efforts did nothing to win my mind. How could I carry such a book to school, raggedy, crumbling, covered in plastic food wrap, and put it on my desk next to the gleaming new books other students carried?
Though I continued my campaign, my parents did not order the new book. Why? Because though I begged for that book, the truth is, I did not really need it. My parents understood this deeper truth. The actual beauty of that story was contained within those dark yellow pages. I was missing the real gift of a book, which is found in the plot twists, character development and surprise endings. This thrill cannot be captured in even the most gloriously polished front cover. Though I couldn’t grasp their reasoning at the time, I can now.
Sometimes our prayers run along these same veins.
When we pray…
We acknowledge that God has provided us with life and provided for our needs. Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, He has also provided all we need for eternal life. We should be waking, walking, talking and sleeping with a string of thank you’s on our lips. And yet…and yet, we want more. Though God invites us to bring every request of our hearts to Him, sometimes our prayers take on the sound of a child lobbying for something that twinkles with a temporary sparkle like a Dollar Store toy.
We know God is our Father, who loves us more than anyone ever could. And we know God is good. Like a wise and loving parent, God does not always answer our prayers with an immediate “Yes”.
At times the answer is, “No.”
At times, the answer is, “Wait.”
At times the answer is, “I have something better.”
At times the answer is, “What you have is enough. I will be your portion.”
Here comes the hard part in prayer…
Waiting on God’s timing.
Trusting that God is good and has a loving plan for the greater good.
Resting in God’s eternal plan for myself, my family and all of humankind.
Reminding ourselves that God intends believers be conformed to the image of Christ. Recognizing that will not always be an easy path for us, just as Jesus’ path was not easy. Though being conformed into the image of Christ may be difficult, the end result will be beautiful.
So how can we learn to pray according to God’s will and God’s heart?
Remember that God’s Word, the Bible, reveals His will, His thoughts, His heart and His plan. Let us anchor our prayers in God’s Word so that the prayers of our heart will be aligned with the prayers of God’s heart.
What are some scripture verses that reveal God’s will or God’s heart in order to align my prayers?
Here are four examples of scripture prayer to help us pray the heart of God. Please join me in prayer.
1. Scripture – One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:28-30
Prayer – Enlarge my heart for you, oh God! Stir up the desires of my mind, my soul, my heart and my will for You; that You would be my greatest pursuit and most treasured prize. Help me use all my strength to love You more, day by day. Help me seek You, enjoy You and spend time with You. Be my first love.
2. Scripture – “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
Prayer – Heavenly Father, help me see those around me with Your eyes of compassionate understanding and Your heart of love. Fill me with Your Spirit, that I may treat others with grace and kindness that comes from You. Show me ways I can encourage, help, forgive, comfort, strengthen and uplift people in my life.
3. Scripture – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
Prayer – Lord Jesus, give me a heart to tell others about You, that more people would believe, be baptized and would see the goodness of following Your commands for their lives. May Your name be proclaimed through my words and my life. May I radiate Your truth, grace and beauty that others would see You through me. For Your kingdom, for Your glory, for Your name and for their eternal good.
4. Scripture – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
Prayer – Holy Spirit, help me live each day as a sacrifice unto God. Direct my thoughts and guide my actions, that I may speak and act in ways that are holy, acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. Give me a hunger to read the Bible, God’s Word. Teach me Your will, Your thoughts, Your ways and Your heart as I read Your Word and help me live out these truths with all my heart. Let it be absorbed into my very being that I am transformed bit by bit to reflect the glory of Jesus.
Do you have a scripture prayer to share with me?
Want to learn more about the power of scripture-based prayers? Check out my book, available on Amazon: In Dark of Night When Words Fail, Voice of Jesus Pray for Me