Has your prayer life deteriorated into nothing more than a shopping list? You know what I mean: “God, I need this, that and the other. If you let me get this, then I’ll do that.” Prayer is meant to be much more than a listing to God all of our needs and desires, all of which He already knows. Prayer is a conversation between Father and child, Creator and creation, and was therefore meant to be far more significant.
It is not that we shouldn’t bring our petitions before God—quite the contrary, He instructs us to bring all of our burdens and lay them at His feet. We are plainly taught in Scripture to pray for one another: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
What then distinguishes effective prayer from anemic prayer? First of all, our prayers, as well as every other aspect of our life, should seek to bring glory to God. All that Jesus did during His incarnation was for the purpose of bringing honor to the Father. As Jesus Himself was God, He too would be glorified: “glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You” (John 17:1b). He continued, saying, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:4-5). In this clear statement of the full deity of Christ, we see the purpose of Christ, as well as all who follow Him: glorify God. Every prayer, every word, every action should be for the purpose of bringing glory and honor to the Creator.
Secondly, our prayers should encourage unity among true believers. Jesus’ prayer was for believers only in this passage, and look at what He says: “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are” (John 17:9-11). God’s desire for all believers is that we would experience the same unity that exists between the Father and the Son. Whoever says that we can love someone and not like him or her certainly doesn’t understand what Jesus was talking about here.
A result of this kind of prayer is a desire to tell the story of Christ and His atoning death. The believer never gets tired of hearing about, or talking about, the Gospel. Why? Because the Gospel is the greatest gift we ever received, the greatest meal we ever tasted, the greatest love we’ll ever find. When our hearts are truly turned to God in prayer, He fills us up and overflows out of us in every area of our lives.