“To Pray or Not to Pray: That is the Question”
by Harold Lee Wilson II
Let me ask you a question: who do you pray for? When you go to the Father in prayer, who comes to your mind? Your family, obviously. Friends, probably. Those who you work with, maybe.
But what about your boss? What about your pastor and the missionaries in your church? Do you pray for your ornery, old neighbor, always complaining about the noise level in your house? Do you think about the grocery store clerk who always smiles at you, but you know that she is actually leering at you instead?
Do these people cross your mind when you are in prayer?
Conversation with God is meant to be a two-way talk. Prayer is that conversation. But, how can you talk to the One Who is perfect, the One Who is love, when we are so busy forgetting those who need our prayers the most. Our thoughts turn selfish when we pray only for those who pray for us. “Pray for those who persecute you…If you love only those who love you, what reward will you get?…And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?” (Matthew 5:44b, 46a, 47a). God knows that we can be selfish at times, praying only for those who wish us well, or blessing only those who bless us. Jesus makes it clear this is not the way we are supposed to go about praying, yet we as humans fail Him time and again, turning to God in prayer for those closest to us and ignoring the needs of those we consider outside of our life.
But, just who should we be praying for? Obviously, those who persecute us – our enemies. But, what about those I talked about earlier? Should we include them in our prayers? Let’s turn to God’s Word for an answer.
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2
The simple answer, of course, is yes. We are supposed to pray for everyone we can think of. This includes those who anger us, hurt us, ignore us, trick us, detest us, manipulate us, and even forget to pray for us. We are supposed to take the first step and ask God for their blessings even when are feeling exceptionally unblessed by them. We are to turn to God with requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for those people. We are to put them first, doing as the Bible says to do (Philippians 2:3-4).
Prayer is a blessing in and of itself. We are a people who need to pray. We need that communication with God in order to feel stable and at peace. But, when we are harboring resentments and unforgiveness in our hearts, we are not truly at peace with God, let alone with those who are angry or resentful towards. Of course, God’s Word has an admonition about this as well.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
When we go to God in prayer, not only should we be praying for all people, we should be doing so knowing that we are at peace with them. God is not going to listen to the prayers of someone who is unwilling to make amends to those they have wronged, or to the prayers of those who refuse to offer forgiveness to those who wronged them. God loves to listen to the prayers of the righteous man (or woman), the one who is interested in the lives of others and not only of themselves (James 5:16). When we offer prayers for others, considering them more important than our own, we are doing as God desires – we are putting the needs of others before the needs of ourselves. It is at this point that God is going to bless us immensely.
So, who do you pray for? Or, after reading this, maybe the question I should ask now is who are you going to start praying for? There are people who are in desperate need of your prayer. Isn’t it time to start thinking about those you have failed to think of before? I know I am going to daily change my view of prayer and add people to my prayer list. (Yes, even those who put me down and treat me with disrespect and contempt!)
Praise the Lord for the opportunity to go to Him in prayer, first of all. Then, thank God that we can offer the needs of others before Him.
Okay…okay…let’s just praise God…period! Peace be with you always, dear reader.