Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to Pray for Yourself

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 4, 2008
John 17:1-11

Even those among us who are very unselfish have a selfish streak. This will even show up in what we pray for. How often do you find yourself praying mostly about yourself and what you need? Or maybe you don’t even notice it because it’s second-nature to you to pray for all the concerns in your life. We know our needs and wants better than anyone and we’re inclined to bring those to God. He invites us to bring our needs to Him, but it’s difficult to pray for yourself. Our thoughts revolve around ourselves so much. Prayer can be difficult, and even more so when it comes to praying for ourselves. But if it were easy we really wouldn’t need it. In fact, why did God give us prayer? It’s not for His benefit, but for ours. One thing the Christian learns is that the things God gives are not easy. They always come at a cost.

The seventeenth chapter of John is a prayer. This prayer is by Jesus. And in this prayer we learn how to pray. With Jesus’ first words of the prayer we especially learn how to pray for ourselves. Jesus begins His prayer by praying for Himself. But it’s how He prays for Himself that shows us how we ought to pray for ourselves. He’s not so much praying for Himself as that He is praying that God’s will would be done in Him. Think about that. Jesus is God, so He doesn’t need anything. His prayer is that God would accomplish salvation for the world through Him, through His becoming a man.

Praying for ourselves isn’t so much praying for what we want or even what we need. We learn from Jesus to pray that God’s will would be done through us in Jesus. It is always about Jesus. It is not about us. It is never about us. Our prayers for ourselves are not that our will would be done but that His will would be done.

This might sound like our prayers for ourselves aren’t about us. That they are really about Jesus. And that would be correct. They really are about Him. They really are not about us. So, in a way, our prayers for ourselves are not really about us. Logically, you’d have to conclude from this that your prayers for yourself are not really prayers for yourself.

So do we get to pray for ourselves? Absolutely—just not in the way we’d normally think to pray for ourselves. The key is to pray for ourselves for the things we really need. That is what Christ shows us. When we pray for ourselves according to what we think we need or what we want, aren’t we just giving God a wish list and hoping He agrees with us?

Can you imagine the state of a child if their parents gave them everything they wanted? That would probably amount to child abuse. We don’t give children just what they want, we give them what they need. We give them what’s best for them. That’s what God does for us in Christ.

And suddenly we’re back to Christ again. Where we always need to go back to. Because our needs are truly met in Him. The reason we know we can and should pray for ourselves? Because that’s why Christ came. For us it’s always about Christ, but for Him it’s always about us. So if we really want it to be about us then we should look to Him and not to ourselves. We should seek His will not our own. We should pray God’s will be done through Jesus Christ, not that our will be done.

When you pray for yourself you will be praying that God accomplishes the fullness of His salvation in you through Jesus Christ. We Christians have it made, but we take it for granted. We have all the blessings of glory and heaven and salvation available to us but when we pray we tend to pray for things that are lesser than that. Not that we shouldn’t, it’s just that we often get so caught up in those things that we forget that God has so much more in store for us than we could ever imagine.

When we pray for ourselves, we should get off of ourselves. We should get on to Christ. Do you have problems? Welcome to the club. Are you battling illness? Very few people go through life without that struggle. Some are hit harder than others, but you’re not alone. Do you feel like you’re being squeezed from all the pressures at work? Inside the calm exterior of many people that you see is the aching to be released from that same kind of pressure. Are you hurting in your most cherished relationship? Maybe the love has gone cold. Or there’s bitterness welling up. You feel like there’s more pain that you share than love. We don’t always love as we should.

We all have enough problems that our prayers could be filled up with just our own problems, let alone having time to pray for others. But since we do have the invitation from God to pray for ourselves, we shouldn’t let the opportunity pass by. All those problems and hurts are prime material for our own prayers. Don’t know how to pray for them? You can start with that. God is a good listener. He’ll listen even to your cry that you don’t know how to pray as you ought. He’s been there before. For three years He listened to the twelve disciples, and they rarely were on target in their communication with Him. And yet, He listened. He patiently stuck with them. He’s patient with us also.

Why should we be glad if prayer is difficult for us? If it were easy we wouldn’t see our need for God’s salvation. Our need for God’s salvation is greater every day, with all the problems we face and our constant struggle with sin. He gave us prayer for us. When we see that the things God gives are not easy, that they always come at a cost, we see our problems in perspective. The difficulty has been endured by Jesus Christ Himself. His prayer here in John 17 is beautiful and eloquent. His prayer on the cross was a cry of suffering: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Our salvation has come at the cost of His very own Son.

And with that cost has been purchased our salvation. With His very own Son we have an eternal hope and a very present help in time of trouble. Amen.


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