I rolled over in bed, slightly disoriented. The glow behind the heavy curtains provided just enough light to help me figure out that I was in another hotel room at yet another conference. Squinting at the unfamiliar clock, I saw it was only 6:00 a.m. – I had an hour before my alarm would go off. I snuggled into my pillow, hoping sleep would find me, but as my mind began to clear, I knew that my time for sleep was finished. God had another plan for the next hour. I had fallen asleep the night before asking God to intercede in the life of one of my daughters, and the same petition was issuing from my heart as I rearranged the pillows, turned on the bedside table lamp, and reached for my Bible.
God’s word challenges me to avoid anxious thoughts. Instead, I am to develop a thankful heart while taking my concerns to him in prayer (Philippians 4:6). His word also urges me to continue to pray faithfully for things (Colossians 4:2; I Thessalonians 5:17). However, as I smoothed the striped, hotel bedspread then laid the Bible in my lap, I recognized that, once again, I had fallen into a rut of praying the same prayer with almost the same words. I knew I needed to pray more specifically with the Holy Spirit guiding my thoughts (Ephesians 6:18a). For the last few days my repetitive prayer had been, “God, please help her, guide her, direct her.” I would change the wording slightly, but the tone and plea remained the same. I knew I needed to be directed in how to pray more wisely for my daughter during this particular time in her life, so I opened my Bible and began flipping through the shorter letters in the New Testament.
A few years ago, I decided that if God’s word was a “lamp for my feet and a light on my path,” (Psalm 119:105), then the prayers of Paul, Peter and John should serve as an excellent guide for my own prayer life. When this realization really sunk in, I transitioned my devotional time to a delightful journey through the letters in the New Testament, looking for verses that revealed the writer’s prayer life. Every time I found a verse or a set of verses that I knew could guide my own prayer life, I would underline the verses and write the reference at the beginning of the letter. Each morning I would continue reading through the letters, and I discovered that there was such insight into how to pray as I used the writer’s inspired words (I Timothy 3:16) as a guide in my own prayer life.
My diligent work at identifying these prayer passages now came in handy this particular morning in the hotel room as I flipped open my Bible to the book of Ephesians. Beside the title Ephesians, I saw the chapter:verse notations that I had recorded years earlier. These prayer passages have become so dear to me, and I knew that the reference 1:17-19a was the passage that should guide my prayer time this morning, but I began by reading verses 15 and 16 of chapter one to prepare me for the prayer time that would follow.
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Ephesians 1:15-16).
I love Paul’s faithfulness in prayer. I love how he celebrates what God had been doing in the lives of the saints, as well as the responsiveness of the believers to Jesus. I was challenged by the fact that Paul does not stop giving thanks for the believers in Ephesus, and that he was continually remembering them in his prayers. This inspired me as I began my prayer time using these two verses to prompt how I needed to be praying. I thanked the Lord for my daughter’s faith and for the love she has and how she demonstrates that love. Then I took some time to just give thanks for the spiritual gifts she has, for the talents she has been given, and for the service she offers to God. I asked God to help me be more consistent in my prayer life for her. In other words, I used Paul’s words in these two verses to direct my own time of thanksgiving and confession. These words helped me to prepare my own heart as I moved into the next few verses that guided my prayer time for my daughter.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe (Ephesians 1: 17-19a).
What follows is a general outline of how I used the above verses as a self-guiding tool – one that would lead me to pray about things I had not yet thought of in relation to the situation my daughter was going through at the time.
- “I keep asking” – Lord, help me to be consistently faithful in praying for these things.
- “Give you the Spirit of wisdom” – Lord, Proverbs makes it clear how wisdom is something we need to all pursue (Proverbs 4:7), and your Holy Spirit is that source of wisdom living inside my daughter. Please help her to seek out your wisdom and embrace wise choices today.
- “And revelation” – Father, you have so much you want to reveal to her. Help her to carve out time today to “Be still” (Psalm 46:10). Give her discernment as she quietly listens to what you have to say.
- “Know him better” – God, I want her to know you better. During this growth opportunity that she is going through, help her to see more of who you are. Help her to see you as a loving Heavenly Father (I John 3:1), to see Jesus as her ongoing savior (Romans 8:34), and to understand that the Holy Spirit is her comforter, counselor, and guide (John 14:26).
- “Eyes of your heart may be enlightened” – Oh, Heavenly Father, we all need this. The eyes of our heart can roam, they can be deceived, and I don’t want that for my daughter. I want her to see all that is praiseworthy and good. Please, Lord, open the eyes of her heart to see what you want her to see.
- “In order that you may know the hope to which he has called you” – God, that is what I want her to have – hope. I know that the more she sees what you want her to see, the more she will have hope. I love the fact that you have called us to claim this hope. The hope is ours to have, we just need to see it and accept it as a gift from you. Please help my daughter do that today.
- “The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” – God, thank you that my daughter has an inheritance waiting for her in heaven, but she also has hints or a foreshadowing of that inheritance available to her right now. She has Christians who have been put in her life to pray with her, who can advise her, and who can encourage her. You have designed us to need one another, so please teach her how to reach out and take advantage of the earthly inheritance that is hers as the daughter of the King (John 1:12).
- “His incomparably great power for us who believe.” – Father, I am glad that the pronoun “us” is included in this because right now I need to know your power too. It is the power that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1: 19b-20). You have demonstrated over and over that you are able, so I ask that we, my daughter and I, will both learn how to better rely on that power. As we try to do things in our own power, we experience frustration and fear. I know that when I surrender to you, I watch you (in your time) take control and manage what I was unable to manage. Please help my daughter to rely on you this way. To daily fall into your arms, your strong arms that can be her refuge and strength (Deuteronomy 33:27a).
Once I finished praying through Ephesians 1: 17-19a, I found I had such a peace about the situation. God’s words ministered to me while guiding me in a new way to pray for my daughter and the situation she was facing. This, of course, was not the first time I had used God’s words to guide my prayers, but I was reminded again of the power in praying God’s words.
God’s word is to be “a lamp for our feet, a light on our path” (Psalm 119:105), so it certainly should be a source of guidance for our prayer lives. Consider a few of these passages. Underline them in your Bible so that you can easily find them when you are looking for a passage through which to pray.
o Galatians 5: 16-21 (resisting evil) 22-26 (evidence of good).
o Ephesians 3: 16-20 (be strengthened, established, confident in the love of Christ).
o Philippians 1: 9-11 (knowledge, discernment, filled with the fruit of righteousness).
o Colossians 1: 9-14 (wisdom, growth, joyfully giving thanks, redemption).
o I Thessalonians 3:12-13 (love increase, heart strengthened, blameless).
o II Thessalonians 1:11-12 (worthy of God’s calling, fulfill every good purpose).
o I Timothy 1:12 (strength, faithful, service).
o I Peter 5:6-11 (humility, anxiety, self-control, resist the devil, restore).
o II Peter 1: 5-8 (list of things to add to our faith).
o Jude 1:20-25 (pray, God’s love, mercy, faultless).
These are just some of the many wonderful passages that can be used to guide your prayer life. Record these verses, then begin the treasure hunt of your own. As you read through God’s word, be aware that God will lead you to many more wonderful passages that can inspire a deeper prayer life. If the principles in the verses you read apply to a situation in your life, then pray through those truths while applying them to you and your situation. God will richly bless you as you discover more of what his Word has to offer you!