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How to Pray — Part 3

What should you pray for?

Doug Britton, MFT

Part 3 of a 4-part series on “How to Pray”

Part 1      Part 2      Part 4


There are countless things we can pray about. You will read several suggestions about how to (1) pray to love God more, (2) pray for other people, (3) pay for yourself., and (4) pray Scripture prayers.

Pray to love God

Jesus put all the Bible’s commandments into perspective when someone asked him: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36).

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Loving God is the most important commandment, yet most of us have trouble loving him as much as we should. Since this is so important, it’s a good idea to ask God to help us love him more.

I’d like to invite you to join me in asking God to help us put these commands into practice. As you read the following prayer, make it your own prayer.

Father God, thank you for loving me, thank you for giving me eternal life, and thank you for the many good things in my life. Jesus said the most important commandment is to love you with all my heart, soul, and mind. But as I go through the day, I take you for granted, and I often don’t think about you at all. Please help me love you more. Help me remember that you are with me throughout the day, and help me stay more aware of you. Thank you that I can come to you honestly like this. I bless you and praise you in Jesus’ name.

Make it personal

1. What did it feel like as you prayed that prayer?

2. What do you think about making this a regular part of your prayers?

Pray for others (and to love others)

God wants us to have a passionate concern for others’ welfare (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). One way to show this concern is through prayer. In fact, the Bible says that when we don’t pray for others, we are sinning.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. (1 Samuel 12:23)

Whom should we pray for? The answer is pretty simple—everyone.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone. (1 Timothy 2:1)

Pray for fellow believers.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. (1 Thessalonians 1:2)

Pray for unbelievers.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)

Pray for your enemies.

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45)

Pray for governmental authorities.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Make it personal

3. How often do you pray for others?

4. What types of things do you pray for?

How should we pray for others?

There’s no limit to what we can pray for. Here are some examples from the Bible to help you identify prayer projects.

Pray others will be delivered from difficulties.

Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. (Acts 12:5)

Pray others will be rescued from adversaries.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:2)

Pray for others to be saved.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)

Pray for others to know God’s power.

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 1:17-19)

Pray for others to deeply understand God’s love.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Pray for others to love wisely.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Pray for others to know God’s will.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Colossians 1:9)

Pray for others to have open doors to talk about Jesus.

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. (Colossians 4:3)

Pray for others to speak well when telling others about Jesus’ love.

Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:4)

Pray for others’ health and welfare.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3 John 1:2)

What do you think?

5. How important is it for us to pray for others? Explain your answer.

6. Do you need to pray any of the prayers you just read about more often? If so, how will you build this into your daily life?

7. Let’s practice praying for others now. (The leader can start, praying out loud, then each member of the group can pray for one or two people.)

Pray for yourself

Although we should pray for others, it’s also good to devote some time to personal prayers. Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • Ask God to forgive you for any unconfessed sins.
  • Tell God that you forgive others for ways they hurt you.
  • Ask God to help you love him more.
  • Pray to keep godly priorities.
  • Ask God to help you love others more.
  • Pray for strength over temptation.
  • Thank God for his love.
  • Pray for protection.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gave us a model prayer (often called the “Lord’s prayer”). You can say the actual words as a prayer.

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

In addition to simply praying these actual words, you can take the main points of the prayer and personalize them. For example, when you read “your kingdom come,” you could pray about issues you are facing, surrendering yourself and the outcome to God.

Make it personal

8. What are the key points in the “Lord’s prayer”?

9. How can you incorporate these points into your own prayers?

Pray scripture prayers

One powerful way to pray is to say the actual words of verses that apply to a situation you are facing. For example, if you are experiencing anxiety, you could borrow the words in Philippians 4:6-7 and 1 Peter 5:7 as you pray, asking God to help you put them into practice.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Memory verse

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone. (1 Timothy 2:1)

Make it personal

1. Why is it important to pray for other people?

2. How often do you pray for others?

What types do you ask for when you pray for others?

3. What should you ask God for when you pray for your enemies?

4. Imagine praying for someone who needs to know God’s power. Write out a prayer (using Scripture) you could say for this person.

5. Imagine praying for someone who needs to experience God’s love. Write a prayer (using Scripture) you could say for this person.

6. What are the four key things you need to pray for in your own life?





7. How can you use the “Lord’s prayer” in your own prayer life?

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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