I don’t remember the first thing that I ever prayed for, but I do remember being young and asking God, with all my heart, to make sure I got the toys I wanted for Christmas. As I grew a bit, I started praying in more of a pattern: “Thank you God for …, and I really need help with …” The pattern wasn’t bad, and at least I had grown beyond Christmas presents (though I still prayed before school tests, especially the ones I didn’t study enough for!).
This last week I had a friend from another church ask me how our church has grown and reached new people. I gave him the answer I always give: “it is the first thing we pray for.” I think the answer disappointed him. He might have been looking for the flashy program or cool graphic that got people to come to church. Of course our church makes plans and has programs, but it starts with one question: Can we get the people in our church to be praying, again and again, for those who don’t have a church family? This is actually a lot harder to do than you think! It is hard for people to pray second for their own concerns and first for the concerns of God. If we can get people to pray for this, then hearts can be moved by the Lord.
I think this is what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray “Your Kingdom come; Your will be done.” The idea is to grow into praying first for the things that are God’s heart. We all start our prayer lives praying for the things that are on our hearts (even Christmas presents and school tests). But there is a change that happens when we pray first for God’s plans, asking Him to reveal how we fit into them. Prayer then opens up new doors, and we live into the purpose and adventure God has for our lives. God still wants us to pray out our struggles and sorrows, but when we walk with Him and are living out our part of His bigger plan for this world, we have a very different perspective on our pain and worries.
This doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to hear our concerns; He definitely does. It just means that, in prayer, we might need to change the order.