Tag Archive | How to Pray

What Should We Pray For?

What Should We Pray For?

by John Piper

One way to answer this question is to look at what the early church prayed for. Here is a list gathered from the New Testament. It can guide you in how you pray. I suggest that periodically you pray through this list just to test whether your prayers are leaving out anything the New Testament included. We don’t have to pray all of these each time we pray. But over time it would be good if our prayers had the breadth and depth of the New Testament prayers.

They called on God to exalt his name in the world.

Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name (Matthew 6:9).

They called on God to extend his kingdom in the world.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10 ).

They called on God that the gospel would run and triumph.

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

They called on God for the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13; cf. Ephesians 3:19).

They called on God to vindicate his people in their cause.

And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? (Luke 18:7).

They called on God to save unbelievers.

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

They called on God to direct the use of the sword.

“Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying through all prayer and supplication on every occasion …” (Ephesians 6:17-18)

They called on God for boldness in proclamation.

Pray at all times in the Spirit . . . and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-19)

And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness (Acts 4:29).

They called on God for signs and wonders.

And now Lord . . . grant your servants to speak thy word with boldness . . . while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus (Acts 4:30).

Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit (James 5:17 -18).

They called on God for the healing of wounded comrades.

Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up (James 5:14-15).

They called on God for the healing of unbelievers.

It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery; and Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him (Acts 28:8).

They called on God for the casting out of demons.

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29)

They called on God for miraculous deliverances.

So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church . . . When he realized [he had been freed], he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying (Acts 12:5,12).

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake (Acts 16:25-26).

They called on God for the raising of the dead.

But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up (Acts 9:40).

They called on God to supply his troops with necessities.

Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).

They called on God for strategic wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him (James 1:5).

They called on God to establish leadership in the outposts.

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed (Acts 14:23).

They called on God to send out reinforcements.

Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Matthew 9:38).

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:2-3).

They called on God for the success of other missionaries.

I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, (Romans 15:30-31).

They called on God for unity and harmony in the ranks.

I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:20-21).

They called on God for the encouragement of togetherness.

[We are] praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? (1 Thessalonians 3:10).

They called on God for a mind of discernment.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more in with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).

They called on God for a knowledge of his will.

And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9).

They called on God to know him better.

[We have not ceased to pray for you to be] increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10 ; cf. Ephesians 1:17 ).

They called on God for power to comprehend the love of Christ.

I bow my knees before the Father . . . that you may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:14,18).

They called on God for a deeper sense of assured hope.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:16,18).

They called on God for strength and endurance.

[We have not ceased to pray for you to be] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Colossians 1:11 ; cf. Ephesians 3:16).

They called on God for deeper sense of his power within them.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you may know . . . what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:16, 19).

They called on God that their faith not be destroyed.

I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren (Luke 22:32).

Watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21:36).

They called on God for greater faith.

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ; cf. Ephesians 3:17).

They called on God that they might not fall into temptation.

Lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13).

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

They called on God that he would complete their resolves.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

They called on God that they would do good works.

[We have not ceased to pray for you that you] lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:10).

They called on God or forgiveness for their sins.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

They called on God for protection from the evil one.

Deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13).


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Matthew Henry’s Prayer For Unbelievers

Do your prayers for unbelievers resemble this prayer at all?

Matthew Henry’s Prayer for Unbelievers (This is a very good resource on Prayer.)

O teach transgressors your ways, and let sinners return to you. Psalm 51:13 (ESV) 

O give them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 2 Timothy 2:25 (ESV) the truth as it is in Jesus, Ephesians 4:21 (ESV) the truth which accords with godliness, Titus 1:1 (ESV) that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil. 2 Timothy 2:26 (ESV) 

Let those who are straying like sheep return to Jesus Christ, the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. 1 Peter 2:25 (ESV) 

Show those fools their folly and misery who have said in their hearts, “There is no God,” and who are corrupt and do abominable deeds. Psalm 14:1 (ESV) 

Lord, maintain the honor of the Scriptures, the teaching and the testimony, and convince those who speak not according to that word, that it is because they have no dawn. Isaiah 8:20 (ESV) You have exalted above all things your name and your word; Psalm 138:2 (ESV) magnify the law, magnify the gospel, and make both glorious. Isaiah 42:21 (ESV) 

Let those who will not be won by the word, be won by the conduct of Christians, 1 Peter 3:1 (ESV) which we beg may be such in everything that those who do not believe may be convicted by all and called to account by all, may be brought to worship God and to declare that God is really among them. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (ESV) 



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Should We Be Praying For More Than an Unbeliever’s Salvation? (Part 2)

In the New Testament, we get introduced to another reason to pray for unbelievers.  Prayer for their salvation and prayers for workers to go out into the harvest.

So now the general idea of prayer for unbelievers falls into the following categories:

  • Prayer to preserve an unbeliever from their due judgment and wrath from God.

  • Prayer for the unbeliever, particularly those who are especially evil, to be judge by God and receive their just rewards.

  • Prayers for physical healing.

  • Prayer for salvation for the unbeliever and for believing workers to go into the harvest.


So what are the prayers for unbelievers in the New Testament?

We pray for our enemies.

Matthew 5:44 (ESV) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

The model prayer includes forgiving others.

Matthew 6:9-15 (ESV)
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)
2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Prayer for workers to go out to the harvest.

Matthew 9:37-38 (ESV)
37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Luke 10:2 (ESV) And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Prayer for those who abuse us.

Luke 6:27-28 (ESV)
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Jesus’ prayer that does not include the world but only believers.

John 17:9 (ESV) I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

Jesus Prayer of Father forgive them.

Luke 23:34 (ESV) And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Stephen’s prayer.

Acts 7:60 (ESV) And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Prayer for Physical Healing.

Acts 28:8 (ESV) It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.  

Prayer for Salvation and Restoration.

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

2 Corinthians 13:9 (ESV) Your restoration is what we pray for.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV)

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

2  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,

4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

God again points out He does not listen to the prayers of those who do evil.

1 Peter 3:12 (ESV) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

John 9:31 (ESV) We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.

Asking wrongly. While true this verse is directed to believers it is a principle we should remember when praying for anyone.

James 4:3 (ESV) You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Surprisingly there are also imprecatory prayers in the NT.  I would have thought they were only in the OT.  (Imprecatory means curses or prayers for punishment.)

2 Timothy 4:14 (ESV)  Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.

But ultimately every single prayer uttered, whether for a believer or an unbeliever, has one goal – To Glorify The Lord.

John 14:13-15 (ESV)

13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.




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Should We Be Praying For More Than an Unbeliever’s Salvation? (Part 1)

In Houston Has A Problem, I said this:

Now granted we are to pray for our leaders even if we disagree with them. But we are to pray for for their souls, their repentance and for their Salvation. We don’t pray that the Lord should prosper them or that the Lord will make their lives smooth and easy. If need be, we pray for the Lord to break their pride and arrogance and bring them to their knees in repentance. Not a pat on the back saying “Good job living in rebellion to the Lord.

Now by no means does this mean that we aren’t to bless and show mercy to even unbelievers, we are commanded to.

Luke 6:27-28 (ESV)

27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

But what are we to pray for unbelievers?  So I started through the Bible just to see what we are to be praying for unbelievers.

From the Old Testament we have the following types of prayers:

  • Prayer to preserve an unbeliever from their due judgment and wrath from God.
  • Prayers for physical healing.
  • Prayer for the unbeliever, particularly those who are especially evil, to be judge by God and receive their just rewards.

The earliest accounts of prayers for unbelievers:

Abraham prayed for Abimelech in order for God to spare his life from the wrath of God.

Genesis 20:17 (ESV) Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.

Moses prayed to the Lord for the Israelites in order to spare them from the wrath of God.

Numbers 21:7 (ESV) And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

Deuteronomy 9:27 (ESV) Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin,

Job prayed for his “friends”, whom the Lord accused of speaking wrongly, in order to spare them from the wrath of God.

Job 42:8-10 (ESV)
8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

David in the Psalms prayed for the enemies of God to get their just rewards.  Too many to list.

Proverbs stresses that the Lord hears the prayers of the upright and rejects the prayers of the wicked.

Proverbs 15:8 (ESV) The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

Proverbs 15:29 (ESV) The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

Proverbs 28:9 (ESV) If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

Jeremiah was instructed to not pray for a particular people.

Jeremiah 7:16 (ESV) “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.

Jeremiah 11:14 (ESV) “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.

Jeremiah 14:11 (ESV) The Lord said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people.

Jeremiah was instructed to pray for the welfare of the city he was sent to just because it would involve his welfare.

Jeremiah 29:7 (ESV) But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Hope you found that as interesting as I did. Next we’ll look at the NT prayers for unbelievers.



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