God has established priorities for everything we do in life, including prayer. When we pray, God’s will and work always takes precedence over our own personal needs. Thus before we begin praying for our own needs, or for another’s, we should always remember to consider what His will is and to pray concerning that will. We ought, right from the start of our prayers, to fix His will in our mind and determine that it is to be the ruling force and the essence of our prayers.
This priority of prayer has been well established for us throughout the scriptures. We will consider three sources:
From Matthew 6:9-13. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, of the six model requests, the first three are directed toward God and His purposes, leaving the last three for man and his purposes. From this prayer we clearly see that Jesus wanted us to learn that the things of God (His name, His kingdom, and His will), always come first before our own needs (our daily bread, our forgiveness, and our guidance). This does not mean of course that God is not concerned about our needs. He is concerned. But He wants us to know that His will must come first; and when we pray that way prayer for our own needs will be more heavenly focused, more in line with His will, and therefore will bring us better results.
From Matthew 6:25-33. These verses explain to us that we should not worry about our personal needs, such as food and drink and clothing, because God knows that we need these things. But if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, He will supply us with all those things. Prayer is so often filled with worry. We worry about all our needs and so we pray. And the more we pray the more we think about our needs, and so we worry even more. We ought not to pray that way. Instead we should pray first for God’s will to be done and for His righteousness to fill the earth. When we pray this way we train our mind and heart how to pray for other things—so that instead of worrying about those things we trust Him to supply those things.
From Mark 12:29-30. The greatest and most important commandment is that there is only one God and we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This principle should rule our prayers—that whatever we pray for we should do it out of love for God. Likewise, our prayers should be with great earnestness and strength because of the great love we have for Him.
Before we pray, I suggest we concentrate on who we are praying to; and then begin praying by expressing to Him how much we love Him. This practice I think will help the quality and the effectiveness of your prayers. It will fill your prayers with love for God, and will also take you to the next level—to love your neighbor as yourself and to pray for your neighbor as you pray for yourself.
This is the second of my Twenty Principles of Prayer.