The Bible’s prayers are rarely about health, travel mercies, finances, doing well on a test, finding a job, or the salvation of unsaved relatives. Of course, these are legitimate things to pray for, but they are a minor emphasis in Scripture. Even so, these topics typically dominate most church and small group prayer requests. They easily miss the real action of God’s dealings with his beloved people.
In contrast, the driving focus of biblical prayer asks God to show himself, asks that we will know him, asks that we will love others. It names our troubles. It names our troublesome reactions and temptations. It names our holy desires. It names our God, his promises, and his will. When someone asks you, “How may I pray for you?,” imagine the impact of responding in a manner such as this: “I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and have been inattentive and irritable to those nearest and dearest to me. Please pray for me, that I will awaken and turn from my preoccupation with work pressures, recreations, health problems, or money. God promises to help me pay attention to him. Ask him to help me remember and focus. Ask him to help me to take my family and other people to heart. Pray that I will take refuge in him when the pressure is on. The Lord is my refuge, but I’ve been taking refuge in TV and food.” This kind of prayer gets things that matter on the table—things that matter both immediately and eternally…
Most prayer requests ask for God to give external blessings. But biblical prayer…deals with how God meets us, comforts us, changes us. Retooling our prayer requests is an accessible way for believers in a church to begin to teach each other to talk about the things that really matter, the things that are on God’s heart.
David Powlison, “Prayer is a Great Place to Begin Biblical Counseling,” CCEF blog