In his new book Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love, Ed Welch offers the following counsel for growing in both how often we ask for prayer and how we ask for it:
How often? We want to ask more than we do now.
How to ask? We want to ask for prayer about both circumstances and matters of the heart that sit below the surface, for things seen and things unseen. We take the skills we have learned in personal prayer and ask others to pray with us.
First, we put our burdens into words. Second, we attach words of Scripture that capture both our real needs and God’s purposes and promises. That is, we pray for what we know our Father wants to give us. Here are a few examples:
- First, the burden: “I have been so tired. I feel like I am always a few steps behind on everything.”
- Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I would rest in Jesus?” The Scripture that shapes this prayer is from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
- First, the burden: “This is so hard. Would you pray for healing for my daughter?”
- Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you also pray for perseverance and that I would be able to fix my eyes on things that are not seen (Hebrews 6:11 and 4:16-18).”
- First, the burden: “I have been so impatient with my kids recently. I need help.”
- Second, we attach Scripture: “Would you pray that I will know Jesus’s unlimited patience toward me so that I will pass that on to my children (1 Timothy 1:16).” Or, “Would you pray that I will see my anger as my problem and not theirs? I want to see that anger is murder and the problem is that I demand something and am not getting what I demand (James 4:1-10)?”
- First the burden: “Would you pray that I will find work?”
- Second, we attach Scripture: “And would you pray that I will trust the Lord for manna each day rather than get swamped by my anxieties (Matthew 6:28-34)?”
And sometimes our request for prayer can be very simple and desperate: I feel undone. Would you pray for me? I don’t feel that I can pray for myself, and I don’t even know what to pray.”
If you have prayed for someone, you know it is a privilege. Other people will feel the same way when you ask them to pray for you. Once we get the knack of asking, we can ask for help for some of our other burdens in life, such as looking for a job or cleaning up an apartment. We can even let people know our financial needs.
Because we belong to one another in Christ, we have the joy of shouldering one another’s burdens. Sometimes, God puts us in a position to physically care for the needs of others. More often than not, we lack the natural wisdom and resources to shoulder the needs of others. Therefore, growing in how often we ask and how we ask is ultimately a growing in how we corporately trust in God to fully bear our burdens upon his all-powerful shoulders according to his perfect promises.