Most Christians believe that prayer is important. If you’re like me, though, you sometimes wonder exactly what to pray for. There are so many problems and needs in our lives and in the world that we can easily grow overwhelmed. When I feel that way, I find it helpful to look at what the Scripture says about what types of things we should pray about.
Below are some categories of requests we can make to God, and some relevant Bible verses that command us to pray for these things. Next time you find yourself stumped when you’re trying to pray, you can use this as a resource to get started. This is not an exhaustive list of prayer requests, but just a few of the most important things the Bible encourages us to pray for:
Pray for spiritual growth (Jude 20; Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 1:15-19).
There’s nothing more important than knowing God and growing closer to Him. Pray that God will continue to draw you closer to Jesus through the power of the Spirit. Then think about your primary relationships in life (e.g. your spouse, kids, co-workers, friends, etc.) and pray that they will grow spiritually, as well. You can use Colossians 1:9-12 as a template when you’re praying for spiritual growth:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Pray for the gospel to be proclaimed and believed (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
Think about people in your life who don’t yet know Jesus, and pray that they’ll hear and believe the gospel. You can also pray for missionaries, pastors, and evangelists to have the courage and wisdom to preach the good news about Jesus.
Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you (1 Thess 3:1).
Pray for physical needs and provision (Matthew 6:11; 3 John 1:2).
Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray they’d have enough food to eat. The apostle John prayed that his friend Gaius would remain in good health. Pray for physical provision and good health for yourself and for others.
“Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
Pray for physical healing (James 5:13-16).
Pray for those who are sick or injured, that the Lord will heal them. We don’t always know how or when the Lord will answer us, but we trust that He is a God who has the power to heal.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:16).
Pray for those in positions of authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Paul encourages Timothy to pray for kings and those in authority, that they will create an environment in which Christians can follow Jesus quietly and faithfully. The goal of praying for our leaders is ultimately so that more people will have the opportunity to believe in Jesus. Pray for national, state, and local leaders by name.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1–4).
Pray for your personal requests and desires (1 Samuel 1:10-20; Philippians 4:6).
The more we pray, the more our desires and wishes will conform to God’s will. But since God already knows what we want, the Scripture encourages us to present our requests to Him. He is a good and generous Father who loves to meet our needs.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6)
Pray for the wisdom to make God-honoring decisions (James 1:5).
James tells us that God will give wisdom to anybody who asks Him for it. That is a prayer that He will answer, if we ask Him for it in faith. When you’re facing difficult decisions, ask for God’s wisdom to make the right choice. Even when your life seems to be going smoothly, pray for the wisdom to honor God in your everyday decisions.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).
Pray for comfort for those who are grieving or suffering (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
Until Jesus returns, our world will be full of evil, suffering, and death. In the meanwhile, we can pray for comfort, both for ourselves and for other people. Think of those you know who are grieving and pray that they will experience the Lord’s peace and comfort in real and profound ways.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word (2 Thess 2:16–17).
A final thought: When God answers your prayers, try to write that down somewhere. Many years ago, my wife and I created a poster that we kept behind the door of our bedroom, where we wrote down some ways God had answered our prayers through the years. Consider doing the same thing. If not a poster, perhaps you can keep a list of answered prayers in your phone somewhere, or write it down at the bottom of your prayer chart. Wherever you record them, make a point of remembering how God has been faithful to your prayers. Remembrance is especially helpful in those moments when prayer seems futile, or when we have doubts about God’s goodness.