pray for ourselves," claimed the preacher. "God already knows what we need."
Sounds good, but it's not true. Jesus told us to pray this way: "Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts." That sounds like praying for ourselves. "Deliver us from evil." That sounds the same.
Read David's Psalms and see how he prays for deliverance from his enemies and for God's mercy on his sins. These were things God knew he needed, yet David prayed for them anyway.
Even Jesus, when in the Garden, prayed that "this cup would pass" even though it was not God's will to do so.
So I must respectfully disagree with that preacher. We should pray for ourselves. But while it is not a question of "whether", it is a question of "how." And how we should pray for ourselves is revealed clearly in a most unexpected place. It is revealed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The prodigal son represents us, and his father represents our Heavenly Father. Notice how the son "prays" to his father. "`Father, give me my share of the estate." (Luke 15:12) That sounds too much like me when I pray. "Father, give me. Give me this, give me that."
Fortunately for me, God doesn't always give me what I ask for because too often what I want wouldn't be good for me. In fact, those "give me's" could sometimes lead me down the path of the prodigal.
But this wasn't the only prayer that the prodigal son prayed. After coming to himself and crawling back to his father, he prayed a completely different prayer. "Father, make me.. ." (v. 19) Herein is the key to praying for oneself: "Give me" versus "Make me." Notice the difference in the attitude. It is reflected in a warning from James: "You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (James 4:2-3)
Compare that with the attitude of David. "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me... Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51:7, 10, 12)
"Give me" versus "Make me." It is not whether you pray for yourself. It is how you pray for yourself.
Do it early and often.
Excerpted from The Sabbath Morning
Companion, July 14, 2006 by Lenny Cacchio. All rights reserved.