An old acquaintance came to mind yesterday, a man with whom I've had no contact in over 7 years. I decided to pray for him, and realized that I really don't know anything about my friend's present life.
Rather than a liability, the realization of our ignorance is actually an advantage in our prayers. By definition, prayer is the acknowledging to our Lord that He is God, and we are not. We seek Him because we need Him to do something for us and others that we cannot do ourselves. Just as importantly, the act of prayer directly or tacitly admits that we do not fully know what the beneficiary of our praying actually needs. Again, God is God, we are not, and only He sees through to the heart of every matter and every person.
Prayer for my old friend thus became more an affirmation of who God is and what He can do rather than a focus on my friend. "Heavenly Father, I thank You that John (not his name) lives and moves and have his being in You. I thank You that he is 'naked and opened' unto Your eyes. And I thank You that John's past and future are as perfectly known by You as is his present. Upon this basis, I ask You to work in John's life according to Your glory, will, and eternal purpose in Christ, and according to the needs of John and those with whom he lives his life." I also prayed about several matters concerning John that were actually specific to him, although again, I have very little knowledge of his present life and experience (Acts 17:28; Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 147:5).
I think that such God-centered prayer faithfully expresses the Bible's teaching in this most blessed matter. Prayer is about His interests primarily. The more His glory and will is furthered in the life of those for whom we pray, the more their interests will also be benefited. In the past, I have often finished praying for someone and been concerned that perhaps I missed a detail. There is little cause for such concern, because the human factors of our prayers, while certainly important, are the not the primary issue. Divine factors must be our focus, and as we affirm His dynamic working and involvement in our praying, our Heavenly Father will reveal Himself as needed in the earthly details and aspects that concern us.
Only God knows the heart, from which the issues of life proceed. Only He has seen every moment of our lives. Only He defines and perfectly knows our needs. The act of prayer, by Biblical definition, acknowledges these truths, and forms in us the proper attitude of humility and dependence. Thereby we can pray with great assurance, not in ourselves or our ability to pray, but in the perfectly wise and faithful Lord to whom we direct our requests.
"The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."