By definition, prayer involves the acknowledgment of our need for relationship with God, along with the request for His meeting of all our needs. This presents an interesting challenge since the understanding of our needs and the needs of others is, at best, limited.
“We know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Romans8:26).
God alone sees the heart from which the issues of life proceed. We may possess awareness of outward details, which does provide some insight into our praying. However, the truth of the matter is that we actually see very little of the truth of any matter. God answers prayers from the heart, about the heart. He certainly doesn’t ignore circumstances, situations, or conditions, but there are always deeper issues that occupy our Lord’s closest attention.
“The Lord looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).
His provision of a morsel of bread, for example, bears far more significance than merely satisfying our hunger. He seeks to reveal His love thereby, drawing us into relationship with Him, or strengthening an already existing bond. This is why Scripture calls us to give thanks for our food. In so doing, we look to God and relate to Him in heart, even as we enjoy His blessing physically. "The eyes of all wait upon Thee, and Thou givest them their meat in due season" (Psalm 145:15).
I find this truth of our limited vision to be a marvelously simplifying relief concerning prayer. Indeed, I don’t have to spend overmuch time attempting to figure out what to pray for others, or for myself. Instead, I approach the Lord with the request that He act in accordance with His perfect and infinite understanding.
“Heavenly Father, I come to You with the request that You work in Joe’s life according to Your perfect understanding of how Your glory and will may best be furthered in his life. I trust You to meet the needs of his heart and life accordingly, and to reveal to Joe Your heart, even as You work in him by Your hand.”
Such prayer aligns us with God’s focus on the deepest matters of Joe’s existence. Certainly, we may also include specific requests for Joe concerning matters for which we do possess knowledge. However, our primary intent involves asking our Heavenly Father to do for Joe that which He knows needs to be done. This streamlines our communication with God as it emphasizes not our praying, but rather the One to whom we pray. Many of my early spiritual influences emphasized the importance of much time spent in prayer. I understand their perspective and concern, and certainly don’t advocate that we rush through our prayers. However, communication with God draws us into an eternal reality wherein a mere moment’s utterance of faith may open the door for powerful Divine involvement in people and circumstances. The issue primarily concerns our heart and intentions. Asking our Lord to do that which He sees fit to accomplish may involve moments, or we may sometimes linger before the Throne, as it were. Whichever may be the case, true prayer, again, by definition, calls upon God to do that which He deems best. He knows the details of need because He knows that which we do not know, namely, the heart of every matter, and the matter of every heart.
“Thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men." (I Chronicles 6:30)
"When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."(Matthew 6:7)