“How can we pray for you?” I asked, thinking the answers were going to be pretty obvious for this impoverished, jobless, homeless, starving family I encountered during a mission trip to Haiti.
To my surprise, the answer was: “Please pray that we have a better relationship with Jesus.”
As we walked to the next tent, the answer was similar: “Please pray for us to love God more.” The next one was: “Please pray for me to have a closer walk with Jesus.”
Over and over, we heard the same sentiment. After visiting with rows and rows of people, I literally wondered if someone had told them to say that to us. I just couldn’t comprehend that would be their authentic answer, when they had nothing.
I’ll never forget that prayer walk in Haiti. It was only a year after their incredibly destructive earthquake, and I went with a team to serve and encourage the residents there. The degree of tragedy they were suffering was hard to process, but their answers to our simple question was what stuck with me most. Even though they’d lost everything, they honestly desired—more than anything else—a closer intimacy with God. In my 10 years of working for a church, I’d never heard anyone in America ask for prayer about that. Let that sink in.
MAKING PRAYER PERSONAL
Lately, I’ve been praying different versions of those Haitian prayers for myself every night: “Lord, help me have a better relationship with you each day. Help me understand who you are more. Help me love you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.” It’s been incredible to see how those simple prayers have strengthened my faith, my witness, my joy, and my confidence in loving others.
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:37-39
As ministry workers, we tend to naturally love others, but sometimes we forget the whole idea of loving ourselves—and our prayer lives often reflect this. In fact, once I heard a ministry leader teach that “praying for yourself is selfish.” On the contrary, praying for ourselves glorifies God by growing our trust in Him and our desire to be like Him. It also strengthens our walk with God, which in turn results in a greater love for others and an ability to be a blessing to them.
Here are three ways you can more effectively pray for yourself—and help others in the process:
1. Pray Scripture for yourself.
Ask God to help you live out the things He instructs us to do in the Bible. In addition to Matthew 22:37-39, these are a few great verses to start with:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding… Proverbs 3:5
So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31
So do not fear, for I am with you… Isaiah 41:10
2. Pray for yourself to be a better evangelist.
Not everyone is gifted in evangelism. We know it’s an important part of every disciple’s life, but for some of us, if we’re honest, it gets pushed to the bottom of our lists. Life is busy, and when you serve at a church, it’s easy to be surrounded by Christians—which means you have to go out of your way to find people to share the Gospel with.
Here are a few specific requests to pray for yourself to become a better evangelist and live out Gospel Advancing value 3:
- Ask God to help you really see and listen to people as you go about your daily life.
- Ask God to help you find and regularly go to a “fishing hole” (a place to share the Gospel).
- Ask God to give you an opportunity every week to share the Gospel.
- Ask God to increase your concern for those who haven’t put their faith in Jesus.
3. Pray for more passion for God’s Word, prayer, and people.
In the chaos of ministry life, it’s easy to get burned out from time to time. Be honest with God if your apathy is growing. Ask Him to give you an unrelenting desire for His truth. Pray about how you can increase the quality and quantity of the time you spend talking with Him. Ask Him to give you more compassion and love for all the people He has placed or will place in your life.
Praying for others is important, but don’t forget to pray for your own spiritual health and needs. And when people ask you how they can pray for you, respond like the Haitians I met:
“Pray that I know and love God more each day.”