I particularly appreciate Powlison's categorization of the kinds of biblical prayer:
With a circumstantial prayer, we ask God to change our circumstances: heal the sick; give us daily bread; protect me from suffering and evildoers; make our political leaders just; convert my friends and family; make our work and ministries prosper; provide me with a spouse; quiet this dangerous storm; send us rain; give us a child.I find that in my experience and just about everyone else's with whom I've had this conversation, the preponderance of our prayer requests fall in the first category. Here's Powlison's succinct conclusion:
With a wisdom prayer, we ask God to change us: deepen my faith; teach us to love each other; forgive our sins; make me wise where I tend to be foolish; make us know you better; enable me to sanctify you in my heart; don’t let me dishonor you; give us understanding of Scripture; teach me how to encourage others.
With a kingdom prayer, we ask God to change everything by revealing himself more fully, magnifying the degree to which his glory and rule are obvious: your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven; be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over all of the earth; let your glory fill the earth as the waters cover the sea; come, Lord Jesus.
Why don’t church members pray beyond the sick list? Because their pastors have not taught or modeled otherwise.
We all tend to pray for circumstances to improve so that we might feel better. Such requests are honest and good—unless these requests go no further. Detached from God’s purposes for sanctification and hearts that groan for his kingdom to come, such prayers become self-centered.
Teach church members to pray with the three-stranded braid of our real need. They will begin to pray far beyond the sick list. And they will pray in a noticeably different way for the sick as well.