Finding balance in prayer can be difficult for me. Years ago, I heard a sermon on prayer in which the preacher, a very diligent man of prayer himself, encouraged each of us to dedicate different days of the week to specific topics of prayer. While a very effective and motivational plan, it came with one serious challenge; only one day of the week was allotted for prayer for one’s personal needs. The goal, of course, is to strengthen the believer’s faith in the fact that God knows all our needs and that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf, and, at the same time, to devote more time and energy to others’ needs than our own. It is undeniably an exercise in humility, trust, and disciplined selflessness.
While I found the schedule stimulating for quite some time, the longer I maintained it, the more I realized that I wanted freedom to lift up requests whenever I feel led. I abandoned the strict schedule, but have tried to hold on to the exercise in selflessness by limiting the amount of time I spend praying for myself in proportion to praying for others.
To be quite honest, as we’ve entered this season of focusing more intently on prayer for the lost, I’ve often found myself struggling to maintain a goal of selflessness in prayer. This seems a little counter-intuitive as the whole point is to pray for other people! The more fervently I pray for the needs of others, the more I recognize and feel my own inadequacies. I liken it to swimming; the harder my effort, the more oxygen is required, but my nose is underwater.
Feelings of weakness and guilt were my primary response to this heightened need for prayer for myself. But, over time, the Spirit has freed me, deepened my sense of his care for me, and brought me to a better understanding of maintaining a heart of humility in prayer rather than just a structure.
There should be a balance in prayer, to be certain, but I’m so thankful that there’s freedom too. Selflessness is still required of us as believers, and I am convicted that our prayers should reflect that. However, the Lord knows our weakness even more than we do, and I’m encouraged and strengthened now as I pray, free to lift up my weaknesses and request his strength.
Our prayers for the lost are being heard and being answered; that in itself is miraculous. We get to fellowship with Christ himself while we humbly pray for his kingdom to come in our own hearts AND in the hearts of the people for whom we are interceding, and experiencing that miracle has enriched my faith and my prayers immeasurably.