Summary: God desires to change us so that we cease praying for our personal desires and seek His glory. God wants us to seek power in order to serve Him effectively.
“I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Reading the inspired account that details the expansion of the New Testament churches, I note that the apostolic churches prayed for what they knew to be within the will of God. Therefore, there was a confidence in their prayers that is frequently absent in modern Christendom. Jesus encouraged such confident praying.
Mark records Jesus teaching His disciples concerning prayer on one occasion. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” Then, emphasising the manner in which we are to pray, He said, “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” [MARK 11:23, 24]. Jesus taught His disciples, “whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” [MATTHEW 21:22]. These first Christians prayed with confidence, and those who penned Scripture taught us to pray boldly [e.g. JAMES 1:5, 6].
Similarly, students of contemporary church culture will observe that modern followers of Christ tend to pray for specific felt needs, and thus we frequently fail to seek what we know to lie within the will of God. We have less confidence about what we ask, and thus we often appear hesitant and tentative in our requests.
We are taught to pray for personal needs; and that is wonderful. We intercede for the physical needs of our family and friends; certainly, God is gracious to receive our requests, encouraging us to ask what we desire for those we love. However, the spiritual nature of the believer needs prayer as well as does the physical. How often the spiritual is neglected while all the attention is given to the physical.
Another significant contrast between the prayers of our spiritual forebears and those offered up today is that the first saints prayed great prayers that embraced a world. Our prayers tend to address an immediate desire. The prayers of the earliest believers appear to have always sought God’s glory and man’s good. Our prayers seem often to seek our own comfort rather than God’s glory. We are too often restricted to a local perspective. There seems to be less humility in our prayers, as though we know precisely what is needed, and we are prepared to instruct God in what needs to be done.