Six Petitions I Often Pray

Six Petitions I Often Pray

Recently I was praying with my youngest son, Benjamin, before putting him to bed. As I was praying, my son stopped me and asked, “Why does God need to watch over me?” I didn’t know how to answer immediately. This is one of those phrases that I repeat nearly every night for all my kids, sometimes without thinking through what I am saying: “Lord, watch over Ben.” I told Ben that God sees everything and can keep watch and protect him while I am asleep. It made me think about how over the years I have adopted common petitions that I offer in prayer. For example, nearly every night I pray: “Lord, thank you for Ben. Thank you for his life. May he grow healthy and strong, in wisdom, courage, and kindness. May he love you most and love others well. Forgive us for our sins. Draw him near to you and make him a godly young boy. Watch over and protect him and give him good sleep tonight. Amen.” Something like that, with some modifications for each child. 

If you have been praying habitually for any length of time, you too have probably found a series of petitions or phrases that you have prayed often. I’d like to offer a few that I commonly repeat, particularly in private prayer. 

“God, help me to think rightly of you.”

I was probably in my teens when I first started praying this. I realized that there were so many wrong ideas about God, so many conflicting beliefs about him that I could easily get carried away. I saw some of my friends and even mentors carried away by ‘every wind of doctrine’ that was new or different. I was afraid, and rightly so, of coming to wrong conclusions about God. I learned to pray this, particularly just before reading Scripture. It is important not just to have good theology about God, but also to have the right affection for him. I still pray that God would correct my errant thinking and wayward affections, so that I love and worship him as he truly is, as he has revealed himself in Scripture.

“Sanctify me today by your Spirit and your Word.”

I tend to be a black and white thinker on things. I came to faith in Christ early in life and I really haven’t wavered since. I am thankful to God that by his grace I have not had serious doubts about his existence, or that the Bible is his Word, or that Jesus is the only Savior, or that he is returning. I was convinced early on and didn’t turn back. Maybe I’m a unicorn on this one.  I suppose God sanctified my stubbornness in this area. Where I have wrestled with doubt is in the area of sanctification, God working within my heart to change my desires and conform my life to Christ in holiness. This is a slow process, and sometimes it appears so slow that I grow impatient. There are sins I am just so tired of dealing with, that I get anxious for heaven! And so I have prayed often, ‘God, sanctify me today. Let me experience your grace in growth in Christlikeness and freedom from sin.’ 

“Lift up my head, O God.” 

This is from Psalm 3:3, “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” David wrote this when he was running from Absalom, his own son, who was out to kill him. David was mourning that he had so many enemies in pursuit of him, and so he appealed to God who is the lifter of his head. There are days when I feel weak, defeated, without courage or zeal. My shoulders are bowed with the weight of responsibility, my head hangs low in worry. Then I pray that God would lift up my head, because I cannot do so myself. He must help me see past all that is wrong and heavy to look at him. I imagine him lifting my chin with a finger, raising my eyes to meet his, where I may find joy and peace in the face of my Father. 

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner” 

Luke 18 shows two examples of people calling out to Jesus for mercy (verses 13 & 39). Repentance is hard. How do you say ‘I’m sorry’ to God when sin is great and grievous? ‘I apologize’ seems too weak and insufficient. Thankfully, the Scriptures give us a vocabulary for repentance. Psalm 32 and 51 come to mind as especially helpful. While repentance is difficult to do because of our pride, it is quite simple in concept. I have sinned against God and deserve to be punished for it. I acknowledge my sin, the evil of it, and am remorseful for it. I ask God for forgiveness and grace to help me not do it again and instead do God’s will. All of that can be simplified to the prayer we find in Luke 18, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Such a prayer is heard by God and combined with faith results in salvation. 

“Not my will, but your will be done.” 

Jesus prays this while in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest and crucifixion in Matt 26:39, 42. Jesus’ will was always aligned with the Father’s, yet in his humanity he experienced the fear of physical agony that awaited him and the outpouring of the Father’s wrath of sin that he would experience in our place. I repeat this prayer often because I sinfully like to be in control. I want my will to be done. My anxiety spikes when I feel out of control of my circumstances, and then I often try to wrest control back to myself. I do much better when I simply trust God and his good plan for me, come what may. 

“Unite my heart to fear your name.” 

Finally, I came across this petition from Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Such a great verse. The last line caught my attention while I was still in high school. I felt then–and still do now–that my heart is divided between God and other things. I love the Lord, but I have so many other concerns, delights, fears, and diversions that drain my energy and focus. I don’t want my heart divided. Why should the Lord of Glory only get a portion of my heart? So I have long prayed, “God, unite my heart to fear your name!”

What are some of the petitions that you have prayed repeatedly over the years?


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.