Wednesday night I picked up a useful insight from some friends who were eating supper with us. Somehow the conversation turned to prayer, and a man shared an insight that was new to me. "When I pray," he said, "I always try to include the phrase 'so that.' I heard a guest preacher mention that in a sermon several years ago, and I've been doing it ever since." He went on to say that he has been praying a particular "so that" prayer for me for several years. I can't remember all the details of the prayer, but I do remember the three "so thats":
So that I would be strong in the Word of God,
So that I would be faithful to the end,
So that God would be greatly glorified through my life.
Needless to say, I was touched by his faithfulness in praying that way for me. Later I thought about it and realized how entirely biblical it is. Consider how many times Paul prayed "so that" prayers:
"So that you may overflow with hope" (Romans 15:13).
"So that you may know him better" (Ephesians 1:17).
"So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Ephesians 3:17).
"So that you may be able to discern what is best" (Philippians 1:10).
"So that you may have great endurance and patience" (Colossians 1:11).
"So that you will be blameless and holy" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
"So that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you" (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
I've been using this "so that" principle in my own prayers for the last several days, and it has been a tonic to my prayer life. So many times our prayers are good but aimless. We ask God to "bless" someone or to "strengthen" someone, but we have no particular end in view. But when you add "so that" to your petitions, it forces you to ask yourself, "What do I really want God to do in this person's life?" And if you don't have a reason for praying a particular prayer, perhaps it's not worth praying in the first place.
So I've been experimenting with this "so that" principle and I find it very challenging and encouraging because it focuses my wandering mind and causes me to think about why I want God to "bless" Josh or Mark or Nick or Marlene or any of my friends and acquaintances. It's one thing to say, "Lord, bless Josh as he moves to Beijing." That's a good prayer, and if I didn't pray anything else, it would be worthwhile. But what exactly is it that I want God to do for my oldest son? "Lord, please bless Josh as he moves to Beijing so that he'll feel right at home there, so that he'll find it easy to meet people, so that he'll be able to get off to a good start with his students, so that his confidence will grow, so that he will be at ease in the classroom. I pray this way so that his faith will be made stronger and his joy will increase so that he will be filled with the knowledge of your will, so that his life will bring glory to you."
You could go on endlessly praying that way. It's amazing what "so that" can do to transform an ordinary prayer into a powerful petition to our Heavenly Father. I'm glad I heard it on Wednesday night so that I can share it with you.
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