Look at the prayers of Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14. There is no mention of circumstances, no requests to be healed, fed, protected, or for other people to change. The requests focus entirely on gaining wisdom in the light of the coming glory of God’s kingdom. These two prayers plead with God on behalf of other people that two kinds of love would deepen: May God make you know Him better. May God make your love for people more intelligent.

Look too at Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-21. These intercessions focus on wisdom in the light of Christ’s glory. Again, there are no circumstantial requests. In fact, there aren’t even requests to grow in intelligent love for others. But Paul zeroes in on what we most need: I ask that God would make you know Him better.

Praying Beyond the Sick List

Why don’t people pray beyond the sick list? We want circumstances to improve so that we might feel better and life might get better. These are often honest and good prayers—unless they’re the only requests. Unhinged from the purposes of sanctification and from groaning for the coming of the King, prayers for circumstances become self-centered. Learn, and teach others, to pray with the three-stranded braid of our real need. You will pray far beyond the sick list. And you will pray in a noticeably different way for the sick.


David Powlison is editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling and is a counselor and faculty member of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Dr. Powlison is the author of Speaking Truth in Love (Punch Press, Winston-Salem, NC, 2005.)

This article appeared in byFaith, the magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America. © 2006 Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. This article is adapted from one published in the Journal of Biblical Counseling Vol. 23 No. 1. For information on how to become a Journal subscriber visit our website at http://www.ccef.org or contact CCEF Customer Service at 1.800.318.2186.