A few years ago my friend Robert Schuler shared with me one of the most important insights on prayer I’ve ever heard. Over supper one night Robert told us how he prayed:
“When I pray 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 discovered that using the “so that” principle gives a clear focus to my prayers. 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” my family, friends, and acquaintances. Here’s an example: “Lord, please help Nick to excel at his work so that he will have opportunities to talk about his faith so that others might come to Christ through him.” That’s much deeper than “Lord, please bless Nick.” It’s amazing how “so that” can transform an ordinary prayer into a powerful petition to our Heavenly Father. I’m glad Robert shared this prayer with me so that I could share it with you.