A friend of mine said, “We spend way more time praying people out of heaven than into heaven.”
We are often quick to pray away suffering and pain, when God might choose to use that very difficulty to mature us and draw us and others closer to himself. Paul wrote about his own sufferings, “I want you to know that this has actually happened to advance the gospel.” (Philippians 1:12) What the enemy means for evil, God uses for good – in all things. (Romans 8:28)
I am thankful for the steadfast prayers for my health recovery. I would love to see this more than three year journey through cancer end. And I’m glad to also pray for relief for others who are suffering. It’s scriptural to pray for others. But when Jesus taught us to pray, it was always in his name; thy will O God be done, not mine.
If we are to live with heaven in mind, we should also pray with heaven in mind.
I’ve seen a number of times at a funeral when people who previously ignored God, made life-changing decisions to follow him and to live as their believing friend did. So how do we pray with heaven in mind?
We start by acknowledging that God’s ways are higher than ours. As we ask God if it would please him to spare our friends and loved ones from pain and sorrow and death, let our hearts sincerely say, “but not my will but yours be done.”
We can’t leave things in God’s hands if we insist on holding them tightly in our own.
Another approach is to pray scripture for ourselves and others. That is always God’s will.
“May your (my, John’s, Mary’s) love abound more and more.” Philippians 1:9
“May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” 2 Timothy 1:3
“So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:6
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2
“For this reason 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.” Ephesians 3:14-19
“I ask God to help you live a life worthy of the calling you have received, to be completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love. May he guide you to unity and peace with others through his Spirit, to live with one body and spirit, in hope. May he equip you for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith. May you not be blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, grow to become in every respect mature in Christ. May your life grow and build itself up in love.” – Based on Ephesians 4:1-16
And let’s not forget to pray people into heaven. That is, to ask God to intervene in their lives, through circumstances, a winsome friend’s testimony, a divine word from the Spirit of God, or “whatever it takes” to bring their name to appear in the Book of Life.
Pray for God’s will be done, in heaven as it is on earth.