As we turn from Paul’s thanksgiving (1:3–8) to his supplication (1:9–14) we might do so thankfully anticipating a conviction reprieve. “Paul’s thankfulness was convicting, but now he’s asking for stuff. This should be lighter on the heart. I’m good at asking for stuff.”
After the thanksgiving section we feel as though we ask too much and say thanks too little. Upon reading Paul’s petition, we’re jolted, seeing that it’s not that we ask too much, but too little, like a mortally wounded soldier begging a master surgeon for a bandage. Both our thanksgiving and petitions prove shallow. We ask for idols, when there is God to be had.
The deeper conviction in contrasting our prayers with Paul’s isn’t found in what Paul does, but why he does it. Paul’s prayers are God-centered. Our thankfulness and petitions are often small because they’re focused on small reference point. Draw a circle three meters in circumference around our feet. This is our bubble of thanksgiving. This is our sphere of petition.
The way to rectify our prayer problems isn’t found in simply doubling down on effort. This is likely nothing more than another expression of self-centeredness. Begin with God. Here is a simple principle to radicalize your prayer life, pray to God, as God. How’s that? Before you speak to Him, hear Him speak through His Word concerning who He is and what He has done. “There is a direct correlation,” John Piper writes, “between not knowing Jesus well, and not asking much from Him.”
Change the reference point. Both our thanksgiving and our petitions should be God-sized. We can never do either too much. We may do them sinfully quite frequently, but never excessively.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
None can ever ask too much.