I was challenged by Phil Miglioratti’s teaching at the 2009 Illinois Baptist Pastors’ Conference. He focused on the prayer of Jesus in John 17, especially the phrase "so that". It is evident in the passage that Jesus used this phrase or variations of it throughout the prayer (vv. 1,2,3,11,12,13,15,19,21). The result of this personal challenge was an invitation to Phil to come to Rochester FBC and teach us more about "So That" praying which is Spirit led and Scripture fed.
What I learned through these opportunities is how often my prayers come up too short. Let me illustrate by looking at Jesus’ petition in verse 11: I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one. (John 17:11 HCSB). Jesus prays for the protection of His people, but then He explain why, so that they might be unified in nature and purpose just as the Godhead is one. I believe this is the key to "so that" praying: explaining why I want God to answer this prayer.
When I pray in this manner, I am compelled to examine my own desires and motivations for the prayer. For instance, I have often prayed for the healing of an individual, but really have not thought about why I want God to heal this person. If you have been in enough prayer meetings over the years, you have heard similar type prayers. On the surface the prayer for healing seems like a good thing, but is it? When I expand my prayers by using the phrase "so that," my true motivations for seeking healing from God is revealed. Sometimes the prayer for healing is based on selfish reasons such as not being inconvenienced with care-taking, or the desire to maintain companionship. When we look at those requests in that context, they aren’t really all that edifying. If I refocus my desires to a more Christ-centered one, "so that" praying for healing looks more like this: "Father, Bro. John has walked with you for many years. He has faithfully proclaimed the gospel to many lost people whom You have saved. Lord, I ask you to restore Bro. John to good health, so that he might continue to share Christ for your name’s sake, so that You will add to the kingdom through his witness, so that You receive all the glory. Amen!"
This focus on "so that" praying made rethink how I pray for the church and for missions. As a pastor, I want my church to grow, but why? Again, I had to examine my motivations. The result was a SO THAT Prayer Guide for the Church. I utilized this prayer guide in several Wednesday prayer meetings in a small group setting. It can also be used on a daily basis for one month. Each prayer petition is grounded in the Scripture. I recently completed a SO THAT Great Commission Prayer Guide that I am going to implement prior to our missions’ VBS this summer. I have attached those documents. Please feel free to use them if they will help.