This is kind of an odd name, because petition and prayer are essentially synonymous. Perhaps ‘personal petition’ would be more precise, because the idea here is that this is a category of prayer where we make requests to God for ourselves. In a sense it’s hardly any different from prayers of intercession, but the relational difference between lifting other people to God and lifting ourselves to God in prayer is noteworthy.
We’ve already noted how prayers of intercession point to the final purpose of a personal relationship with God in the fact that they bring others into the scope of the mutual love that is shared. Prayers of personal petition, then, are like the step before that; they’re communications of love wherein we are building up our trust in God. Oftentimes in previous posts I’ve likened the personal relationship with God to a marriage or friendship, but with intercession and especially petition we’re forced to realize a different side of this relationship. God is a being that is wholly different from creation. God is perfectly good, perfectly knowledgeable, perfectly powerful, perfectly secure with himself, perfectly self-sustaining. He does not need us. And yet, simply because he created us, he loves us.
Sometimes we take it for granted that God is a personal God, and run so far with this mentality that we forget that he’s also our creator and king. If he was simply a friend then asking him for stuff wouldn’t be such a big deal; we’d develop a friendship of mutual giving and sharing. But because God is our creator, a healthy personal relationship with him should realize the fact that we need him, and not the other way around. If we aren’t petitioning God for anything in our own lives then we’re clearly trying to live on our own strength, or on the resources of the world. As Christians, we should know better than that; we cannot rely on our strength, and the prince of this world (Satan) is doomed to destruction.
So making petitions for our own needs is a necessary part of our prayer life. Of course, it can’t be the sole form of prayer we use, because then we might start believing that we’re the only person in God’s world. That’s where intercession can help balance us out by praying for others. And then prayers of penitence help keep us honest before God, while oblation balances that out with hope. Thanksgiving can also spill out of that balance, paving the way for prayers of praise and adoration. See, they’re all connected! That’s what I mean by a “healthy balanced diet” of prayer. Ideally, we should see this not only in our private prayer lives but our corporate prayer lives too.