John Emery Abbot's take...
"THE PROPER OBJECTS OF PRAYER.
What are the blessings which we may ask from God, with most propriety and with most frequency? In regard to temporal goods, we are evidently permitted to pray for those things which are necessary for our protection, support, and comfort, and to deprecate those evils which would render life wretched. " Give us our daily bread, and deliver us from evil," form part of the prayer which our Saviour himself has taught us. When we go beyond this, it is doubtless best not to pray with particularity for temporal gifts. We know not what earthly circumstances would be best for us. The apparent good we desire, may bring with it a burden of misery, and the seeming evil we would deprecate, may prove to us the greatest of mercies; or we might supplicate for gifts, which it would be inconsistent with the designs of providence and with the wisdom and mercy of God to bestow. We ought then to pray, that God would grant his temporal blessings to us, not according to the measure of our ignorant desires, but according to our necessities, and his own wisdom and goodness. Our usual prayers for the goods of this life ought to be in general language, and to be offered with entire submission and cheerful acquiescence. We should ask them to be granted only so far as God shall see best for us; and then our prayers will surely find acceptance and meet their reward. If what we seek would be injurious, our very petition is that they should be withheld; and if the grant of them would, indeed, be a blessing to us, we may rest in the assurance that they will be bestowed. This evidently should be the usual mode of offering our prayers in respect to the good things of this life.
But there are blessings which we may and ought to pray for, with particularity, with earnestness, with importunity. These are blessings all important for us to receive, proper at all times to be sought, and most consistent with the merciful designs and worthy the perfect character of God to bestow. Spiritual blessings, the forgiveness of our sins, the aid of God's grace, his wisdom to direct, his power to restrain and guard, his assistance to further, his consolations to comfort, and his favor to bless us; we are exhorted constantly to solicit, and he has promised them to our prayers. These should form the great subjects of our supplications. In comparison of t these, all other benefits are too trifling, too transient, to be named before him. Here, no minuteness is improper, no urgency misplaced. We should on these subjects open before him our hearts undisguised and unrestrained. We should acknowledge our unworthiness, not merely in general phrases, but number before him our particular transgressions and neglects, that his forgiveness may blot them out. We should remember not only the temptations which are common to us and to others, but our own peculiar occasions of offending, and pray to be guarded against them. We should dwell not merely on our general want of holy principles and sanctified affections, but on those single principles we need to establish, those peculiar feelings we need to cherish, and those particular dispositions of piety we ought to form; and fervently solicit God's grace to create or confirm them, and to render their influence effectual on our lives. We should remember not only our general duties as men and as Christians, but those private and peculiar duties which arise from our own stations in society, our circumstances in the world, and our own connexions with others; and ask of God that light and strength which shall enable us to perform them with faithfulness and acceptance."
(illustration: "The Prayer" by van Gogh)