Here is a life principle for you. Ready? Good questions get good answers, and specific questions get specific answers. I have been trying to instill this principle in my eldest son as of late. He often asks questions he already knows the answer to; at least; he would know if he did any work of thought whatsoever. Or, if he's not asking me the answer to a question that I know he could figure out on his own, he's asking me a series of vague questions, so broad in their scope that I don't really know what he's getting at, I'm not even sure he does.
Kids. Am I right?
Now, without trying to psychoanalyze my boy too much, I suspect the reasons he does these things have more to do with his desire to simply engage his parents, find a way to have a conversation, be near us, and engage together. Or perhaps it's fear of being wrong that drives him to ask questions that are wide in their range. In any case, beyond laziness, I am certain there are other factors at play in this ongoing game of broad question and broad answer.
That all said, his motives notwithstanding, the principle is true; specific questions get specific answers. Good questions get good answers.
I mention this today because I have been thinking about how similar this is to how I engage God in prayer. When I reflect on much of my prayer time with God, I have to admit, I, like my son with me, approach him with generalities, not specifics. Although I spend regular time alone, connecting with God (which is what prayer ultimately is; prayer is keeping company with God), I am realizing; when it comes right down to it, I do a lot of my praying in broad strokes. I often pray generally for the church. I pray generally for my family, wife, kids, and friends. I pray generally, even for those who I know have very specific needs.
The thought has occurred to me of late, "I need to be more specific in what I am seeking from God through prayer" because general prayers often get general answers. But, specific prayers get specific answers.
How many specific things would God do if I were faithful to specifically ask Him?
There is a story about Jesus and prayer that Matthew records in his Gospel that perfectly illustrates what I think we need to get today. He records;
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us! Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight." Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:29-24
Perhaps this story reveals a truth about prayer to us, and the eyes of our understanding are opening up, much like these blind men.
Jesus pushed these men beyond "Lord have mercy," forcing them to be specific. Notice, they were genuine, crying out in desperation. And yet, Jesus asked them to be specific. Notice that they were also persistent,asking multiple times, "have mercy on us!" And yet, Jesus asked them to be specific. They even had great faith for the miracle, calling Jesus "Lord" and asking with great confidence. And yet, Jesus asked them, "what do you want?" (As if He didn't know already). It wasn't until they named it specifically "we want our sight" that Jesus healed their sight.
The point is this, for whatever reasons (maybe we can dive into those another day), The Lord wants us to pray specifically. To tell Him exactly where it hurts. To show Him exactly what we want. To point out exactly how we are in need. To name exactly how we want Him to move on our behalf. The more accurate we are, the more accurate He will be. Specific prayers get specific answers.
Instead of asking for mercy, ask exactly how, why, where, or for who you need mercy. And, instead of asking for mercy, or grace, ask specifically how you want his mercy or grace to be shown to you. What would happen if we turned the prayer for provision into "Lord, I need a promotion at work?" Or, if we turned, "Lord, heal her body into," "Lord, remove that cancer in her liver?"
I wonder what would happen if we covered a specific area of need in our lives in thorough, specific prayer this week? I wonder if we'd start to see some thorough, specific answers.
When I think back over my life at the multitude of times where I have witnessed God's goodness and power break into my life, in a dramatic response to prayer, the ones that stand out the brightest are the specific answers to specific prayers. Which, perhaps, is the point.
May you pray continually and pray specifically this week. And may you find our God is specifically and abundantly able to do all that we ask or imagine!
Grace, peace, and answered prayers
PS: This week I challenge you to take one area of your life where you need a breakthrough and to canvas that need with thorough and specific prayer. Pray through the details. Circle the detailed reality of the situation, and let's see what happens!