Vol. 8, No. 6
Priscilla's Page *Editor's Note*
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When we think of the words "general" and "specific," what are some of the definitions that come to mind? To think or speak in general terms is to be vague, broad, uncertain, universal and indistinct. To think or speak in specific terms is to be exact, precise, detailed, explicit and definite.
In Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke 11:1-4 we have what is commonly referred to as the model prayer. In Luke 11:1, one of the disciples of Jesus said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." The Lord's teaching in both Matthew and Luke is general in nature and gives us the manner and pattern for prayer. Since we do not know what to pray for as we ought, the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26).
As Jesus prayed in the entire chapter of John 17, he is most specific as he lets his requests be made known to God. He prayed for himself, his apostles and all believers. Our Lord is without question the perfect example of a life lived in complete awareness of God and demonstrated that in his prayer life.
Jesus always prayed specifically! Luke 6:12 says, "Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." Verses 13-19 tell us the next day Jesus chose the twelve apostles, and they are listed by name. One of the many lessons we can learn from this passage is that God is to be consulted when a decision of grave importance has to be made.
Jesus specifically prayed for Peter. Luke 22:31-32 records, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you; that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." It does not get any better than Jesus praying for you and being very explicit in the request! "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus prayed most specifically in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36). He said on one occasion, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34). Jesus shows us we can pray for or ask for anything we think we need providing it is not outside the will of God.
Some biblical examples of others who prayed very specifically were Hannah, Elisha, David and Solomon. As Hannah prayed for a child, she prayed for a male child (1 Samuel 1:11). Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the enemy with horses, chariots and a great army. When the servant cried out what were they to do, Elisha prayed that the servant's eyes would be opened that he might see how God was going to deliver them (2 Kings 6:13-17). After David had gathered all the materials for the building of the temple, he had several very specific requests as he prayed on behalf of the people. He also prayed for the people to remain faithful and to complete the task of building the temple under his son Solomon's leadership (1 Chronicles 29:16-19). After the temple was completed, Solomon had several very specific requests as he prayed that God would keep his promise to David, not to fail to have a man on the throne of Israel if they remained faithful (2 Chronicles 6:12-17).
When God answers our prayers, our obedient faith produces acceptance of His answer--whatever it is. When God's answer is "yes" and the "yes" is immediate, we have little if any problem with that answer. The apostles received an immediate "yes" answer regarding who would replace Judas (Acts 1:24-26). When God's answer is "yes, but wait," we still must have total trust in all that God does. God answered King Hezekiah's prayer by extending his life, but Hezekiah had to wait three days before he was healed of his fatal illness (2 Kings 20:1-11). Sometimes God answers with an emphatic "no." This was God's answer to Moses when he asked to enter the promised land (Deuteronomy 3:23-27). God's answer was "not now, but later" when Moses prayed for Miriam to be healed of leprosy; she was healed a week later (Numbers 12). When God told Abraham that he and Sarah would be parents, Abraham fell on his face and laughed and requested Ishmael to be the promised heir. God said no to that request, but gave them Isaac (Genesis 17:15-27).
Prayer that changes us is a concentrated emotional experience that yields to the will of God! How can we make our personal prayer lives more meaningful and intimate? We grow in our prayer lives when we pray in faith with desire and expectation, when we pray without ceasing, when we pray in the will of God, when we pray in the words of Scripture and when we pray acknowledging specific sins in our lives.
When we pray in faith with desire and expectation, we embrace the biblical truth, "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22).
When we pray without ceasing, we embrace the biblical truth, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
When we pray in the will of God, we embrace the biblical truth, "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians (1:9).
When we pray in the words of Scripture, we embrace the biblical truth, "Search me , O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).
When we pray for our specific sins to be forgiven, we embrace the biblical truth, "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). The Bible is replete with the ways we sin! There are 13 New Testament books that actually catalog the sins we commit against God. Five of those are Matthew 15:15-20; Romans 1:18-32; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Timothy 1:8-10 and 2 Timothy 3:1-4.
All of our prayers must be voiced with showers of praise and thanksgiving! "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). This passage alone should increase our faith and trust to be very specific in our prayers to the God who created and sustains all things.