Why Pray Specifically?
“‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him.”
Mark 10:51 (NIV)
When I finally got serious about my relationship with Jesus, he wove into my life the most amazing mentor – Marianne. We didn’t call it “mentoring” at the time, but that’s exactly what our friendship was for me.
Marianne was 74 years old when we met and I was certain, based on her faith, that she was someone who had walked with Jesus her entire life. It greatly surprised me to find out she came to faith in her mid 50’s. Still, she was so wise and had much to teach me.
One of the defining characteristics I loved most about Marianne was her feistiness. She was full of spunk and courage and was not one to mince words.
I remember the first time she asked me about my prayers. She said, “Steph, tell me about your prayer life. How do you pray for your husband?” I remember smiling at her and saying, “Well, I ask God to bless him every day.” To which she immediately spouted back, “That’s crap, what do you want?” I remember looking at her dumbfounded for a long time until finally, she broke the silence. “Steph, be specific, how do you want God to bless your husband?”
To be honest, I had never really thought about it. I figured God knew what my husband needed far more than I did, so it would be presumptuous for me to pray that way.
Marianne went on to teach me about how prayer strengthens my relationship with God. Yes, he already knows what I need and what those I love need, but there is something profound and mysterious about talking to God about those things and being specific in my prayers. Over the years I’ve found her wisdom immeasurable, as talking to God about anything and everything has become as regular to me as breathing.
Still, there are times when life is overwhelming and I think, “Come on God, can’t you just fix this, do we really need to talk about it?”
Thankfully, it was brought to my attention that I’m not the only one who wrestles with these kinds of questions, as a good friend of mine brought up the same thought several weeks ago over coffee. We were talking about the mysteriousness of prayer and why we need to do it even if God already knows our needs. As we were talking a thought came to mind… grocery shopping.
I love my family. Because I love them, I take care of their needs; one of which is having food in the house. Grocery shopping is one of the household chores I own for the four of us and every Sunday evening I go to make sure we have food for the week. Whether they ask for it or not, my family knows I will make it to the store.
While I always take care of this need, there are times when they will ask specifically for things. Sometimes it’s small stuff. “Can we have spaghetti this week?” or, “Can you grab some Oreo’s?” I’m always happy to fill these requests and never think, “Wow, I wish they’d just leave me alone.” No, I love that they know they can come to me and ask for things they desire.
Now, of course, there are times when the requests get crazy. We can’t live on pizza rolls and soda. But even when the requests aren’t something I’m willing to do, still I’m not mad they asked. Again, I’m grateful they have that confidence to approach me.
I think this is what prayer is like. Yes, God is going to take care of our needs, but he loves it when his children ask specifically for things - even outlandish things.
We see this illustrated so perfectly in Mark 10. In verses 35-45, Jesus asked James and John what they wanted (even though he already knew they desired a place of honor in the Kingdom). Still, he wanted them to ask, and so they did. We don’t see Jesus getting angry at the request, rather he told them plainly this request wasn’t for him to grant.
Next, in verses, 46-52 Jesus asks the blind man what he wants. Surely Jesus already knew the man wanted to see, but he wanted him to ask. In this case, Jesus granted the man’s request and restored his sight.
In both of these scenarios, we see the beauty of trusting Jesus with our hearts and approaching him with the desires we carry there. Asking doesn’t mean we’ll always get what we want, but in the process, we get something far better than any answer we may desire - the attention of Jesus.
For Your Reflection…
What do you need to pray specifically for right now? What keeps you from doing so?