Summary: BE SPECIFIC when praying. Specific prayers emphasize our need and God’s power. Specific prayers may even clarify our calling.
Prayer Keys - Be Specific
“What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Lk 18:41
Praying specifically is a key to effective prayer. The blind man’s first request is for Jesus to have mercy on him. Jesus asks him specifically, “What do you want me to do for you?” He answers specifically, “Lord, I want to see.”
One of the most entertaining specific prayers I have ever heard came from “Fiddler on the Roof.” Jews are being oppressed in Czarist Russia. When the Czar wants their land, he pushes them off. Those who have an ox cart load it up. Those who do not have an ox or a horse load up a handcart, similar to a wheelbarrow. Those without a handcart carry what they can. When it looks like the Czar again wants their land, someone asks the rabbi, “Is there a prayer for the Czar?”
The aged rabbi answers, “Yes. ‘May God bless and keep the Czar… far away from here!’” There is no doubt what the rabbi wants, “God keep the Czar far away from here.”
We are often like the blind man, praying general prayers. A common general prayer is, “God, bless the missionaries.” It is not a bad prayer. It is a good prayer. A more specific prayer may be better. Think about what you have heard missionaries say, or what you have heard or read about missionaries. What needs do they have?
Many speak about how easy it is for the children to learn a language and how hard the parents must study.
As a sign language interpreter, I have seen some interesting mistakes. I have seen people interpret, “There’s a sweet, sweet, spirit in this place.” The song also includes the line, “there are sweet expressions on each face.” Some people sign “sweet” with two fingers across the lips. The sign for “funny” is the same two fingers making the same motion on the nose, barely more than an inch away. You have probably guessed, I have seen someone sign, “There’s a funny, funny spirit in this place.” By the time they signed, “there are funny expressions on each face” there really were. An even older hymn, “At Calvary,” includes the line, “Mercy, there was great and grace was free.” Since it is a song, I have seen someone try signing very large with flowing gestures but not turning their hands the right way. They signed “Sickness there was great and grace was free.” We should pray for missionaries’ ability to study and learn their language.
I heard a missionary speak of being sent to a culture that highly valued hospitality. He learned that showing and receiving hospitality was very important. He learned that when he went to visit, people would offer him a glass of tea and that he should drink it. As he made his visits, he would no sooner finish a glass of tea than his hosts would pour him another. It happened everywhere he went. He did not know before that day that it was possible to be tea drunk. What he had missed in his studies was that when he had enough tea, he was to leave just a little in the bottom of the glass. If he drank it all, his hosts would assume he wanted more. We should pray for missionaries to study and learn the culture where they seek to share the gospel.
Missionaries say it is safer to be in God’s will in a dangerous land than to be out of God’s will in a peaceful land. That is true even in the U.S. Mildred McWhorter operated a mission in inner city Houston. It was in the center of the ten poorest square blocks in the city. Gangs did not like that she was reaching some of the children. She was often threatened. Sometimes, she endured more than just threats. Once, a gang caught her alone. One gang member took a knife and cut off every button down the front of her dress. She was not physically harmed. Neither was she deterred from her mission. Missionaries who say they are safer in dangerous places in the center of God’s will than they would be in peaceful lands out of God’s will downplay the fact that they may be called to suffer. We should pray for the safety of missionaries in dangerous places.
Praying, “God bless the missionaries,” is a general prayer. It is not a bad prayer. It is a good prayer. Praying specifically for their needs may be better. At the very least, it makes us more sympathetic to their needs and may motivate us to do more to support and encourage them.
Praying specifically is a key to effective prayer. Praying generally is easier.