I recently finished a book I mentioned last week, “Too Busy Not To Pray,” by Bill Hybels. I highly recommend you read this book if you are interested at all in strengthening your prayer life. One of the challenges from this book that spoke to me was the challenge to pray specifically. In other words, don’t just send up vague, general requests to God – ask Him specifically for what you need.
My wife and I have been worried about sending our autistic son Jacob to middle school next year. We are fearful about him attending a larger school with less support than he currently gets. There is a private school for students with autism that recently opened in Greensboro, the Lionheart Academy. But private schools cost money and we’ve already got a daughter in college and another who will be in college in a year and a half.
So I’ve been praying for “financial provision” from God. Nothing more specific than that – just “please provide financially for my family.” And God was working in the background to answer that prayer even though I couldn’t see it at the time. But what was I expecting by praying that prayer? Was I expecting God to work mightily and answer that prayer? What would such an answer look like? How would I know that He had answered my prayer except by looking back twenty years from now and realizing that He had been good to my family?
As God started to work, it appeared to me that there were a couple of different ways that He could answer this prayer. A new job opportunity came up, but I was skeptical of getting the position and it would require my family to move, which given a choice, I wouldn’t want to do. There was also a proposal being worked on to justify a sizable raise in my current position. One evening as I was praying, I was moved to pray specifically that God would allow this second proposal to be accepted. I told God that this would be my preferred solution but that I wanted His will to be done.
The very next day, God answered that prayer and my boss’s boss signed off on my raise! This was miraculous in a couple of ways. First, I would have told you that this proposal had very little chance based on my previous experience. Second, even if the proposal was going to be approved, it would ordinarily be something that I would expect to take months to happen. My raise, which I had never even actually asked for, was approved the very next day and made effective immediately. Now that’s an answer to prayer that cannot be missed!
Praying specifically does not mean that you order God around. I was submissive to whatever God’s will was in that situation and had faith that whatever happened, it was for my good. (Romans 8:28) But by praying specifically, I put my faith that God would answer specifically. And I believe God was waiting for me to ask so that He could act and receive all the glory. So I would encourage you to stop praying general vague prayers that require little faith on your part and pray specifically for what you want, submitting yourself ultimately to God’s will on the matter. You are going to see God do some miraculous things!
“You have not, because you ask not.” James 4:2b