Do you remember making your Christmas list each year as a kid? I sure do, because it was a deeply involved process that took weeks for me to perfect. I would carefully study the JC Penny’s catalog and all of the store ads in the newspaper for weeks while making constant revisions until the list was exactly what I wanted… down to every last action figure accessory. I didn’t want there to any chance that someone would buy something that I really didn’t want, so I dedicated myself to making the list as specific as possible. On Christmas mornings during my childhood, I mostly found that my time and energy paid off in the end.
Minus the obsession and greed, I think this practice is one we need to include in our prayer lives. Our prayers can often be vague and general: “Father, be with this person”, “Father, help me live for you”, “Father, bless ‘so and so’ while he is going through this hard time”, etc. Oh that we would be as specific with our prayers as we are with our orders at Subway! In your requests why not tell God how to help you live for him or how to bless your friend who is suffering. It’s not that it’s necessary to inform God of what we need and how to give it to us, because he already knows (Matthew 6:8), but something amazing happens when we ask in his will… he answers us! If our prayers are mostly general, then it will be pretty difficult for us to recognize when God answers our prayers because God’s help, blessing, and presence can take so many different forms. In this case, we can very easily miss out on the depth and breadth of God’s grace in answering our prayers. On the other hand, if we pray with precision (like a kid finalizing his Christmas list), then the curtain is pulled back and we begin to see God’s faithfulness in giving good gifts to his children, even with the “smallest” of our prayers. In this case, we’ll be seeing answered prayers all around us because we took the time and energy to specify our requests. Specific requests lead us to look for specific answers, and when we recognize those answers we are led to worship God for His grace. As a result, God is glorified and we have the joy of delighting in the God who gives us what we ask for.