We Can Pray Specifically
By Rod Hemphill
Please pray. As of last night, my friend was still severely critical in a coma. The doctors assured the family that he is in no pain. His wife requests that we all pray that the Lord's will be done.
Dear Rebecca. Thanks for the update.
Maybe we can dare to pray for something more than "that the Lord's will be done," as his wife has requested. This may be great piety, but it may also be resignation. Let us distinguish between being willing to accept the Lord's will (whatever it turns out to be) and resigning ourselves to having no hope.
Two things stand out in the Christian faith: Because we believe in this awesome God who even raises people from the dead, we have hope when human efforts have reached their end and can offer no more hope, and secondly the Bible always instructs us to pray for a specific hope. Even as Jesus faced his execution, his prayer was that he be spared this ordeal (Luke 22.42). He sets himself to accept the Father's will, but he prays for deliverance. All of the prayers of the Bible are for something specific.
We hesitate to pray specifically sometimes because we don't have the faith that anything will happen. After all, it isn't that the Lord doesn't answer prayer --we know instances in which he has. But in our age, the miracle of answered prayer seems to be exceptional. Other times we might pray specifically, if only we knew what the Lord's will is, but we don't, and therefore we hesitate to be specific. How could the people of the Bible have such faith as to pray specifically? And if we don't, how is the Lord ever going to be able to answer our prayers? . . . because to tell
the Lord that we are willing to accept his will (which is good and proper) is really no prayer at all. In that case, we would not be actually asking for anything, and yet we find Jesus encouraging us to pray specifically, as he instructs us in John 14.12-14.
In this text, as in some others, the instruction to pray specifically is encouraged and is explicit. This does not mean that God can be turned on and off like a light switch. God is absolutely sovereign. But he wants us to come to him with our requests, as children do their fathers, and like our earthly fathers, it is his pleasure to grant our requests subject to his purposes and knowledge of what is best for us (1 John 5.14-15).
When we pray, we should have no hesitancy in praying specifically. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18.1-8 in which the point (stated in the first verse) is that we are to pray and not stop praying until we see the answer, be that answer yes, no, or wait. And in Luke 11.9-10, an amplification of
the original language (for the Bible wasn't written in English) reveals that what Jesus actually said was "Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you, seek and keep on seeking and you will find, knock and keep on knocking and it will be opened to you."
And since Jesus has experienced our every weakness and temptation, the writer of Hebrews 4.14-16 tells us that Jesus understands and sympathizes with us, and therefore we are to boldly and with confidence "draw near to his throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Finally, the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8.26-27 that since we don't know how to pray as we ought (because we don't know the mind of God), the Holy Spirit interprets our prayers according to the intent of our hearts (for we mean well even if we ask for the wrong thing), and He intercedes for us so that our prayer is made to conform to the will of God. And we have this assurance . . . that for those who love the Lord and have committed their lives to the accomplishment of his purpose on earth, the Lord uses everything that comes into their lives to bring about the good He has purposed for them (8.28 and through verse 39).
So we accept whatever the Lord's will might be even before know what it is because He is faithful and just and is for us in love. But we live from within our faith and hope in Him, which enables us to pray specifically as we think Jesus would have prayed in our situation, and we do not stop praying until we receive the answer, knowing that God understands our limitations as well as our fears and anxieties, and He answers our prayers as they should have been prayed. And in His sovereign control of all that there is, we who are committed to the fulfillment of His purpose can rejoice in knowing that we are victors over every situation that comes against us. Even death itself.
Therefore, if we want this man to be raised up whole, then without apprehension that our prayers might go unanswered, let us come before the throne of God and make our requests on his behalf specific, in Jesus' name. And then whatever happens, let us be praising the Lord for His love for us, and the comfort of His reassurance that He is with us in our victories and our tragedies, and is using even us in the midst of our problems and crises in bringing this world to righteousness.
Other Articles by Rod:
Teaching the Bible in Public Schools! Yes - Really
The "Holy" Bible? Who Says So?
On Understanding the Trinity
The Danger of Christianity to Secularism
Should Christian Kids Read Harry Potter?
Fundamental Questions of Life