I think you’re responding to a deep urge, a divine magnetism drawing you upward. As William James put it, “The reason why we pray is simply that we cannot help praying.”
And so you pray. But you feel something is missing. Inaccessible.
Think of it like the Hope Diamond. The 45-carat gem that’s worth about $250 million. You can see it at the Smithsonian Museum but it’s locked under bulletproof glass.
Is that how you experience prayer these days? Something incomparably glorious and wildly valuable… but inaccessible? Wouldn’t it be great to unlock that bulletproof glass?
Prayer is both simple and complex. And I don’t pretend this blog is the golden master key to the Smithsonian. But I will share something that is vital to prayer, but which many of us neglect:
Be very specific.
Often when we pray we use general terms. “Please bless my family,” “Help me through this,” “Give me strength,” “Make her healthy.” There is nothing wrong with those prayers.
God has chosen prayer as a direct vehicle for his action in the world. But why not be more specific?
When you do, a few things tend to happen:
You zero in on what exactly you are praying about. Pray specifically about your tough situation at work and what the next step might be; or the kind of strength you hope to receive for a challenge; or the role God wants you to play in helping the faith of someone in your family; or a clearer vision in your daily life of who God is making you to be and why.
Yes, sometimes words simply cannot express our prayers. Sometimes silence is golden. Listening can trump talking. As it says in Romans 8:26: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
Yes. Ah, yes.
But can our vague prayers sometimes be laziness?
Lastly, when we think of prayer we often think of outcomes—What will happen as a result of prayer.
But God also works in the process of prayer. As you become specific, God is making you aware of your heart’s desires, and the areas which truly baffle you, and opportunities for growth, and…
Is there any end?
Prayer also shapes the pray-er. Especially when you are specific.
Prayer is colossal. Take it out of life and you take out your bones. Wobble, swivel, flop.
So be specific. Very specific. This is not the only way to pray, but it is an effective and neglected way. And when that process draws you further into your own heart, you will find yourself drawn further into God’s. He may even reveal to you what he himself wants you to pray about!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words carry significant weight: “…the essence of Christian prayer is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition. The right way to approach God is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father.”
Is something missing in your prayer life? Maybe this is a part of Smithsonian’s key:
Be specific. Be very specific. It’s what we do when we love.