Last week we had the privilege of holding our annual services for revival at our church. I try not to call them "revival services" because that is making a huge assumption...that we will experience God-sent revival. I believe all we can do is show up with the right attitude and humbly ask God to show up as well. All that being said, during our service on Monday night our preacher for these services, Scott Williams, spoke on the necessity of prayer. His theme for the three nights was, what can we do to create an atmosphere where God will send revival to us. Obviously, a integral part of that atmosphere has to be communication with God. Throughout the message Scott shared with us examples and stories of what can happen when God's people pray. Some were from Scripture (Peter being freed from prison, the room where the disciples were meeting being shaken, etc.) and some were more recent.
One of the things that Scott encouraged us to do in prayer is to pray specifically. That is, we need to stop beating around the bush and just tell God, in plain language what we're asking of Him. This struck a nerve in me and I want to expand on this idea here.
As a pastor, and someone who prays with people often, I find myself slipping into prayers that are less-than-specific. Countless times I have found myself praying with people who are in the hospital or in their homes battling with some kind of illness. Typically what I do is pray some generic prayer about how I wish God would bring them strength and comfort in their time of distress. Now, there is nothing in the world wrong with asking God to do those sorts of things. However, does it show a lack of faith when we couch our prayers in vague terminology? Look at what Jesus says about prayer in Matthew 21:22;
And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.
In what knowledge I do have about the Scripture, I can't think of many, if any, places that speak about unanswered prayer. That is not to say that prayer is some magical lamp that we rub to get our wishes, but what we can be sure of is that God does hear our prayers and He will answer them in accordance with His will. If it is not God's will that someone be healed of a certain disease or that we not get something we ask from Him then we can rest assured that it won't happen. The question is, should that keep us from asking in faith.
Here is the way I can conceptualize this. When I was a teenager the one thing I wanted in the world was a Corvette. Whenever Christmas rolled around, or my birthday, people would ask me what I wanted. My answer...a Corvette. The likelihood that I was going to get a Corvette was phenomenally slim but I still asked because, hey, you never know. Does that mean that my parents didn't love me or didn't hear my request? Heavens no! At the time it may have seemed like it but I know that my parents loved me, cared for me and wanted me to have nice things.
Why is it then, that we feel like we need to be vague in our requests to God, even if what we're asking for is not in His will? It seems that we are afraid of not getting what we ask for. If we want God to heal someone of cancer then we should ask Him very specifically. There is absolutely no reason to give God a list of options to choose from because the truth is, He is going to do His will no matter what. When I was asking for a Corvette and it came to my birthday I always, without fail, believed that I would turn onto our street and see a Corvette sitting in front of our house. I never ceased to believe that it could happen. Did it ever happen? Nope, not until I went out and bought one with my own money. Did I ever hold that against my parents? Not a chance.
The Bible, and Christian history, is filled with examples of people praying, believing, and God doing a miracle in their lives. Has God changed, not as far as I can tell. What's the problem then? I believe it is our prayers. We don't give God a chance to do something extraordinary in our midst because we pray weak prayers. Praying that God would do His will is wonderful, Jesus set that example for us, but praying that God would do something amazing is a rare commodity in the world today. Here's the really wonderful thing. When we pray a specific prayer that only God can answer, and He does so in a miraculous way, it becomes a testimony of Him in our lives. He gets the glory and more people are able to stand in awe of Him! So, as Scott challenged us, let us prayer big prayers, specific prayers, and let God show Himself to us and in our lives.