Specific prayer


Prayer is often a difficult thing for me to write about. Though I firmly and adamantly believe in the power of prayer, it is tricky to discuss because I never want to give the impression that God is a vending machine or that our prayers must meet some imagined formulaic construct.  That said, I want to share an article I recently included in the most recent newsletter for A Chosen Generation. I hope this encourages you and draws you closer to the heart of the Father.

Last Thursday morning I woke up with three heavy burdens: 1 – we were waiting on tests to confirm or deny that my daughter had whoopping cough, 2 – as my kids get older I desperately want them to understand the power and purpose of their faith, and, 3 – I was asking God for an opportunity to share his love and kindness to others.

These were not “earth shaking prayers”, but I felt an unusual urgency and connection to each of them. The Holy Spirit was clear that I needed to bring each concern to his throne. Before tossing the covers back, and rolling out of bed, I did my best to still my heart and mind and direct my thoughts to the Father.

Later that day, I was busily moving things about my new office, when a young man and middle-aged woman came walking in off the street. They were selling homemade loafs of bread to raise money for a local non-profit.  I didn’t have any cash or checks on hand but I asked if I could pray for them. They were each noticeably taken aback. After a beat to let the idea sink in, the young man said, “Just prayer for general encouragement would be fine.” I said, “I’ll certainly do that, but I’m a believer in specific prayer. What specifically can I pray for each of you?”

Another beat…

He replied, “Well, I’m still getting over the effects of chemo; so you could pray for that.” I turned to the woman and asked, “How about for you?” She turned her face down and quietly said, “My rheumatoid arthritis is so painful all the time.”

“Let’s pray then.” I replied.

So, in my office these two strangers and I formed a circle, held hands and offered those things to our Father. When I had finished praying, the young man held onto my hand and asked how he could pray for me. I told him about my daughter’s possible whooping cough and would he pray that we get good news from the doctor today. He smiled and bowed his head.

What came next was one of the most passionate and simple prayers I’ve heard. This young man prayed over my daughter, my family and me with conviction and assurance. It was a uniquely holy moment in an otherwise ordinary day. The prayers ended, we each hugged, smiled and said we hoped to see one another again.

prayer circle

As my day went on, I returned again and again to that moment. Those simple prayers in my office were such a blessing and encouragement.

Later that night, my four kids and I were gathered in our family room. My wife had an event she needed to attend, so it was just the five of us. We went around the room (as is our tradition) telling our “highs and lows” from the day. When it was my daughter’s turn she said her high was when the doctor called and confirmed that she did not have whoopping cough (Yay!). It was the first time I had heard the results. Immediately I was drawn back to the powerful prayers of the young man in my office. I leaned into my daughter and asked what time of day it was that we heard from the nurse. She said, “Just before lunch, dad.”

This was roughly the same time as the impromptu prayer circle in my office.

I spent the next several minutes telling the story to all of them. As I spoke, I realized that each of my prayers from the morning had been answered specifically.

Bella was whooping cough free, my kids saw in a fresh light the power of faith in action and I was given the gift of sharing the love of Christ with others. Wow.

Certainly not every day is like that. It is rare that one day brings together all those opportunities and answers. Yet, it remains a day worth celebrating. A day to be reminded that God hears us, knows us, and loves us personally.

The Big Three

Julie and I recently purchased a new bunk bed for our oldest two boys.  In the interest of full disclosure…it is the first new bed that they have ever had.  Also, their previous “hand-me-down” bed had broken several months ago and our oldest has been sleeping with his mattress on the floor since.  Needless to say, it was time for a new one.

If you were to spend much time in my house, you would learn that:

  1. I’m not terribly handy.
  2. I want desperately to appear handy around my children.
  3. Missing pieces from “assembly required” items gives me brain damage (see points A and B).

Therefore it was with extreme frustration that I discovered that a crucial screw was missing from the new bunk bed.  I had torn through all the packaging, retraced my steps and exhaled mightily over and over again.  Yet, no screw was presenting itself.  I was beginning to spiral down toward guttural incoherent growling when my sweet eight-year-old daughter grabbed my attention and said in the simplest and sweetest of voices, “Well, I guess we need to pray and ask Jesus to find it for us.”

I would like to say that I immediately pulled myself out of the funk I was descending into, that I recognized a wonderful moment of spiritual intergenerational modeling and that I gleefully dropped to one knee and prayed fervently for Jesus to provide.  That was not the case.  It took great intestinal fortitude to refrain from openly growling at my innocent daughter.  Yet, more to her credit than mine, I managed to squeeze out, “Sure Bella.  Lets do that.”  My prayer was not powerful.  It was not passionate.  Nor was it expectant.  It was obligatory.  In all honesty, it was done mostly to placate my daughter.

Then we found the screw.

Not more than two minutes later did the solution present itself.  I found the screw buried under papers I was certain I had checked under previously.  Within minutes after that, we had the bed completed and my wife was busily arranging blankets on the boy’s new beds.

Later that night, as I tucked Bella in, we talked about how great it was that God answered our prayer.

Here is the thing—Bella’s prayer was powerful.  It was passionate.  And most importantly, it was expectant.  It is the only way Bella knows how to pray.  Luckily, she has not learned otherwise.  She is quickly becoming the prayer warrior of our family.  Whatever the issue or need, she takes it to Jesus; assuming He will answer and provide.  She does not get held up by the esoteric arguments about Free Will versus Determinism.  There are no existential wrestling’s with the sovereignty of God.  It is simple for her.

She loves Jesus.

She knows Jesus loves her.

Therefore, she expects Him to answer.

I smile big and broad as I write this.  My kids teach me so much more than I teach them some days.  How different might my prayer life be if I condensed things down to Bella’s three points?

I love Jesus.

He loves me.

Therefore I expect Him to answer.

God is not a cosmic vending machine.  He is not waiting to pump out blessings if we pump in prayers.  Yet it is clear to me that He will most often go where He is expected.

Are you praying expecting God to answer?  Or have your prayers turned into unrighteous obligation?  If so, revisit Bella’s big three:

You love Jesus.

He loves you.

Therefore you can expect Him to answer.

Joel Thomas