Pray Specifically: Genesis 23-24, Matthew 12


And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

There are some things that just stick with you, aren’t there?

The smell of the playground gravel in elementary school.
The night of your first real Major League baseball game.
Your first kiss.
The lyrics to the Captain Planet theme song.

For whatever reason, certain things remain at the forefront of our memory. Thankfully, God has graciously gifted me with the memory of many an older Christian’s sage advice. One such piece of advice has remained the most important two-word sentence I have ever heard regarding prayer:

Pray specifically.

I am great at being general. It’s much, much easier than being specific isn’t it? Generalities crop up in my writing and my speaking without fail and almost without exception. Whenever I opt for a generalization, it is evidence of my tendency toward laziness.

And if you’ve noticed, I’ve failed to provide specific examples.

This is very true in my prayers. I spend so much time praying that my family will represent Jesus well to “the world,” but rarely do I get more specific than that. Rarely do I name my neighbors and their children. Rarely do I remember to lift up specific people in need or specific things I would like from the Lord.

I need this simple sentence.

Pray specifically.

It’s a reminder to me that God is actually for me. He wants to hear my specific prayers. He wants us to come with our needs and our wants and He delights in giving good gifts to His children.

The above passage is a prime example of how to pray specifically. Abraham’s servant goes back to Abraham’s hometown to seek a wife for Isaac. Knowing no one, he sits down and prays this prayer, and as the story unfolds, a young woman named Rebekah comes by and offers water to him and his camels.

This could be called coincidence. Rebekah was a lovely young woman, probably very polite, and it’s likely that she would have offered the servant and his camels water anyway. But we’ll never know. What we know is that he prayed for something specific to happen and it did. Scripture has already established that God listens to the prayers of His people. In Genesis, Abraham and God have a conversation about what it would take to spare the city of Sodom. God is listening, He is reasonable, and He desires to see His children prosper.

Praying specifically is our way of saying that we trust God’s power and faithfulness. Our specific prayers are not always answered exactly the way we pray. God’s plans are His own and are always better than ours. But I have found that when I pray specifically, with faith that God is the Giver of all good gifts, He answers in very visible and clear ways.

This amazing gift of answered prayers is something that Jesus purchased for us on the cross. We are told that because of His sacrifice for us, we are able to approach the throne of God with boldness, like a child to a Father. And our great Father gives greatly to His beloved children.

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