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Last night, in exchanges with a friend, we touched on some life issues he was having to face. Like all of us, there are family and relationship and work and church issues. We shared in broad terms about the concerns and his feelings. And I affirmed I would be praying.

And then it came home to me. When I thought about “praying for him” I really was only thinking in broad terms. And that is often how I pray. Someone shares a concern, shares some need, and I pray generic kinds of prayer: “Lord, please be with my friend. Please, help my friend.”

I wouldn’t suggest that such prayers are without some value. Anytime we talk with the Lord about another, I think it matters. But when I stop and think about prayer, I wonder if the reason I see so little significant answers to prayer is because I so often pray such generic, shallow kinds of prayers.

When Simon Peter was going to be facing trouble at the time of Jesus’ arrest and betrayal, Jesus told Peter that he had prayed for him.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Jesus had thought well about what Peter would be facing. He asked something more specific than “Father, please be with Peter” (something that would already have been true and certain). He had a particular outcome in mind. Jesus didn’t pray a generic kind of prayer for his friend in need.

When the community of believers in Jerusalem was confronted with their first real trouble with the religious authorities, they gathered for prayer. They prayed:

“And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that your bond-servants may speak your word with all confidence, while you extend your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30)

The church mentioned the threats they had heard. They asked for something more specific than, “Lord, please be with us in this hard time.” They had particular things in mind that they longed to see happen in response to their prayers. They didn’t pray a generic, casual kind of prayer.

So all this nudges me to ask my friend for more details–not because I am nosy but because I want to pray particular petitions. I want to pray specific, not generic. I want to ask Jesus to do some strategic kinds of things . . . and then watch to see what he does.

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