Prayer is a powerful way to communicate with God. It is a way to express your love for Him, your gratitude for His blessings, and your requests for His help.
But do you have to be specific when you pray?
While it may not always be necessary, it is a better approach to pray very specifically, especially when you need or want something from God. General prayers are fine, but getting specific when you pray or giving God more details when you pray, improves communication and helps you grow in your connection with God.
Clearly God hears our prayers, however they are worded, as the Psalmist tells us: “Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely” (Psalm 139.4, NIV). Or even as the Apostle Peter reminds us:
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Peter 3.12, NIV).
There’s really no reason Not to be specific when you pray, so continue to read for some reasoning to support this assertion. Also be aware that there is no guilt on this matter. As you grow in your journey with Christ, you will learn things along the way that you let go of, and other things that you pick up. Learning to pray in a focused way is a good spiritual habit to acquire.
Should You Be Specific When You Pray?
I can give you many examples of people in scripture who were very clear about what they were praying about when they talked to God. I will focus on a couple to help you see the difference between specific prayers and just praying vaguely.
Be clear about what you are asking for when you come to God in prayer. The need to be precise in your prayer requests is clearly illustrated in the story of the two blind men in the Gospel of Matthew.
“Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him” (Matthew 20.30-34, NIV).
The two blind men didn’t ask for help, or for food, or to be cared for. As blind men, all they wanted was to see. “We want our sight.” That is a specific prayer for a specific need. No ambiguity or hesitation. Some people often focus on the fact that they received healing and could see. But don’t miss the obvious point–they asked for their sight. They asked. They received what they asked for.
Does this mean that if you pray specifically you will get what you ask for? No, it does not, as praying to God is not like some Divine Slot Machine, where you dial in the right words and get the prayer answer jackpot every time. You pray in accordance with God’s will and purpose and you and I don’t often know what God has in mind until there is hindsight to see God at work.
There was only one time that Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them something specifically. It was when they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. They could have asked to be taught about anything, but they wanted to know how to pray. He taught them what is now known as the Lord’s Prayer. You can see that there are specific requests there, like “Give me daily bread,” versus, “Help me Lord, I’m hungry.” Both express a concern to God, but one is more precise than the other.
You may pray the Lord’s Prayer each week at church or at certain times. You may pray it so often that it has become rote, a spiritual “muscle memory” type of utterance. The next time you pray it, really pay attention to what you are asking God through that prayer. It can serve as a guide for other scenarios in your life when you want to pray with precise details about what you want from God.
Since praying specifically is so important, is it acceptable to pray in a general manner, or do those prayers don’t even matter?
It’s Okay To Pray Generally
You might think that at this point in the article, if you don’t pray with specifics, God won’t hear your prayer, or the prayer “doesn’t count.” That is not the case. God hears all of your prayers and wants to hear from you about anything that is on your heart and mind.
Why else would the writer of Hebrews remind us that we can come to God with boldness when we pray? You don’t need to shy away from telling God what is going on with you. The Amplified Version sheds greater light on this privilege we have through Jesus Christ.
“Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment]” (Hebrews 4.16, AMP).
So, yes, you can pray a general prayer like, “God, be with me today, and guide me through it. Help me show your love to people I meet and come home safely, In Jesus’ name, Amen.” It’s a legitimate prayer and I’ve prayed some version of that on many days in my life. I don’t feel any less of a follower of Jesus, or less connected to God. There’s no reason to feel guilty about praying in a vague manner.
But, if you want to be in a relationship with the Almighty God, and grow in spiritual maturity as a follower of Jesus, then you should desire to let your heart be known. Think about the person you love the most.
Do you not talk about specific things in your life with that person? Do you not share vulnerable details about what you’re feeling and thinking? The same should hold for your relationship with your Creator and Redeemer, wouldn’t you agree?
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5.14-15, NKJV).
However, given the confidence we have to come to God as shown in the passages above, wouldn’t it make sense to ask God for what we really need on any given day? Perhaps something like this: “Lord God, help me have patience as I commute into work today. I ask for the ability to focus on my presentation and be able to speak clearly. I pray that my proposal gets approved today. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.” See the difference?
Both prayers are fine and God will be at work regardless of what we pray–God is God, and we are not. We do not control God with prayer, remember that. We always pray with the understanding that God knows what is best for our lives, according to His purpose and will.
I would like to help you with some specific reasons why praying specifically is a good idea.
Why Be Specific When You Pray?
There are many reasons why it’s important to be specific when you pray. Here are a few thoughts that are worth considering.
Reason 1: It Helps Focus Your Thoughts And Desires
When you pray specifically, you are forced to think about what you really want from God. This can help you to clarify your goals and priorities.
For example, if you are praying for a job, you might say something like, “God, I pray that you would help me find a full-time job close to where I live, that is fulfilling and pays well.” This is an unambiguous prayer that will help you to focus your thoughts and desires.
Reason 2: It Helps You Trust God
When you pray specifically, you are essentially saying to God, “I believe that you can answer this prayer.” This can help you to develop a stronger faith in God’s ability to work in your life.
For example, if you are praying for healing, you could say something like, “God, I pray that you would heal the ache in my left knee so I can walk without pain.” This is a clear prayer that requires you to trust God to answer your prayer.
Reason 3: It Helps You Be More Grateful
When God answers your specific prayers, it is an opportunity to be grateful for His goodness and faithfulness. This can help you to grow in your love for God.
For example, if you are praying for a new car, and God answers your prayer by giving you a new car, you might say something like, “Thank you, God, for this new car that was under what I could pay for my budget. I am so grateful for your provision of this car that came with an extended warranty as well.” This is a specific prayer that will help you to be more grateful to God.
Reason 4: It Helps You Be More Patient
Sometimes, God does not answer our prayers immediately. But when we pray specifically, we are more likely to be patient and wait for His answer.
For example, if you are praying for a child, and God does not answer your prayer right away, you might say something like, “God, I know that you have a perfect plan this child and their anxiety. I understand that I cannot see the future, so I place my trust in you to calm his anxious thoughts tonight and in the days ahead .” This clear request will help you to be more patient.
Reason 5: It Helps You Be More Bold
When you pray in a detailed manner, you are essentially declaring your faith in God’s power. This can help us to be more bold in our prayers and in our lives.
For example, if you are praying for a miracle, you might say something like, “God, I believe that you can do anything. I pray for my friend’s neck pain to be healed so they can drive normally and not be limited in their mobility. I ask for this so that you will be glorified.” Praying with boldness underscores your belief in who God is and what God can do.
Whether you pray generally or specifically, I want to include an exhortation about how you should not pray.
How Not To Pray
I have prayed in public a lot. I had to make a conscious effort not to change my voice or word choice just because I was praying in front of people. I had to make certain that I was not praying to impress people in any way. I was praying to communicate with God, and to do that authentically.
Jesus gave stern advice about praying to be seen by others, or praying to get attention. When Jesus is this firm in his teaching, we should pay close attention.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6.1, 5-8, NIV).
Always pray with a focus on God, intent on hearing from Him and being guided by the Holy Spirit. I urge you to never pray to impress anyone else, or to make yourself sound “spiritual.” God knows who you are and you don’t need to worry about what anyone else thinks of you.
Your past is covered by Jesus’ death on the cross, and your eternal future is taken care of through the resurrection of Christ. Let your present day be surrounded by true prayer to God.
As you consider how much more fulfilling your relationship with God will be if you pray in a more specific way, I want to encourage you with a few further encouragements from the Bible.
Much like the two blind men I mentioned above, Blind Bartimaeus shows us a good example of why clear prayers are necessary. Please read the full story, but for our purposes, I will focus on the fact that he first prayed a general request of “have pity on me.” That could mean anything. Then Jesus questioned him and Bartimaeus said, “I want to see.” That is clear and specific. (Mark 10.46-52, CEV).
In Matthew 21.22, Jesus taught that “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” This verse tells us that if you believe that you have received what you have prayed for, then you will receive it. This is why it is important to be specific when you pray. If you are not specific, it is difficult to believe that you have received what you have prayed for. How will you know?
James 4.3 exhorts us in the following way: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” This verse tells us that we should not ask for things that are not in God’s will. If you ask for things that are not in God’s will, you will not receive them. This is why it is important to be specific when you pray. You should only ask for things that are in line with God’s will.
I think you can see that praying specifically, giving God details about what you want or need, and sharing precise expectations all contribute to a more rich prayer life with God. The benefits of being vulnerable with God far outweigh any worries you may have about doing so. To put a rather fine point on it, if you cannot trust God, who can you trust?
Continue to pray on a regular, daily basis. Make use of Grace and Prayers so that you can talk with God about any life scenario that you face. Let yourself be vulnerable with God and speak clearly about what is concerning you on any given day.
I invite you to share your prayer requests and your comments in the section below. We want to hear about your prayer journey with God. Keep on praying!