5 Great Reasons to Pray Specifically

Why spelling out to God what you need has several advantages.

Posted in , Sep 1, 2015

5 great reasons to pray specifically.

When Jesus taught his followers to pray, he could have said to pray, “bless us” or “help us.” But he didn’t. He said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He urged his followers to be specific in prayer.

To his first followers, bread was central to life. It was a staple. A necessity. A lifeline. So Jesus said, “Pray for bread.” Praying for specific needs like that has several advantages: 

1)  Praying for specific needs clarifies our minds.
I can imagine Jesus responding to my prayers much as he spoke to Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52):

“Oh, Lord, have mercy on me.”
“What do you want me to do for you?”

“Please come to me.”
“What do you want me to do for you?”

“Please bless me.”
“What do you want me to do for you?”

“Help me.”
“What do you want me to do for you?”

“Well, what I really need is enough patience not to scream at my little boy who just spilled his juice all over the new carpet.”
“Ah, well, I can do that. I can also remind you to put a lid on his cup from now on.”

Maybe you don’t relate to God in quite that way. But I think Jesus’ instruction to pray specifically for our needs helps us to spell out and spill out what we really want to ask.  

2)  Praying for specific needs helps us define our needs.
Often in prayer I have asked God for something and soon have heard myself saying something like, “No, that’s not it exactly. It’s not that, but this other thing I really need.”

For example, “Lord, bless me” won’t lead me to recognize that I don’t need a raise as much as I need to say no to buying more stuff, or that maybe I don’t need a new co-worker but the wisdom, love and humility to resolve my conflicts with the one I have.

3)  Praying for specific needs emphasizes our dependence on and intimacy with God.
If I really pray for God to provide the bread I need today, I may be tempted to forget that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.”

But if I pray for the things I need, I am not only reminded of that fact but am also drawn closer to my Father as I do “precisely what children do when they love and trust the one they call ‘Father’.”

4)  Praying for specific needs makes us more alert to answers.
If I pray for “blessings,” God may answer but I may not recognize the answer when it comes. But if, on the other hand, I pray for “bread”—or someone similarly specific—I will be more attentive and alert to the answer when it comes.

5)  Praying for specific needs increases our faith.
As a young pastor, I was awed by the men and women of faith who surrounded me. Their lives, words and prayers revealed depths and heights of faith that were simultaneously attractive to me and seemingly impossible for me.

Then one day, decades later, I realized that I truly believed and trusted God—probably not as well as those I looked up to years ago, but certainly in ways I had once thought impossible.

Why? Because in those years I had experienced—over and over again—God’s faithfulness in hearing and answering prayer. The more I learned to pray specifically, the more I saw and marked and remembered his answers. And each time that happened, my faith grew.


Adapted from The Red Letter Prayer Life by Bob Hostetler (Barbour Books 2015)

View Comments