“Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:9-13).
Jesus disciples didn’t just want to know what to pray; they wanted to know how to pray. That’s why this text, known sometimes as the Lord’s Prayer, is not just a prayer but a lesson in prayer. It’s a pattern more than a recitation; it’s a template rather than a delivery. We look to this prayer to know the right way to pray, but not necessarily the specific things to pray.
If, on the other hand, we prayed only these exact words, over and over again, we would miss the specificity that God intends we pray with. He desires us, I believe, to take this as an example and then come alongside it with specific praise of His name. And specific requests for our daily needs. And a specific confession of our specific sins and temptations.
Why should we not pray in generalities, but specifically? I can think of at least four reasons:
1. To give all credit to God.
When we pray specifically, we fight against the temptation to rob God of His glory. For example, let’s say there is a family member in our lives that isn’t a Christian. So we start praying specifically for that person. Over and over again, we pray for him. When the Spirit of God starts to move and that person does indeed come to faith, there is no other option than to give the glory to God. Compare that to what might happen if you generally pray for the people in your city to come to know Jesus, and they do, then it’s easy to attribute that to a program from a church or some other means, or to not even be aware of it happening at all.
2. To align our hearts.
An amazing thing starts happening when we pray specifically about some situation or for some person – we find ourselves more emotionally invested in that situation or that person. We start to love them more. We start to want the best for them. We start to desire to be active in the resolution. In other words, specific prayer leads to greater care. This is another reason we should pray specifically – it’s because we know that we ought to care more than we do, and one sure way to bring our hearts in line with the right things is to invest specifically in that person or situation with prayer.
3. To deepen your faith.
One of the best things we can do if we want to grow our faith is to remember. It’s to take note of all the ways God has answered our prayers in the past and then call them to mind over and over again as we pray about the future. But if we don’t pray specifically, then it’s very hard to remember the specific ways God has provided for us in the past. So it’s an investment in our future faith to pray specifically right now.
4. To deepen our relationship with others.
And then there’s this – one other reason to pray with specificity is to deepen our relationship with others. One of the quickest and best ways to get to know someone is to ask them how you can specifically pray for them. And to tell others how they can specifically pray for you. That kind of prayer requires a level of self-disclosure that goes well beyond many of our normal relationships. Prayer, then, is the means God uses to move us into greater community with one another.
We should pray, friends. Pray without ceasing. And as we do, let us pray not generally but specifically.