I had just come home from worship and plopped down on our living room couch to do a few minutes of channel-surfing before having lunch. My clicking brought me to the program of a prominent preacher, usually good for a laugh. He was talking about prayer. I'm paraphrasing, but the basic gist of his message was this: "And you must make your prayers specific. God won't answer vague prayers. You say, 'God, give me more money.' How much? You say, 'Bless the preacher.' In what way." He went on to excoriate the limited faith of people who aren't specific in their directives--I mean, prayers--to God.
This is when I started to talk back to my TV set. You see, in worship this past Sunday, our second Bible lesson came from Romans 8 and included these lines:
...the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints* according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)The meaning of this passage is simple. Sometimes, we have no idea what to pray for. But as followers of Jesus, Who taught we Christians to pray, "Thy will be done," we don't need to have fine-tuned prayer petitions. We simply submit ourselves to God and trust His good will for us.
Our prayers can be specific, of course. But the real measure of our faith is not the specificity of our prayers, as though visualizing a preferred end is a magical incantation that will force the hand of God. The real measure of our faith is our submissiveness to the God Who sent His Son to die and rise for us and has better plans for us than we can ask or imagine.
*In the Bible, the word "saint" refers to anyone who repents for sin and believes in the God ultimately revealed to all the world in Jesus Christ.