A Different Prescription For Prayer

In Matthew 20, Jesus shares a parable, predicts his death, teaches about serving, and heals two blind men.  Nowhere does he mention prayer, yet in this chapter I see two insights about prayer.

First, the mother of James and John makes a request of Jesus. [Matthew 20:20-22]  She asks if her sons can be given places of honor, sitting on Jesus’ left and right.  Jesus’ response is, “You don’t know what you are asking!”

I suspect that many of our prayers evoke the same response, “You don’t know what you are asking.”  Just as James and John’s mother did not have a right understanding of Jesus’ purpose and intent, missing God’s perspective, so to, we often miss God’s intent and fail to see his perspective.  As such our prayers are off base, asking for the wrong things, which are inconsequential.

In the account of the blind men being healed [Matthew 20:29-34], the men boldly call out for Jesus to have mercy on them.  When Jesus hears them, he asks, “What do you want?”  They have already asked for mercy, but Jesus wants them to be specific.  As soon as they ask to see, he gives them their sight.

How often do we make a general request for God’s blessing, mercy, or grace?  These are vague, non-expectant petitions.  When making such a plea, how can we ever realize the answers?  When our requests are specific, the answers become obvious — and praiseworthy.

So, when we pray, it should be specific and it should be with God’s perspective in mind.


When You Give, Pray, and Fast

In the book of Matthew, chapter 6, there is a word that is interestingly repeated by Jesus.  It is the word when:

“When you give to the needy…” [Matthew 6:2]
“When you pray…” [Matthew 6:5 and 7]
“When you fast…” [Matthew 6:16]

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say if you give, if you pray, or if you fast.

It seems that Jesus is telling us that giving, praying, and fasting aren’t options, but expectations.


Do You Bless God?

I often say the word “bless.”  In prayer, I frequently ask for God’s blessing on myself and others.  In essence I am asking for God’s divine favor or grace to be imparted.

Other times I have seen one person bless another by “conveying well-being or prosperity” to them.  Sometimes this is done in the context of a prayer, a commissioning ceremony, or a benediction.

Both of these examples make sense to me and are readily understandable — because in both instances a “person” of authority or power is blessing someone of lessor standing.  [See Hebrews 7:7]

However, I recently heard someone “bless” God.  Initially I assumed that he misspoke.  When he said it again, I thought he had it backwards.  After all, it seems a bit arrogant to bless God in the same way that we ask him to bless us.

Then I began stumbling on this in the Bible.  Some translations of Psalms 26:12 and 34:1, for example, talk about blessing God.  Other versions instead use the words “praise” or “extol.”

Fortunately, the dictionary provides some help in understanding this seeming dichotomy.  One of the definitions of “bless” is to “To honor as holy; glorify: Bless the Lord.”

So in expanding my understanding of “bless” to include honor and glorify, then, yes, I bless God!  Do you?