Focused Prayer

Last week, we looked at Paul’s sudden 180 degree turn in Acts 9:10-16, but I didn’t deal with one part that’s especially intriguing. Let’s take another look at Acts 9:10-12: “In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

Notice here that God especially points out that Saul is praying. The persecutor in crisis “who is praying,” was not just sitting idly sending up a few quick requests to God. He was praying earnestly, deeply, desperately. In Scripture, fasting is often included with seasons of prayer, but it can also be associated with mourning too. Saul is focusing all of his energy on connecting with God at this point because he’s facing a crisis. His prayers are suddenly because sharply focused and specific.

I’ve been examining my prayer life lately and I have to admit that too often my prayers get muddled and bland. It’s often easy for us to get stuck on the rocks of prayer taglines and cliché’s like “be with” that person or “cleanse our hearts” or “anoint his or her lips.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with these phrases, but prayer jargon can often stand-in as a shallow substitute for the honest cries from our hearts. Prayer can be so much richer when we just present honestly and specifically our emotions, worries, and requests. We don’t have to wait until we see a harsh crisis staring us in the face to get focused with our prayers. We can enrich our prayers with focus today.

Here’s some suggestions: First, when someone asks for prayer, tactfully ask if they’re willing to share more details and seek to know the situation better. This will allow you to offer specific, intercessory requests about what they’re dealing with. Second, broaden your feeling vocabulary so you can become more aware of your emotions and better express them to God. (Click this link to see a sheet of handy “feeling” words use can use to express yourself: And thirdly, write down specific gifts from God that you can thank Him for in prayer. Keeping a running list in a notebook, tablet, phone, notecards, whatever works for you. It could be as simple as a crisp breeze that refreshes your face, or the tart goodness of a raspberry embracing your palate, or a comfortingly phone call with a friend. Jot these things down and keep them close by next time you kneel for prayer. We can all find practical ways to make our prayer lives more focused and fruitful!