My mother’s Alzheimer’s has taught me something about prayer.
As a young pastor visiting local nursing homes, I would sometimes hear patients calling out, “Help me! Would somebody help me?” as I walked down the hall.
“What’s wrong with the staff here?” I wondered. “Why aren’t they helping this poor soul?”
Since my mom, almost 96 years old now, came down with Alzheimer’s or one of its relatives (senility, dementia) over the past few months, our family has been trying to take care of her in her own home. Recently, I spent a long weekend there contributing what I could to her care.
“Help me,” she calls out repeatedly. Even when she’s feeling fine and seems to have no needs at all, she repeats this. If you ask, “What do you want, mom?” she doesn’t have an answer. She seems to have been unaware she was saying that.
On one occasion, as I awakened from a brief afternoon nap, I heard mom in the next room chanting that mantra. “Help me. Help me.” I walked in and said brightly, “Mom, would you like some ice cream?” She stopped chanting abruptly and said, “Yes, I think I would.” I had to laugh at the speed of that transition.
A few days later, on the way to church, I sent up a quick prayer to the Heavenly Father. “Lord, help me please.” And just as clearly I heard His answer.
“What exactly are you asking me to do for you?”
I was calling for help in the way of Alzheimer patients, without thought and with no specific need in mind. The little prayer was just a mental spasm, an involuntary sense of spiritual need directed heavenward but without any sense of direction.
After he had prayed continually “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,” the blind beggar of Jericho was brought to stand in front of the Savior. He heard the voice of the Lord say something no one had ever asked him before: What do you want me to do for you? (Luke 18:41).
As a beggar, Blind Bartimaeus had lived off the cast-offs and hand-me-downs from society. He had taken scraps and the dregs and the loose change of everyone. No one had ever looked him in the eye with respect and said, “What can I do for you?” It’s the question of a servant. What can I do to help you?
Get specific, Bart.
Until that moment, Jericho’s blind beggar had been asking Jesus for mercy. That’s a broad category and could cover a multitude of requests: money, a better begging place, a training program for the blind, kinder treatment from the citizens, healing.
The Lord Jesus refuses to impose His blessing on anyone.
After all, Scripture tells us “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
In his book, “Pray Big,” Will Davis Jr. talks about the power of what he calls “pinpoint praying.” He writes, “God wants us to be strategic and focused about what we’re asking Him to do. We need to pray for things–very specific things, gritty things, personal things, important things, kingdom things–with the pinpoint precision that Jesus modeled in the Lord’s Prayer.”
Will Davis has three suggestions for us.
First, he says, keep your prayer simple.
Davis says, “We’ve made prayer too complicated. My own bookshelves and hard drives are filled with guides, tools, and aids that are supposed to help me pray better. The problem is that I have to learn the program or concepts on which each of these well-meaning tools is based.”
Second, make your prayer specific.
Davis suggests we consult the Lord’s Prayer in search for anything vague or nonspecific. “Everything Jesus spoke had focus and clarity.”
And third, keep your prayer biblical.
Davis says, “Praying the Bible takes all the guesswork out of prayer. Right at your fingertips there is an arsenal of pinpoint prayers that you know God will answer.”
The one thing that the author did not suggest–something we might have expected–is that we pray small prayers. While it’s certainly in order to ask God for the infinitesimal as well as the infinite, Will Davis Jr. urges us to follow the title of his book and “pray big.”
In his book ‘Built to Last,’ management and leadership expert Jim Collins urges readers to set what he calls BHAGs. “Big, hairy, audacious goals.”
Will Davis likes that and suggests we need to start praying BHAPs.
“A big, hairy, audacious prayer is the kind of prayer that takes your breath away. It’s a vision so God-sized, so humanly impossible, and yet so utterly appealing that it totally consumes you–and it drives you to your knees in prayer.”
So, what kind of help do you need today? Why not tell the Lord in no uncertain terms what you need from Him?
Thou art coming to a King;
Large petitions with thee bring.
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.