The Power of Pinpoint Praying
This, then, is how you should pray . . . Matthew 6:9
The outer court of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, known as the Court of Gentiles, wasn’t typically a quiet or even reverent place. Designed as a place of worship for non-Jews who were seeking to align themselves with the God of the Hebrews, the outer court looked more like a busy marketplace than a place of prayer. Venders, selling animals for sacrifice for those worshippers who had traveled too far to bring their own animals with them, often set up shop right there in the midst of the court. Buying, selling, bartering, cheating, and of course, the sounds and smells of sheep, goats, rams, bulls and pigeons filled the air. Any Gentile seeking to worship in that setting had to be very determined and focused, because the environment was anything but conducive to meaningful communion with the holy God.
On one particular day, an unusual and unfamiliar cry rose up among the chants of the buyers and sellers. It was a terrifying, almost animal shriek. It was a battle cry. The voice of a man, filled with indignation and rage, drowned out and eventually silenced the calls of the vendors. Then, an amazing sight followed the sound: a young man, a well-known religious teacher, was making his way through the impromptu marketplace. He was yelling at the vendors, turning over their tables, tearing down their makeshift booths, spilling their money and releasing their animals. In one hand was a whip—an effective instrument of wrath for this indignant messenger.
As the man made his way through the outer courts, along with the sounds of shouting and chaos that he left behind, his words became more audible. This really was a man on a mission. He kept saying: How dare you?! Who do you think you are?! What do you think you’re doing? This is my father’s house! This is supposed to be a house of prayer! How dare you turn it into a den of thieves! How dare you turn it into a corrupt market!
You probably know that story. You know that the unlikely vigilante was Jesus, the carpenter-turned-prophet from Nazareth.[i] Have you ever wondered what happened to Jesus on that day? Have you ever thought about what turned the gentle teacher into an enraged warrior? I have a theory. I think it was pinpoint praying.
In John’s account of that scene, he concluded by noting that as the disciples later reflected on what Jesus had done, they recalled a well known verse from the Hebrew scriptures. In Psalm 69, a Psalm that most likely pointed to the nature of the promised Messiah, David wrote that “zeal for your house consumes me,” (Psalm 69:9). We already know that as early as age twelve Jesus had identified the Temple as his father’s house. We know that he must have developed a sense of his messianic message and mission early in his life. I believe that as Jesus heard certain messianic passages from the Hebrew Scriptures being read or taught on, his heart immediately identified with what he was hearing. We know that he heard through the reading of Isaiah God’s promise to send an anointed messenger to set captives free. We also know that Jesus realized those holy words were talking about him (See Luke 4:16-20). I believe Jesus would read or hear such passages and then pray them for his life. He’d hear the Scriptures speak of a man who would bring hope to the outcasts and healing to the land, and he would pray, “Father, do that in me. Make that true of me.”
I believe that when Jesus heard Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for your house will consume me,” he began praying that Scripture for himself. He recognized its relevance for his life mission and he prayed that he would be zealous for and passionate about the house and worship of God. So when Jesus encountered a Temple system that was a terrible mockery of the holy place of worship that God had designed, all those prayers for zeal and passion kicked in. The result was an act of righteous indignation that was so passionate, pure and breathtaking that each of the four Gospel writers felt compelled to include it in his account of Jesus’s life. What they recorded for us was the fruit of Jesus’s pinpoint praying. It’s a clear example of what happens when you pray biblically and specifically for your life.
Prayers that Pack a Punch
If you’ve read any of the previous Pray Big books,[ii] then you’re probably somewhat familiar with the concept of Pinpoint Praying. But, for those of you who are new to the concept, and even for the rest of us, a review might be helpful.
Pinpoint Praying is focused, strategic, powerful praying. It’s high-faith, high-impact prayer. The two basic characteristics of pinpoint prayers are that they are biblical and specific. They’re biblical because they base their petitions on what God has already promised to do in his Word. They’re specific because they ask with pinpoint precision for something very particular and discernable from God. Pinpoint praying is fluff-free, filler-free praying. It goes to the heart of God with biblical and precision accuracy.
Pinpoint praying is the kind of praying that Jesus modeled in his own prayers and the kind that the Apostle Paul repeatedly prayed in his letters. Consider Jesus’s beautiful intercession for the Church in John 17. Listen to some of his petitions:
Father, glorify the Son that the Son may glorify you (vs. 1).
Holy Father, keep them in your name (vs. 11).
Keep them from the evil one (vs. 15).
Sanctify them in truth (vs. 17).
What do you notice about those prayers? They’re pointed, they’re powerful, they’re brief, and they were consistent with God’s will. That’s always what you find in Jesus’s praying, and it’s also what you find in Paul’s.
Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians contains some of the most beautiful prayers in the New Testament. In Chapter 1, Paul prayed that the believers in Ephesus might have increased wisdom and revelation so they would know God better (vs. 17). He also prayed that they would know the hope, riches and power that were irreversibly theirs in Christ (vs. 18-19). Paul’s prayers demonstrate the same pinpoint precision that Jesus’s did. They go right to the heart of the matter that he wanted to bring before God. They lack flowery language or a bunch of extra, theologically loaded words. What they do contain are biblical and specific petitions for God, and that’s exactly what makes pinpoint praying so effective.
[i] For the full account of this event, see John 2:13-17 and Matthew 21:12-13.
[ii] Pray Big (2007), Pray Big for Your Marriage (2008), Pray Big for Your Child (2008), all published by Revell.
©2014 Will Davis Jr. Originally posted at willdavisjr.com