Prayer, petition and perspicacity
Perspicacity means “discernment; clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight.”
Relevant to the topic at hand, it refers to “praying smart.” Perspicacity is a good thing to have when approaching the Lord in prayer or petition.
Too often, we pray solely because we want stuff. Or we pray because we want stuff for other people. And it may be good, legitimate stuff: healing for the sick, food for the hungry, peace for the distraught, success for the discouraged, a job for the unemployed, or God’s wisdom and comfort in dealing with a no-easy-out challenge. Or, even better than any of these, perhaps in our prayer we are asking Jesus to shine His light into a life and help us or others to accept Him as Lord and Savior.
Strictly by the book, these requests are more petition than prayer. And petition is a fine thing, ordained by Jesus himself in John 14:14: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Paul reassures us of this often, as in Philippians 4:6: “By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I can’t think of a more important petition than to ask for Jesus to come into our lives.
Understand, if John 3:16 is right and you can be assured it is, Jesus is already with us whether or not we ask for it, recognize it, or even believe it. Praying to accept the gift of God’s grace and salvation in and through Jesus Christ is something better done today than tomorrow, without worrying about definitions of prayers or petitions. When the spiritual lights come on and faith begins to illuminate our life, definitions become less important than quickening the hope and love of Christ we already possess.
As believers, it is worth the time to examine our prayer life and discern whether it is mostly about asking God for stuff, i.e. petition, or mostly about recognizing God’s glory, sovereignty and goodness: that’s prayer, that’s praise, and that’s worship.
In “The Believer’s Prayer,” (Acts 4:23-31) the disciples and believers pray to “speak the Lord’s word with great boldness.” They are praying to God to be enabled to tell others about the majesty, truth and glory of Jesus Christ. That’s a discerning prayer.
With perspicacity, we learn that prayer should be less about telling God what I need (He already knows) or how great I am (we aren’t), but recognizing what Jesus has done, how great God is, and praying that we can effectively pass the Word.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) apologizes, but “perspicacity” was the most precise and alliterative “P” word he could think of that fit this train of thought.