I have often wondered about our Mi sheBeirach l'cholim, the prayer we recite for people who are ill. Why do we mention specific people?
We enumerate the names of רחמנא ליצלן relatives, friends, people whose condition is made known to us via email, etc. And then, we add a catch-all בתוך שאר חולי ישראל, asking Gd to heal them along with all of the others who need healing. So why do we first enumerate “our own” people?
The question becomes particularly relevant when shuls try to figure out a way to handle their ever-growing lists of people who are ill. The lists grow, the lines up to the bimah grow, the crowd gets restless... so some shuls tell people to say the names privately while the gabbai pauses, others ask for names to be submitted in advance, and so on – but why name names at all?
We find a similar idea in the gemara at the end of Taanit, in which shifts of pray-ers (אנשי מעמד) prayed on different days for specific groups of people, such as sailors. Why not pray for everyone?
For that matter, why enumerate our requests in the amidah – why not just ask Gd to provide us with everything we want/need? (And if one will say we don't know what's best for us, the prayers we do recite do not avoid that problem!)
One might suggest that the point is for the davener – we concentrate more intensely when we think about the needs of a specific person, or about our own spelled-out desires.
But the other day I saw a comment by Tosafot (Bava Metzia 106a “l'nisa”) presenting a different view. Tosafot said that Gd is more likely to respond to a farmer who says, “Please help my wheat grow well” than to a farmer who says, “Please help everything I do.”
Regarding the general request he says דבסתמא לא היה מקבל הקב"ה תפלתו של זה שיצליח כל מה שיזרע אם לא שיעשה לו נס, but regarding a specific request he is willing to apply ותגזר אומר ויקם לך.
From the language of Tosafot, it seems to me that there is an issue of being too demanding, too taking-it-for-a-given, too mechutzaf, too treating Gd as a concierge at our beck and call. To say “Take care of all of this” is to display a cavalier attitude toward the help we are getting. Better to be specific, to note all of the specific ways in which Gd helps us.
In a sense, it's the converse of Dayyenu. Just as thanks must be specific, highlighting each element of assistance, so the request itself should show respect for the favors we are receiving.
Just a thought.