What is the riskiest prayer you have ever prayed? My most recent sermon dealt with the issue of taking faith-filled risks. At the end of the sermon, I challenged our congregation to apply this concept to their own prayer lives. Do we pray risky prayers, or do we “play it safe” with what we ask of God? If we always, or even mostly, pray "safe" prayers, I would question whether or not we understand the power of the Holy Spirit and the grandeur and glory of Him to whom we speak.
When the apostle Paul prayed for his church in Ephesus, his Holy-Spirit inspired view of God was recorded in Ephesians 3:20-21. He said,
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
When is the last time this exalted view of an all-powerful God enveloped our conversation with Him? What is it that causes a person to pray in such a way? What is it that would cause you to pray in such a way?
As we look through Scripture, we find a common denominator in those who pray in such a way: they have not only encountered Christ, but they have been completely transformed by Him. Their view of God and His power has been forever altered, and their view of themselves and their lives have been radically revolutionized. Take, for example, the tax collector in Luke 18. Here is a man of relatively important status and lofty position compared to most around him, and yet, when he sees God, He truly prays for likely the first time. His words were simply, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Consider also the leper from Matthew 8. Following His famous “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus is approached by a leper who bows down before Him and prays, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” What a risky prayer! This man approached Jesus willing to continue to live with leprosy, if the Lord willed Him to carry on in that condition. However, as with the tax collector in Luke 18, Christ had mercy and compassion and touched him.
Likewise, think of Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr. In Acts 7, he was being stoned to death for his speaking against the religious leaders of the day. They became furious and began stoning him, and yet, because he was full of the Holy Spirit, he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” What a risky prayer! Stephen did not beg the Lord for victory over those killing him, he did not ask him for longer life, but he simply asked that the Lord would not hold the sin of killing him against them.
Let’s get back to the question: what would cause you to pray this way? What would it take to increase the risk factor in your prayers to Jesus? I would suggest that Scripture is clear on that: someone full of faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:1), full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:55), and fully surrendered to His authority (Matthew 28:18) will pray very differently from someone who is not.
How do you approach God when you talk to Him? Do you approach him, like the leper, knowing that knowing and worshipping Him is a greater end than being cured? Do you approach him, like Stephen, knowing that being forgiven and forgiving others is greater than life itself? Do you approach Him, like Jesus, submitting your will to Him even when you know His will is radically different from your own?
It is like the story J. Vernon McGee once told of a young seminary student who was about to preach his first real sermon. The young man was quite accomplished in his studies, and he felt more than equipped to communicate God’s Word. As a matter of fact, he was overly confident. When the time came for him to deliver the sermon – he walked boldly, even arrogantly, to the sacred desk. He arranged his notes before him, then gazed over the congregation. As he began to preach, his memory and his tongue betrayed him. He couldn’t remember his illustrations, his words shaky and weak. What he thought would be a 30-minute sermon was over in 10 minutes. Sheepishly he descended the stage after the concluding prayer.
The Senior Pastor of the church was an experienced minister who had seen this sort of thing many times before. He placed his arm around the young seminarian and said, “Son, if you had walked onto the stage the way you came down, you would have come down the way you went up”.
God our Father is, as Paul stated, “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”, and all He asks of us is faith that He is and that He can. Why, then, when we walk and talk with Him, do we so often not exhibit such elementary faith in Him with our words and actions? Why, when we walk and talk with Him, do we so often pray for outcomes or solutions that are well within that which we can ask or imagine, and require no power at work within us? A.W. Tozer said that, “God is looking for those with whom He can do the impossible – what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do by ourselves”.
May the risk factor in our prayers continue to increase as we encounter the God of the impossible; the God beyond our comprehension; the God of all authority; the God throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen!
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.