Last week we looked at the first of three dangerous prayers and we asked God to search us, using the verse from Psalm 139. How did you get on? Did you pray it or did you decide that you just weren’t ready to go that far with God yet? If so, that’s understandable. It is a dangerous prayer, after all. From experience, though, I would say that it’s definitely one worth praying and I would recommend that you revisit the letter in a few weeks and think again.
This week, we are going to look at the other two. Again, it’s going to be a bit of a whistlestop tour as time doesn’t allow for more right now but if you want to take it further, I would suggest that you get hold of the book, Dangerous Prayers by Craig Groeschel and read it for yourself. It’s also going to be a challenge again. I once read that if the person preparing the message isn’t changed or challenged first, it’s not going to have much impact on those reading it. Let me tell you, this has challenged me. A lot. Happy to chat about it with you sometime if you would like to. Just let me know.
So the first of this week’s two dangerous prayers.
Do you know what? I think that this is a prayer that God has begun to answer even before we have prayed it at the moment. I think we are all feeling vaguely broken during this pandemic. Broken by the loss of people we love. Broken by the pain of seeing those we care for struggling and hurting. Broken by the fact that we haven’t been able to meet together face to face in so long. Broken by life being so different and restricted right now. Certainly from where I’m standing, it feels like there has been some breaking going on and it hurts, doesn’t it? Our society is broken right now and it’s hard to see that it’s ever going to be the same again.
I’ve heard lots, though, about people talking of a ‘new normal’, of an opportunity to be different, to do things differently, to embrace the changes taking place and allow ourselves to be led in a new direction. The fact is that sometimes, things have to be broken in order to be properly fixed. You hear of injuries where bones haven’t healed as they should and so they re-break them so that they can be put right.
We also tend to grow more when we are facing pain and brokenness. Craig Groeschel talks in his book about the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles where he talks about God enlarging his territory and keeping him safe from harm and free of pain and suggests that whilst it’s a great prayer to pray sometimes, it has its limitations as it is focused on what we want rather than what God wants and is safe and maybe even selfish. Of course we want God to keep us safe from harm but God uses our difficulties in order to change us and bring us to maturity. He asks some questions which I found really interesting:
“What are we missing out on because we’re so committed to avoiding pain and discomfort?
Could there be something on the other side of suffering that somehow makes it worthwhile?
Could breaking be as necessary to our growth as it is to a baby bird cracking away the shell around it? As a butterfly coming out of the cocoon?
Could being broken release us for more than we can even imagine?”
In the passage in 2 Corinthians we read this:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Jesus was demonstrating in this act that his body would be broken; that his body HAD TO BE broken in order for us to be saved. This breaking was the only thing that could bring salvation to the world and enable us to once again live in unity with God and with each other. Craig Groeshel suggests that when Luke uses the phrase, ‘do this in remembrance of me’, he’s not just talking about the act of breaking bread which Christians all over the world do regularly to remember what Jesus did for us but he is also talking about the act of being broken and being poured out. “Because Jesus’ body was broken, because his blood was poured out for us, we too should live daily for him, broken and poured out.”
It’s not a comfortable thought, is it? How often, though, have you discovered absolute joy when you have put yourself out for the sake of someone else? That feeling of satisfaction when you have given up something so that someone else could have it? Matt and I have experienced this through fostering and adoption. There are times when we feel that it has really brought us to breaking point and the pain has been excruciating and yet in giving up our freedom and allowing our safe and comfortable lives to be broken in order to bring children into our home, we have experienced joy like never before and we have grown so much in our relationship with Jesus, understanding more about our own adoption into his family and all that it means for us both in this life and for eternity. A breaking, yes, but oh boy has it been worth it.
Jesus told his disciples that they should take up their cross daily and follow him. At the time, they wouldn’t really have understood what he was talking about – and then they saw him take up his and it would have hit home. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matt 16:25)
If you have access to the internet, I want you to click on this link and just consider the words as you listen to the song. https://youtu.be/Cd6J6Wgnv4M Here are the lyrics for those who can’t access it.
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe
When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise
Groeschel says that being broken isn’t just a one off thing. “Being broken isn’t just a moment in time born out of a painful event. It’s a daily choice to die to pride. To crucify lust. To destroy selfishness.” Being broken hurts but each time it hurts, we can take it to the one who was broken for us. In our weakness, we discover that God is strong and it is in our brokenness that we find God’s blessings.
Are you ready to be broken and poured out for God?
If one dangerous prayer wasn’t enough, here is the second for this week.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
In his introduction to this prayer, Craig Groeschel talks about the address that JFK gave in his inaugural address to the American public. It will be familiar to all of you, I’m sure. “As not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” He challenges us to think about them in terms of our relationship with God. So often, our prayer life consists of all of those things we have gathered together to bring before God. The situations we want him to sort out. The illness that we want him to heal. The things that we want him to change. These are all good things and they are things that we have been told specifically to pray about. There is nothing wrong at all with asking God to intervene and inviting him to work in our lives and the lives of those we love. How often, though, do we stop there? We give him our list. Possibly say thank you for the things we have already seen dealt with. Maybe offer him our worship for who he is as well as what he has done and then say amen (or fall asleep, as so often happens in my case!)
How often do we then ask him what we can do for him; how we can serve him? “Ask not what God can do for you, but ask him what you can do for him?”
Here I am. Send me. Possibly the most dangerous prayer of all.
I don’t know about you but in order to pray that prayer, I first of all had to deal with all of the excuses in my ‘send someone else’ bank.
I’m not qualified.
I don’t have the time.
I’m too old.
I’ve already done my time and now I’m retired. It’s someone else’s turn.
Ok, those last two aren’t yet excuses in my bank but I know that they are excuses often given. I firmly believe, though, that God has a purpose for us in our lives until the day he takes us to be with him. As we get older, those purposes are less likely to involve us packing up and moving across the world or being in the thick of church ministry but they are still there and the prayer asking God to send us is needed just as much.
The bible is full of stories of God calling people and not one of them was up to the job in human terms. They all had flaws, lacked experience, had a history of screwing up and yet God called them. This is what Groeschel has to say about it:
“God hasn’t changed. The same God who called imperfect people still does. Now he’s calling you. Inviting you, nudging you, pulling you. God’s call prompts you to live beyond yourself, to not just be about your own comfort but to completely surrender to his bidding. To go. To serve. To build. To love. To fight. To play. To give. To lead.”
In the book, Craig talks of three different responses we see in the Old Testament:
Jonah – Here I am, Lord, but I’m not going.
Moses – Here I am, God, but send someone else.
Isaiah – Here I am. Send me.
I just want you to stop for a second and read back in Isaiah 6 the verses that came before his bold declaration. I know it takes up more space and makes the letter even longer but I’m including it here because I think it’s really important.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Why do you think it was that Isaiah could pray such a bold prayer? What happened in this passage which led to him feeling that he could pray it?
1, He saw God and recognised him as holy
2, He saw himself and realised his sinfulness
3, He experienced complete forgiveness and grace
Once again, the book goes into this is great depth and once again, I really hope that as a result of reading these letters you will want to buy and read the book because Craig Groeschel expresses these things in a far better way that I can. Here is the amazon link but it’s available in other bookshops too! (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dangerous-Prayers-Craig-Groeschel)
Simply put, though. Isaiah knew that God was utterly good and utterly trustworthy. He knew that he was sinful and needed a saviour and God saved him. “Imagine the power of the moment. Isaiah has never been more aware of his guilt, his sin, his shame. And with one touch from God’s being, his sin was gone. Forgotten. Forgiven. First, unconditional grace. Then, uncontainable gratitude.”
If you are going to trust God enough to pray these bold, dangerous prayers, you first need to know who he is, who you are and what he has done for you. If you don’t, please look deeper, ask those of us who you know love Jesus and find out just how much he loves you. Don’t carry on wishing you had that relationship with him, desperately wanting to be used by him and still thinking that he wouldn’t want to use you. My biggest job, my biggest goal is to bring you all deeper into relationship with him. If I haven’t done that, I’ve failed.
Just like the other two dangerous prayers, this one isn’t a one off prayer. Again, it’s a prayer that you will need (want, even?) to pray daily. Each day as you stop and think of the grace that has saved you and given you life, you need to pray, “Search me. Break me. Send me.”
I’m going to leave you with a prayer attributed to Sir Frances Drake. As you read it, allow God to speak to you, to challenge you, to disturb you. “It’s time to change the way you pray. It’s time to seek God passionately, with every fibre of your being. It’s time to abandon safe, comfortable, predictable, and easy-to-pray prayers. It’s time to pray with courage, to risk, to open yourself up to a different path to a better destination. It’s time to start praying dangerous prayers .It’s time to be disturbed.”
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
God bless you and keep you this week.