The first sermon I ever preached to a church congregation was very similar to what todays post is about. The concepts and principles of that sermon, though it seems eons ago, have always stuck with me. I am often reminded of this sermon during times of struggle or trial in my walk. God never ceases to astound me with the way He does that. How He can at the right time and in the right moment bubble up in our minds thoughts and information so detailed and vivid, yet on any other day the same information would only be a distant and vague memory. I am hoping that by sharing these simple concepts, you too can find hope and strength in your times of trial and struggle.
I originally titled the sermon, The 5 Most Dangerous Prayers, but decided to re-word it here for the sake of avoiding emails and comments from would be theologians looking for a bone to pick. That being said, I must warn you, these prayers are dangerous in a way. No they won’t bring harm to you or those that you love; or don’t love for that matter… There’s a sermon on that! No, the prayers are dangerous only to those of us who struggle with the life of a follower of Christ; the life of a disciple and in turn the life of a disciple maker. I think this would include all of us… They are dangerous to a life that is more focused on retirement than eternity. A life focused on keeping up with the Jones’ instead of keeping in step with the Spirit. A life focused on self instead of others. When these principles are prayed in truth and sincerity, your life will get turned upside down. Your thoughts, desires, actions, and goals will change. I know because it happens to me every time I pray in this manner. You have been warned! Once you move past this point there is no turning back. If you enjoy your life of comfort and security then now is your chance to remain in your pursuit of the American Dream. However, if Jesus is your lord and savior, and you desire to follow Him wherever He may lead you, then you are in good company. Let’s do this…
One more thing… Before we get to the first part of this life changing prayer practice, I must insert that all prayer should begin with God. Worship humbles our hearts and primes our humility by acknowledging the order of things. We don’t come to God with our list of demands as if He were some divine ATM. We come to Him like a child approaches a Father. In reverence, in respect, in humility, and…you get the point. God wants us to seek His face not His hand. He wants us to know Him personally as a loving Father, not as some sugar daddy. Take time to worship Him and to truly seek His face before you do anything else. Lay down all your desires and expectations. Simply gaze upon the face of The One who knows the plan.
The first step in this life changing prayer is to allow God’s presence to undo us. In Isaiah 6, we see what happens when sinners like us enter the presence of a Holy God. We are undone! Everything we think we are and all of our apparent success crumbles in light of God’s holiness and majesty. That is the focus of this portion of the prayer. “Examine me, and probe my thoughts! Test me, and know my concerns! See if there is any idolatrous tendency in me, and lead me in the reliable ancient path!” (Psalm 139:23) We are asking God to shine His divine light inside our hearts and our minds and reveal to us our dark places. Reveal our sin. Not just the sin that we know about, but the sin that has deceived us. Before we can do anything else, we must first clean up our own house. This is the place where we follow Christ’s command to deal with the log in our own eyes before we attempt to pluck out a splinter in anyone else’s (Matthew 7:5).
After we humble our hearts and minds to God’s holiness; letting His light shine in the darkest places of our inner being, we must then ask Him to break us of these now evident sins. This is the beginning of repentance! For all my fellow twelve stepper’s, this is, in essence, step one. We must admit that we are powerless over our sin. No amount of effort, grit, or fortitude will allow us to overcome our sin in our own power. If we could, then Paul would not have written his great discourse on sin in Romans 7:15-20. We still have a choice, but our sinful flesh desires sin and rebellion. As a result it justifies our sin. This is why we ask God to break us. When we are truly broken over our sin we begin to do whatever it takes to change it. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). We must be willing to do whatever it takes to turn away from our sins and walk in Jesus’ righteousness.
The first two parts dealt with our flesh which impedes our ability to truly be receptive to God. This is the act of crucifying our flesh (Galatians 5:24). Jesus made it very clear, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When we do this daily, we stop walking in the flesh and begin to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5). Walking in the Spirit means that you have given up the driver seat of your life and handed it over to God. I am sure some of you might be hearing “Jesus take the wheel” play out in your minds right now, but there is more to this concept than letting Jesus drive. This step is you surrendering all of your hopes, dreams, goals, desires, ambitions, worries, and fears to Him. It is you getting out of the throne of your life, and inviting God to sit in your place. It doesn’t stop there… As God takes His rightful place, you then bow yourself before Him and commit yourself to Him as a “doulos” (greek; someone who belongs to another; a bond-slave, without any ownership rights of their own).
As we submit to God, He will lead us into places and situations that are going to be difficult to say the least! This step is our cry for God to take us outside our comfort zones, to put us in places where security and safety are dependent upon Him. This is us asking God to put us in a little boat out in the middle of the sea in the midst of a fierce storm, and then call for us to get out of the boat (Matthew 14:22-33). When we step outside our wisdom, understanding, and pre-conceived notions, miracles happen! Who doesn’t want to see water turned to wine, a kids sack lunch feed thousands, the dead raised, sick healed, or physical manifestations of the spiritual realm. The possibilities are endless only if we are willing to have a mustard seed faith (Matthew 17:14-20)!
By this point, you should not be the same person you were walking into this time of prayer. A transformation (Romans 12:2) should be taking place in you that is now prompting you to action. Similar to what happened with Isaiah in Isaiah 6. We should now be hearing the voice of God clearly (Romans 12:2). More than likely He will be saying, “Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?” (Isaiah 6:8). This is our time to make a choice, to choose to go back to our life as usual, or to answer the call of God. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). As a believer, a follower of Christ, you have been called to be a witness to the world. Will you answer that call? Will you be like Isaiah and respond with “Here am I Lord! Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)?
Amen… Let it be so
Just like we started, we should always end our time in prayer with worship. God should always be our focus. If you prayed these things in truth, you should have plenty to praise and thank God for. I should add that these concepts are not a 1-2-3 step process to be dogmatically followed. This is not a prayer checklist, that you write on a notecard that you bring with you into your prayer time to make sure you cover all the points. If you are looking for more religiousness to add to your legalistic and pharisaical life, then I am sure this post will help you with that. My purpose in writing this was to help true believers who desire to know God more, be in His will, and grow in their faith. For those that truly seek God and worship Him in spirit and truth, He promises that He will be found by them and available to them (John 4:24, Jeremiah 29:11-14). If each of us truly prayed these things, America would see a rival that it has never seen. A Revolution of Revelation would sweep through our culture and God’s glory would be revealed to the masses. Whom will God send? Who will go on His behalf?