How big are your prayers?
Jon’s recent talk challenged us to pray big and extra-ordinary prayers. Simon looks at how God’s actions can inspire us to do this instead of praying safe prayers.
I love reading the Bible. I find it inspirational to read the stories of what God has done in times past. Seeing His sovereignty and power described is amazing. The way He created the cosmos, or rescued His people from their enemies, or provided for the needy, along with a myriad of other actions, show that God is involved in His world.
Past actions and future promises
When I read Scripture it is clear that there is NOTHING God cannot do. The seas and rivers obey Him. Kings bow at His feet. The weather is at His command. Oil jars keep on pouring. Manna arrives daily. Rocks burst forth with water. Lions keep their mouths closed and donkeys open theirs to speak. Lepers are healed. The lame walk. The blind see. The dead live again. There is not a single detail in any person’s life which escapes God’s attention. There is no circumstance in which He doesn’t have involvement. On page after page God’s salvation plan is always being worked out. Truly ‘He is before all things and in Him all things hold together’ (Colossians 1:17).
In addition to this, the Bible is full of incredible promises about the future. It is a book of hope. One day there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more sickness, no more pain, no more suffering, no more decay, no more sin, no more tears. God’s eternal kingdom is one where righteousness reigns. He will usher in a peace which knows no end. All of the injustices of history will be righted and justice will be done.
Inspiration to pray
So when I read these accounts and remember that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, then surely there is nothing to hold me back from praying big prayers for today. To pray that nations would turn to Him. To ask that diseases would be healed. To intercede that wars would end. To petition that people would be saved. Surely I am on safe ground to pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10)?
Surely having read of God’s power and sovereignty and His past actions I should now be full of faith that He can do it again? Surely when I consider how he saved Noah from the flood, or the Israelites from Pharoah’s tyranny, or turned the city of Nineveh to Him in repentance, or raised Jesus from the dead, then there can be no prayer I can pray where He hasn’t answered something bigger? And having read of the trajectory of His plans for the future surely I should be able to pray in faith for today knowing where things are heading?
How do I pray?
And yet, instead, I find myself praying ‘… the safest kind of prayers – the ones so passive and vague we’d never be able to tell if God responded to them or not’ (Tyler Staton¹). I pray for God’s blessing in a situation rather than His intervention. I pray for improvement rather than dramatic resolution. I pray that a friend might hear about Jesus rather than be radically transformed by Him. I pray for progress rather than transformation. All of the things I pray for are good things to pray. But they are safe – and I could pray for something more.
And so I find myself in a state of conflict. On the one hand I am convinced by the awesome power of God from both His track record in history and the glorious future He has for us. And yet on the other hand my prayers somehow lack conviction in the here and now. F. B. Meyer captures how I feel: ‘And is not that the point where our faith staggers still? We can believe in the wonder-working power of God on the distant horizon of the past, or on the equally distant horizon of the future; but that He should have a definite and particular care for our life, that our prayers should touch Him, that He should give us the desire of our heart – this staggers us, and we feel it is too good to be true.’ (²)
Recently Jon challenged us to pray big prayers based on the life of Daniel. Big prayers. Faithful prayers. Prayers which needed God’s intervention for success. Prayers in line with God’s stated plans and in hope that the timing was today.
So there is the challenge of prayer for me: Am I prepared to take God literally at His Word and use those stories to shape my prayers? Will I allow myself to be opened up to the possibility of disappointment because my prayers mean it will be clear cut as to whether God has answered or not? Will I pray big prayers and see what God will do?
¹ This is taken from Tyler’s challenging and helpful book on prayer called Praying like Monks, Living like Fools.
² This is taken from his biography of John the Baptist.