Dangerous Prayers

Week 1………

In just a couple of weeks, we will begin our journey to the cross as we enter the period of Lent. Before then, though, I want to ask whether you, newly committed to God, are willing to go deeper than you ever have before in relationship with him? In the two weeks we have between now and the beginning of Lent, we are going to look at three specific prayers. I’ve just finished reading a book by Craig Groeschel called Dangerous Prayers and as it challenged me, I felt that it was a challenge for all of us and so this next couple of weeks we are going to use his material as a basis to consider our prayer lives and ask God to speak to us, to dare us to pray in a way that maybe we never have before. If you are wanting to take this deeper still, I would recommend the book. I can’t offer to lend it to you as I have it on my Kindle but it is available on the internet.

Firstly, I want you to consider your prayer lives now and ask yourself some questions.

1. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being almost non-existent to 10 being passionately faith-fuelled, what would you rank your prayer life in the last week?
2. How has praying been easy for you? When have you found it to be more of a challenge? Why?
3. If God said yes to every prayer you prayed in the last week, what would be different in this world today? Be specific.

I found that last question particularly challenging. Some people would be healed and life would be easier for some. I would be a better parent and my children would all know and love Jesus. I guess that’s some good stuff and there would be a small impact on the world but are there things I could have prayed but didn’t dare? Absolutely!

This week, we are going to look at the first dangerous prayer, found in our bible reading above. We are going to ask God to search us. To see us as we are and to tell us where we need to change. We are going to invite him into the things that scare us or worry us and we are going to ask him to show us anything in our lives that aren’t of him. Next week, we are going to cover the other two dangerous prayers. Break me. Send me.

Are you ready for this?

God, please be with us as we embark on this very short but very scary journey over the next two weeks. We want to begin Lent and our journey to the cross in a different place than we are right now and we ask you to travel with us, to challenge us and to change us as we begin today. Amen.

I wonder what conclusions you came to as you briefly considered the questions above. Is your prayer life a list of requests for God to heal people and situations, to look after people and keep them safe, to rid the world of this awful virus? All good stuff. Things that would make a real difference if God answered them. Do you find yourself praying the same things over and over again in the same way every time? Do you lose concentration halfway through and have to ask God to forgive you for thinking about the food for the day or the jobs that you need to do next? I know that I do!

Craig Groeschel looked at his prayer life and found it lame when he compared it to the pray-ers in the bible. Daniel asking God to close the mouths of the lions. Gideon setting a fleece before him. David bringing the worst of himself to God and asking to be made as white as snow. Hannah crying in desperation for a child. Prayers for boldness. Prayers for success. Honest prayers. Desperate prayers. Gutsy, dangerous prayers.

Jesus showed us how to pray. Yes, he gave us the Lord’s Prayer but more than that. He showed us throughout the gospels that we need to spend time alone with the Father to have the strength to face the every day. He showed us that we need to ask for his will to be done in our lives despite the cost. He told us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and to follow him. These three prayers we are going to look at are simple prayers. Search me. Break me. Send me. Simple but dangerous.

So, Psalm 139 verses 23 and 24:

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

We don’t like being ‘searched’, do we? It’s invasive. It’s personal. Let’s face it, us Brits are known for being closed people. The question, “How are you?” is almost always met with the words, “I’m fine, thank you and how are you?”. If we thought someone was actually asking us, we would stammer and stutter and feel awkward about giving up real feelings and real information about ourselves and our lives!

If we can’t open ourselves up to our friends and family who can still only see what we choose to let them see, how much more difficult will it be to open ourselves up completely to God who, let’s face it, already knows us far better than we even know ourselves. But that’s what’s so wonderful about this prayer. We are asking God who created us and who loves us completely and has given himself to us and for us to search us not so that he knows us better (that’s not possible!) but so that we can be honest with ourselves, know ourselves better and surrender ourselves more fully into his love and his care.

We are warned in the book that praying these prayers will open us up to valleys, “Attacks. Trials. Pain. Hardship. Discouragement. Even heartbreak. But there will also be the joy of faith, the marvel of miracles, the relief of surrender and the pleasure of pleasing God.”

This request for God to search David and know his heart in this Psalm comes in four parts. Firstly, he is daring to ask God to show him himself. We like to think that we know ourselves. I wonder if we really do though. Have you ever stopped and really looked at yourself? Did you like what you saw? If you have given your life to Jesus, you will at one point have recognised that you were in need of a Saviour and become aware of your sin. What about since then though? Having accepted Jesus as your Saviour, do you still regularly ask God to show you the deepest, darkest parts of your life or do you consider that you only needed to do that once and that’s enough? We like to think that we are basically good people but the truth is that in all of us, all of the time, is the desire to be selfish, to put ourselves in front of others, to make out that we are better than we are, to put others down so that we feel better…..the list could go on and on. Paul talks about it in Romans 7:15-20.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

When we ask God to search us and know our hearts, we are asking him to show us the war that is waging inside us all of the time and give us the power to face it and to deal with it. It’s painful to see us as we truly are but if we don’t we find ourselves stunted, not able to grow and change and become more like Jesus. Paul, who wrote the letters we now use to teach us how to live for Jesus, calls himself a wretched man as he faces the truth that God reveals to him. It’s a dangerous prayer but a necessary one!

Secondly, David asks God to test him and know his anxious thoughts. What are you worried about? What scares you the most as you consider your life? Groeschel says that, “What we fear the most reveals where we trust God the least.”

What frightens you? What makes you nervous? What goes around and around in your head when you can’t sleep? Not the ‘fear of spiders or heights’ kind of fears but the ones which take hold of you and almost consume you? Are you scared of failing so much that you daren’t try anything? Are you filled with fear about the future to the point that you close your eyes and pretend it’s not coming?

Groeschel says, “Our fears matter. Because ultimately, our fears show how we’re relying on our own efforts and not trusting in our Savior.”

The fact is that we can’t do anything on our own. Nothing. We rely on God for the very breath that keeps us alive. As we ask God to know our anxious thoughts, we ask him to work through them and we allow him to be strong whilst we are weak. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says that God’s power in made perfect in our weakness. As he shows us our fears, he will also build our faith. We may still have those fears but we will know that he is working in us and strengthening us and that fear won’t stop us from doing what we need to do.

So I ask again, what are your biggest fears? Ask God to reveal them to you and then ask him for the faith to trust him with them and watch what he can do through you.

If that bit isn’t scary enough, the next part of David’s search me prayer really brings it on! “See if there is any offensive way in me.” David was known as a ‘man after God’s own heart’ but he wasn’t perfect. Not even slightly. Even he needed to come before God and ask him to show him where he had got it wrong. And not just in the big ‘Bathsheba’ stuff but also in the everyday. We tend to know where we have got it really wrong and can come before God for forgiveness in those things but what about in the every day stuff? The stuff that we notice and are sometimes so happy to point out about others either to their faces or to those around us and yet just can’t see in ourselves. Matthew 7 talks about taking out a speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye whilst you have an entire log in your own.

Groeschel says that there are three things to consider when you are daring to pray this dangerous prayer. Firstly, he says that we should think about what others have said to us. Have people challenged you about things you have said or done or suggested that they feel you might need some help with certain things? If so, maybe you need to stop and consider it and ask God whether there is something in it that you need help to change or to work on.

The second thing to consider is whether there is a certain behaviour or thought pattern that you have rationalised. I do this because………… If I don’t do this or think like this, people may think I’m too straight-laced and be put off following Jesus………. Others do far worse than this…….It’s only…………. Is there something in your life where you think that it’s something you can handle, you won’t go too far, it’s how you cope, it doesn’t hurt anyone else? Maybe God is challenging you on this very thing and you need to ask for him to make it clear to you. ‘See if there is any offensive way in me.’ Groeschel says that “we need God’s help to see the sin that’s difficult to see in the mirror.”

David probably rationalised his feelings about Bathsheba. He deserved a break from fighting. He needed to rest. There’s nothing wrong with looking. Bathsheba looks lonely too. Maybe she needs some company with her husband away fighting……. You can see how one rationalisation led to another until he was in so deep he couldn’t see a way out.

The third thing that Groeschel suggests as something to notice is those things which you are most defensive about. If someone dares to suggest something that they think might be slightly off and everything in you wants to shout at them to go away and leave you alone and pick on someone else, maybe that’s time to ask God to show you whether it’s something you need to ask for his help to change. If God convicts you of something and you dive immediately into telling him why that is something that you can’t change, again maybe it’s time to stop and think.

Maybe it’s to do with the things you like to watch and you feel the need to point out to God or to the person challenging that you are just trying to stay ‘up to date’ so that you can connect with people around you. Maybe you get angry at the slightest thing but justify everything as righteous anger. Maybe you blame a marriage that isn’t quite what it should be for eyes that wander. Maybe you justify gossiping as ‘sharing for prayer’. Only you and God know these things. Ask him to show you if there is any offensive way in you and allow yourself to see what he sees.

The last thing in this part of the prayer is to ask God to lead you. Once we know our hearts, once we have given over to God those things that fill us with fear, once we recognise those things that cause offense to God then we pray this prayer. Lead me in the way everlasting. Groeschel says, “And this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where things get real. This is where genuine, Spirit-filled, life-altering change becomes possible.

Are you ready to pray this dangerous prayer? Are you ready to pray it daily and allow it to change you and lead you into deeper waters that you’ve ever been before but with the knowledge that God is right there with you, holding you and helping you, loving you and forgiving you, guiding you and leading you?

If we want our church to be alive and active in our community, it starts with us and it starts with this prayer. Will you join me in praying it today?

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

God bless you and keep you this week!