I have a friend who prays like he means it. Praying with him is incredibly encouraging… and utterly terrifying. This friend, you see, doesn’t always just pray the standard, easy prayers. Sometimes, they are bold, scary prayers. And he means them.
As I sit there, praying with him, I find myself becoming ever more aware that if I stand in accord with him and say a resounding “amen”, I’m asking God to take his prayers seriously for me, too. And then I get scared. What would happen if God actually took what I was praying, and took me at my word? Suddenly, my off-hand “use me” and “teach me to trust you and you alone” prayers, become actual possibilities.
Honestly, that’s terrifying. In reality, I think I’d get pretty annoyed at God if He tried to teach me those lessons because for God to teach us to trust Him, He tends to take away everything else that we could possibly trust. When He decides to use us, it’s almost always not in the way we expect or want Him to.
Do I really know what I am praying? Do I really want it to happen? I know that a lot of the time, I don’t. I say it because it’s the right thing to say, or because “that’s what people need to be encouraged in”, not because I actually expect God to take me at my word.
But what happened to my integrity in praying? Why, all of sudden, am I scared when I realise that my friend might actually mean what he’s saying?
Ultimately, I think it’s because it means I’ll lose control. When I pray such powerful words, I’m giving power – and control – back to God. And frankly, that’s terrifying.
My mum tells the story of how she prayed the Methodist Covenant Prayer one day, part of which says: “Let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you”. As an undergraduate student with energy and ability, she expected God to use her powerfully. But next thing she knew, she was bed-bound with ME for three years. God had laid her aside from active work. God had taken her at her word. We can pray ‘use me’, but what if His use of us is not what we expected? What if His use of us just hurts?
Trust me, I believe that when God calls, He equips. He never leaves us to fight battles on our own, He will never put us through something that will break us entirely, and He is bigger than anything that comes up against us. But I do believe that if we’re going to pray the bold prayers, we need to be sure that we know what we’re asking for. We need to have integrity in our prayers.
I’ll be honest with you: praying big things like I actually mean them is not something I find myself doing often, because I’m terrified of what would happen if God took me seriously. And so, I will continue on praying the prayers I know that I mean, and praying that, one day, I’ll have the courage to stand and pray “use me”, knowing that God might take me seriously.
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