Have you ever prayed a dangerous prayer? Not merely a brave or even a sacrificial type of prayer, but a truly dangerous prayer? Have you ever prayed something you’re a little squeamish about, even though you know it’s the right thing to pray? To take that a few steps further, have you ever prayed a prayer that you’re terrified of God actually answering? Those prayers can be very dangerous indeed.
Crossroads Church has been doing a series this month (January) entitled “Dangerous Prayers” given by Pastor Matt Manning. A brief summary of this series is that it’s an indepth presentation of “The Lord’s Prayer” given in Matthew 6:9-13 and what it entails. The Lord’s Prayer is one of those passages that just about everyone has heard at one time or another, and it sometimes loses its significance from familiarity.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Near the center of the Lord’s Prayer is where it gets “dangerous”, in which it says “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” Stop and consider that for a moment — a long, somber moment. When we pray “Your will be done” do we really want God’s will to be done, or do we merely want what we think His will is? Or worse, do we deceive ourselves into thinking that our will is His will? One is the will of the sovereign, holy God of the universe while the other is a selfish god of our own making.
The manner in which we pray is often quite indicative of who God is to us. Are our prayers focused on us and our needs or God and His will? If we only offer up petitions and items on our prayer-list, it’s rather one-sided and God becomes merely a provider, a divinity to serve us rather than us serving Him. While prayer may take many forms, the biblical definition of prayer is conversation with God in which there is an exchange between His heart and yours. Prayer consists of ACTS, the acronym for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Prayer is aligning our hearts and will to His, not the other way around.
How often are we really brave enough to pray a dangerous prayer? Do we truly mean it when we say, “Whatever it takes, Lord” and take that leap of faith? When we’re praying for those we deeply care about — or even ourselves — and those four tiny but very dangerous words slip out of our mouths, are we willing to pay the price for “Whatever it takes, Lord” may entail? What if God takes us at our word and answers that dangerous prayer? What if God chooses to use terrible personal suffering in order to answer it? With that in mind, do we love Him enough and trust Him enough to still pray those dangerous prayers and really mean them?
“Whatever it takes, Lord” can (and often does) entail an entire universe of possibilities we usually dare not dream of. A very uncomfortable truth about God is that waiting, suffering, and brokenness are usually His chosen instruments that He uses to answer our prayers. The majority of answered prayers in the Bible always involved waiting and suffering. What if we pray for someone to be freed from one habit, only to see them fall into another that could be much worse? What if we pray for our children to come to faith, only to see them abandon our church or even our family? What if we pray to love our spouse more genuinely and sacrificially, only to have our marriage end in divorce? What if we pray to grow closer to God, only to be answered with painful silence, loneliness, and depression? What if we pray to impact our community for Christ, only to have that prayer answered by a terrible tragedy?
A song that I’ve been listening frequently to over the last few months is “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan. It’s one of those songs that has been medicine for my soul this winter, especially with the holidays coming and going. You never realize how much family and traditions mean until they’re no longer available. The other day on Facebook, Focus on the Family posted a meme that contained a portion of the lyrics to this song that’s been playing endlessly in my head and attributed it to McMillan (“If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”). Since I had only heard the version performed by David Crowder, I began digging into the song’s backstory and was astounded at how the song came into being.
“How He Loves” wasn’t the result of McMillan musing one day and jotting down a praise song for his next album. These lyrics were born out of a brutally honest conversation between a loving God and a very confused, angry, and heartbroken man who had just lost his best friend in a terribly tragic way. This song and the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of lives it has touched are the direct result of a dangerous prayer — a very dangerous prayer uttered by his best friend Stephen Coffey. The ultimate dangerous prayer that God chose to answer later that very same day. It was his “Whatever it takes, Lord” prayer that inspired “How He Love Us”, this beautiful, heart-gripping song that could not have been written any other way except from the agony of a best friend’s grief.
The full lyrics to “How He Loves” (including the closing verse about Stephen) are:
He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great your affections are for me
Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us so
Yeah, He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves!
And we are His portion
And He is our prize
Drawn to redemption
By the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that He loves us
Well, I thought about You the day Stephen died
And You met me between my breaking
I know that I still love You God, despite the agony
They want to tell me You’re cruel but if Stephen could sing
He’d say it’s not true, ’cause — ’cause He loves us
I particularly love the opening verse that says, “He is jealous for me…” I think I treasure those words even more than “God loves me” at this time in my life. It’s just one of those things I need to hear and know right now (and repeat to myself often), because divorce has left me feeling very unloved and undesired. Unwanted. To know that God not only loves me, but is jealous for me like a zealous lover makes me feel treasured and precious again. Wanted. Listening to this song is like a sloppy wet kiss to my soul.
Would Stephen Coffey have prayed that dangerous prayer had he known it would lead to his death later that same day? Yes, I believe he would have. In fact, I believe that he would have prayed it long before had he caught just a glimpse of what God would do with the life he offered up to Him. Some songs really do have wings, and “How He Loves” not only soars, but has touched and impacted more lives than either Stephen or John Mark could have ever imagined. Multitudes have been ministered to as a result of this song born out of a tragedy, a tragedy that God has rewoven into triumph.
The question that remains for us is whether we love God enough to pray those same types of dangerous prayers that Stephen did. Do we trust our Heavenly Father to say those “Whatever it takes, Lord” prayers and offer up ourselves as living sacrifices to Him, even if it costs us far more than we can imagine?
Are we willing today to declare, “Not my will Lord, but Yours!” and die to our own self-centeredness, self-interests, and selfishness?
Are we willing to take our eyes off our temporary earthly afflictions and focus on His incredible beauty and breathtaking glory?
Are we willing to stop and contemplate just a portion of the astounding, furious, jealous, unfathomable love that He has for us?
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” — John 12:24-25
“Dangerous Prayers” image/content by Crossroads Church