Monday, January 11, 2016

God-sized prayers. God-shaped rhythms

There's a wall in our children's ministry area with the words God-Sized Prayers written on it. Each child has been asked to write one God-sized prayer request on it that they pray for during 2016. My son's prayer request is for our friend Bob to be healed of Motor-Neuron Disease. One girl prayed for her siblings to come to faith, another for the homeless in our city to be fed. As usual, our kids lead the way in faith.

Towards the end of last year as we preached through the book of Ephesians, God got our attention about our tendency to pray survival prayers. The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Ephesus of God's powerful prayer-answering ability, calling them to pray beyond their own needs and beyond their own life-times.  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all you can ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever Amen. (3:20) 

Of course, our Father hears our desperate prayers for survival, because He graciously cares for every detail of our lives. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Give us this day our daily bread. But He taught them to pray, Your kingdom come before and after that! He was shaping their prayers to go from the tyranny of their self-centered urgency to the priority of God's grand, eternal reign. From the above-mentioned verse, one might describe God-sized prayer as "Prayer, empowered by the Spirit and emboldened by our position in Christ, that confidently asks God to show His glory through the church in ways that exceed our imagination and outlast our generation, for the sake of Christ's fame." Perhaps this kind of prayer is less about survival and more about revival? What if we asked God to help us pray more like this in 2016?

And what about God-shaped rhythms? While Paul viewed God as Sovereign, this didn't breed any sense of prayer passivity in him. He said that we needed Christ's power to pray these God-sized  prayers. He also said, "I keep asking God," knowing that this kind of prayer required perseverance. Jesus famously told the prayer parables of the persistent widow and neighbor who kept asking, seeking and knocking. (Luke 11) He told these so that we should pray and not give up. Praying God-sized prayers requires power and perseverance from God himself,  because we so easily retreat into small, survival prayers through defeat or delay.

When a distraught father brought a son suffering with epilepsy to Jesus for healing, he said that the disciples were not able to heal him. After Jesus had cast out the demon and healed the boy, the disciples asked him in private, "Why were we not able to cast it out?" and His answer to them was, "This kind only comes out only through prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29) The disciples had seen people healed and delivered before as they prayed. But this particular situation seemed to be a mountain that could not be moved. Jesus' solution was to call them to greater private prayer for the sake of greater public power. It is not a neat formula.We ultimately rely on God's sovereign grace. But God-shaped rhythms of prayer and fasting do empower God-sized prayers.

As a church we pray together the second Wednesday of each month at 133, and fast together twice a year for three days. These times have been absolutely indispensable to our life as a church over the years. They are like the engine room of a ship, bringing heat, power and forward momentum. We will continue to fast twice a year, but have felt prompted in 2016, to fast once a month on the day of 133, in response to Jesus' words, "This kind only comes out through prayer and fasting." We are not doing this to twist God's arm. We simply believe that as we fast and pray together consistently, He is wanting to empower us to pray beyond survival towards revival,  confident that He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine. Won't you join us this Wednesday the 13th January, as we fast and gather at 6:30pm at our Brea campus to pray.

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