Prayers Big Enough to Impress God
The Athletic Director at Valparaiso University is a faithful member of Calvary Church and a good friend. He is also kind enough to bless his pastor with tickets to VU basketball games throughout the year – and I receive these “offerings” with gratitude and joy! Last year I took a pastoral friend with me down to Lafayette to watch VU go up against the big boys at Purdue. I told my friend I had tickets for us from the AD – but I didn’t tell him where we were sitting. (I wanted it to be a surprise.) We walked into a packed out Mackey Arena just before the game started, walked down past at least two security checkpoints, on to the main floor, past the ESPN cameras, and then sat down right behind the player’s bench. We were so close we could smell their sweat! My friend was elated. For two guys who love basketball – this was a little taste of heaven. Being friends with the Athletic Director is pretty nice!
A couple of weeks ago VU was hosting a smaller school on a night when all the students were on break. In other words – tickets were NOT going to be sold out. I hadn’t planned on going but my scheduled freed up a couple of hours before the game – so I sent my friend a txt and said, “Hey – can you possibly get me in to the game last minute?" He sarcastically replied: “Try asking for something a little more challenging next time. TIX are in your name at the front. Enjoy the game.” His txt brought a big smile to my face - and also made me stop and think for a moment about my own prayer life.
I wonder sometimes what God thinks about my requests? Are they “too easy” for Him? Do I ever ask for something “challenging”? (I know that nothing is too big for God – but I am using a figure of speech to talk about something that stretches our faith.) We have an intimate relationship (friendship is a Biblical word - remember Abraham?) with “the guy who is in charge” of pretty much the entire universe. How often do we ask him for something really big? Do we ever really put it out there? I wonder if God doesn’t sometimes think: “I wish he would try asking me for something a little more challenging next time?” Trust me – this isn’t mere pastoral prattle. This is rooted in the Biblical narrative. It’s solid theology. Read this:
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." 7 Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." 8 The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
- Matthew 8:5-10
Now think about this. Jesus was literally astonished by this man’s prayer request (the Greek could be translated “amazed”). It was bold. It was big. And it demonstrated unbelievable faith. This centurion was not even a God-follower (he was not of Israel) yet he demonstrated more faith than any God-followers Jesus had encountered. This guy actually believed that all Jesus had to do was “say the word” and it would be done. That kind of faith impresses God! And God responds to that kind of faith. (By the way - this stuff is all over the gospels. See Matthew 15:22-27 and Mark 5:21-43 for parallel examples; also, cf. Mark 6:1-5 for an example of how a lack of faith disappointed Jesus.)
How about you? Are you asking God for anything big in 2011? I’m working on my prayer list right now – and I’m going to ask big. I want don’t want God to think, “Why doesn’t Lionel ask me for something that is a little more challenging? Where’s his faith?” Have we forgotten? He’s the guy in charge – and we have a personal relationship with him. He can do whatever he wants. Let’s pray bold prayers in 2011 – for His glory – for our good – and the good of those we love. Remember the words I often quote from Charles Spurgeon on prayer: “Here is a delightful partnership. We obtain that which we so greatly need, and all that God getteth is the glory due his name.” (in Twelve Sermons on Prayer.) As John Piper has put it: “God get’s the glory. We get the delight.” (Desiring God, ch. 6.) Let’s dream. Let’s plan. And let’s pray – really big. Let’s ask God for something impressive – something that will cause him to be “astonished.” May the Lord be with you and bless you with a really awesome year in 2011.