Five Dangerous Prayers
"I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1,2)
Several years ago I was reading a newsletter that our denomination puts out to minister to our pastors. A portion of the newsletter was devoted to prayer, with one article entitled, Five Dangerous Ways of Praying by Bill Hybels.
With the majority of prayer that is presented to the throne of God being me centered, Mr. Hybels listed five words that precede me that could literally change our prayer life and our relationship with God.
When I studied these five Me's, I found them to be a progressive expedition into the presence of God. As well as a progressive challenge for me to find and become totally submitted to His will for my life and ministry.
It allowed the Lord to expose my innermost thoughts and motives towards Him and others. Birthing in me a new zeal for holiness, commitment and intimacy with Christ.
These five Me's work in conjunction with our verses in Romans chapter twelve. When prayed from the heart and put into action we can learn what it means to become a living sacrifice and to be used by God for His purpose and pleasure.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting."(Psalms 139:23,24)
"Almost every Christian has times of feeling indignant toward people who rebel against God. David expresses that emotion in Psalm 139, but immediately he stopped and asked God to examine him. In the same way, we must not forget to ask God to point out rebellion in our own spirits" (Bill Hybels)
David's cry was not unlike many of today's church members. As he sang unto the Lord his deepest desire was to know God. This great king of Israel was determined to follow Him, and in doing so he knew everything in his life that was an offense must go.
It has been my experience that the more I learn about God and His Word, the more I realize just how much I don't know. The closer I get to the light of His holiness, the more the Holy Spirit allows me to see areas of my life that are still not fully surrendered.
The words of David in Psalm 139 come from the heart of a worshipper. For believers, worship opens the door to the heart and presence of God. It draws our focus to how much we love Him and need Him. Worship causes God to respond to our affection. James 4: 8 commands us to, "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you...". How? In my own experience, I have found this to take place during my time of worship. During the worship portion of our services is usually the time the Lord manifests Himself through the gifts of the Spirit.
Christians who long for more of Jesus' heart and presence are impassioned worshipers. The music is no longer entertainment, it becomes a vehicle to Heaven's throne room. Their physical expressions and words of adoration are not meant to fulfill some type religious ritual, but to demonstrate their extreme love and admiration for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Because their heart has been drawn to Jesus, they are constantly aware of any and all hindrances to their glorifying Him. Worshippers are sensitive to His voice and touch, they will not tolerate anything that interrupts their intimacy. Their prayer is like Solomon's. "O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." (Song of Solomon 2:14,15)
To the Lord, the worshipper is a vine. Like the analogy of the vine in John 15:1-8, the vine in the hands of God can be nurtured and lovingly pruned to bring Him glory. That glory is derived from the tender fruit which the vine should bring forth in due season.
According to John and in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, our life must be committed to bringing forth fruit. It is the proof of our relationship with Christ. The fact that we are Christians is not determined by our titles or degrees. It is not based on the works we have done or the awards we have won. It is the fruit, the attributes and nature of Jesus Christ flowing through us. The closer we move towards Him the more of His glory is revealed in us."Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines." (verse 15)
What Solomon is saying is, "Take away these foxes. These little sins and the corruption we overlook or explain away. The iniquities and transgressions that rob us of our maturing in Christ.
They steal away our fellowship with Him. They cloud our vision and the ability to discern. Our ears become dull to the sweetness of His voice. They must be exposed that we may have opportunity to repent."
True worship must get to the basic issues of the heart. Again, in James chapter four, we are admonished to present ourselves before God in a condition of holiness. He tells us, "...Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubled minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another..." (James 4:8-11)
"You cannot grow as a Christian until you learn to ask for brokenness. Regardless of your level of spiritual maturity, there will always be areas of your life God needs to work in."(Bill Hybels)
There is a diabolical trend in the Church of Jesus Christ in these last days that terrifies Godly men and women. It is the rejection of people to deal with, or sometimes to even recognize sin.
I was watching a church service on a Christian network the other Sunday. The pastor spoke to the television audience at the end of the service inviting them to visit and explaining some of the church's beliefs. The one thing that sent shock waves through my spirit is when he said, "You will never hear a hell fire and brimstone message from this pulpit!" In other words - don't worry about sin. We will only tell you about the positive aspects of God. This is an unbalanced message, God calls it an abomination.
In the late 70's I was the Youth Pastor of a non-Pentecostal church. Our group was discussing zodiac signs and horoscopes. One of the girls in the group told how she reads her horoscope predictions in the newspaper just about every day. When challenged, she explained how that she really did not believe them, to her it was just entertainment. But when it was explained to her that she was delving into witchcraft she barked that we are now under grace and that God does not deal with sin as He did in the Old Testament.
If we will not face our sin head on, or we have any type of misconception about how much God hates sin, or we misuse grace as a cloak for sin, we are still in our sin.
Our disobedience offends our Lord. Our rebellion estranges us from the fellowship and intimacy He longs for with His children. How can we say we love the Lord Jesus, claim to be a member of the espoused bride and cheat on Him with other lovers?
A pastor preaching to his congregation about why it was so hard for some of the members to worship hit the nail right on the head. Between Monday and Saturday we allow ourselves to get so full of the world we cannot feel or recognize the presence of God. We fill our minds and spirits with HBO, TMC, Cinimax, MTV and soap operas so our hearts become dull and hardened.
Ball games, work, homes and social events take priority through the week over bible study and prayer. When we come to church on Sunday morning, we raise our hands and try to mouth some kind of praise and adoration but there is nothing. The heavens are brass. Is it any wonder?
We have built a wall between us and the throne of God and we don't even realize it. We are in sin and it has separated us from His presence. For the most part, many don't even realize it. They have taken the deadness and darkness for granted.
There is no remorse, there is no searching for an answer. If for some reason my wife is not speaking to me, I want to know why. I want to find out what I have done and I am willing to do anything to fix the situation. The reason is I love her. Second to Jesus, she is my life. I cannot stand to be on the outside looking in, as it concerns our relationship.
My heart has been broken many times because my actions or words have cut and hurt her. There has been times when I have wept and begged her forgiveness. She has never not forgiven me. And I have done my best to stop doing the things that cause division in our relationship. And she likewise.
A tender heart that is in love with Jesus breaks when it knows it has offended Him. These hearts ask Him to reveal those things that would hinder their intimacy. These are the saints who receive unconditional forgiveness. These are those He meets with at the altar of repentance. "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit". (Psalms 34:18) Jesus is not far from those whose hearts long for Him and break over offending Him. He takes notice of their distress and brokenness. They have humbled themselves because of their sin and have emptied themselves of their own desires and agendas. They know how to value his love and are sensitive to His heart towards them.
When He comes to them he comes with His salvation. The Hebrew word translated saveth means "to free". Freedom to worship, freedom to serve. Freedom to live a life of holiness and pleasure before the Lord.
We who call on the name of the Lord should cry out continually for Him to break us over our sin. It is the only way we can obtain His presence and freedom promised in scripture.
"This is the kind of prayer to pray when you want to grow up spiritually. If you know someone whose depth of love is humbling, whose spiritual strength is amazing, that person has probably asked God to stretch him through life's challenges."(Bill Hybels)
To be stretched means simply to be brought beyond one's limits. If we ever expect to become what God intends us to be, we must be brought beyond our limits.
When I was a young man several of my friends and I would regularly workout with weights. Our goals were to increase our physical strength and stamina, as well as our muscle mass. Our diet was restricted to only the foods we knew would aid our bodies in health and muscle growth.
It did not take us long to understand that if we wanted strength and growth it was not going to come over night. It was going to require work and to some degree, pain. There was no quick fix.
We could not change the condition of our bodies with wishful thinking, positive confession or by Arnold Schwartzenegger laying hands on us and passing his muscle mantle to us.
Every time we added weight to the bar, every time we would increase the repetitions our muscles would stretch and tear. When we breathed it would send oxygen into our blood stream and every time we would pump the bar into the air, the blood would surge into our muscles they could not help but to stretch and grow. After several months, because of the exercise and our diet, you could not help but notice that much of our body fat had gone and our muscles were larger and more defined. It is not much different in the spiritual realm.
If growth and maturing in Jesus Christ is our goal, we must be stretched, we must be brought beyond our limits. the same process used in weight lifting is true.
1. Our diet must change. Our food, our daily bread can be nothing less than the Word of God. It is our sustenance, we can not function without it. We can not build a life of Godliness without it being our foundation.
As a pastor, I wonder about some of my congregation's life in the Word when on Monday mornings as I walk around an empty sanctuary and see the many bibles laying on the pews from the day before.
They ask me why there is no victory in certain areas of their lives, and I respond with. "How much time do you spend in the Word"? The usual answer is, "Not enough."
Saints who have cried out to God to search them and are broken over their sin, cannot get enough of the Word. It is their strength during temptations and testing. David proclaimed, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalm 119:11)
He was in love with the Word of God. He longed to hear the voice of the Lord through the written page. He understood it's ability to teach truth and guide him into the things and ways of supernatural and eternal life. He did not chase the prophet or run from meeting to meeting. He established himself in the Word. "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey unto my mouth. Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:103-105)
2. We must be stretched. We must be brought beyond our limits. It does not come by hyper-faith. It cannot be accomplished by positive confession. No one can transfer it to us by the laying on of hands. We must pray. Not prayer to be stretched, but rather, we must force ourselves into the closet and there stay until we have reached the throne room of the most high. We must find his will and know how to walk in it and to live it. We must have His heart and His undivided attention. Our time with the Lord must be sacred to us. We should fear ever compromising it with an attitude of routine.
When the apostle Paul cried, "That I might know him..." He knew that this revelation could only be obtained in his secret closet.
In the forth chapter of the book of Acts, Peter and John are arrested for preaching Jesus. On the next morning they are brought before the council of the priests and Sadducees where Peter picks up where he had stopped the day before, preaching Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Because the council feared the people, they conspired to threaten them and command them to no longer preach in the name of Jesus.
After their release they relayed to their friends all that happened and began to pray. Peter's prayer is not the type of prayer we hear today. They did not pray for the persecution to stop. They did not rebuke the devil. Peter never asked for God to send a legion of angels to protect them if He wanted them to preach His Gospel.
Listen to what Peter wanted. "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word". (Acts 4:29)
Give us boldness to continue to preach Jesus. Stretch us with your power that we will not fail you. Stretch us beyond our human capabilities that we may be able to endure the persecution and bring glory to your name.
This is how they earned the testimony of Acts 5:40-42. "...and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
"Asking God to take your life and do whatever He wants with it is risky. We've got to believe that His plans for us are better than our own."(Bill Hybels)
Our opening verses in Romans chapter twelve is our guide to total surrender to the will of God. In verse one we are commanded to present to Him our entire beings.
Every offering presented to God presupposes that the person presenting his gift relinquishes all his rights, title and interests in it. If this is true as it concerns our life, then and only then can 1 Corinthians 6: 19,20 be fulfilled in us. "...ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
In all my studying about Lead Me, the path always leads directly to Jesus. When we pray for Him to lead us, He brings us perfect circle back to Himself. In every problem or situation we find ourselves, when we pray for divine leadership the Holy Spirit directs us into the presence and intimacy of Christ.
1. Because of his enemies, King David cried out, "Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies..." (Psalm 5:8) Rest assured that our enemies are watching our every move. They are listening to every word we speak. They are looking and listening for anything they can use against us to cause us to stumble and fall. Their aim is our destruction.
David begs the Lord, "Lead me into thy righteousness.." In other words, "Lord let me get so close to you and be so full of your Word and guidance that I will not do anything or say anything to bring dishonor to you. I will not react to them with anything but kindness and Godly love."
We also must understand that Jesus loves our enemies just as much as He loves us. We must see them with His eyes and be filled with the same compassion for them as He is. If we do not, scripture tells us that a root of bitterness will spring up in us and separate us from His mercy.
All of us who have decided to follow Jesus, and preach and live an uncompromising Gospel, will generate enemies. Some of them we are aware of, we know them by name and others remain in the shadows.
We are commanded by Jesus in Matthew 5:44 to love, bless, do good to and pray for those who persecute and despitefully use us. This has become an insurmountable task for too many Christians.
Scripture tells us that if we want forgiveness from God we must extend forgiveness to those who have offended us. If we want mercy we must likewise extend mercy, and so on.
Every time I pray, I spend time praying for those who I know are my enemies and those who I am not aware of. I ask the Lord to bless them and open doors for them.
I pray that God will meet their needs and fill them with His presence. I release forgiveness to all who have deliberately hurt me and ask God not to hold anyone accountable for sins against me or my family. I have determined to love them and I have gone to many of them and begged their forgiveness.
2. "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." (Psalms 25:5)
Those who have committed themselves to be led of the Lord are consumed with learning about Jesus. They are not moved by or even interested in the new fads and fables that have inundated the church of today. They are not looking for a New Thing, they cry out for the same Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee two thousand years ago. The same God that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob served. They long to know how to serve, how to sacrifice, how to humble themselves in the presence of the creator of the universe.
When we pray "Lead me in thy truth..." we are asking to be hid in Christ. He is truth, everything about Him is the truth. His ways, His precepts, His commandments are the truth.
"...and teach me:" Not only teach me what your truths are, teach me how to be consumed with them that the world may see you through me. Teach me how to let your love flow through me. Teach me how to keep myself from the evil one. Teach me what I must do and how I must act in order for you to fill me. Why?
"...for thou art my salvation;" If Jesus has saved us, if we will allow Him to, He will lead us. He will guide us to Himself. He will direct us to His deliverance, to His healing, to His truth, that we may bring glory to His name.
"Trust in the Lord with all thy heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5,6)
"It's exciting to make yourself available to God so that He can touch someone else through you. Such prayer creates adventures."(Bill Hybels)
Everyone who has ever been used mightily by God has had to go through the process of searching, breaking, stretching and leading. This process makes us usable, because it can only be perfected in us through total surrender to His call on our lives.
All through scripture great men were isolated with God to be made ready for the task ahead of them. Not just once, but almost every time the need arose for Jesus to accomplish something through them. They were led away to the wilderness to be transformed, taught and strengthened.
He is the potter and we are the clay. If we have purposed in our heart to serve Him for the rest of our lives, then we will allow Him to continue to turn and mold us. We will long for Him to take out every imperfection and repair every crack and flaw. We have been created to bring Him glory, and we are told that in everything we do, we are to do it for His glory.
I guess every pastor has asked himself and the Lord why is it so hard to get the people to do anything to enlarge the Kingdom. It is because most have never allowed God to lead them through the process to become usable. When we have, two things become very evident in our lives. We become involved and committed. All who are led by the Holy Spirit long to be used for the glory of God.
They become the great, and mostly behind the scenes, workers and prayer warriors. They do not jockey for position within the body, because they have found their place in the Kingdom and in their local church.
Their focus is on Christ and all that He wants to accomplish through them. They can not wait for their next assignment.
Christians who are used by the Lord are no longer just hearers of the Word. They have become the true doers of the Word. Christianity to them is not just jumping and shouting on Sunday morning. It is taking Jesus far beyond the four walls of the church building. They have brought the Gospel to the prisons, hospitals, the homeless and their neighborhoods. They allow the Lord to wake them up in the middle of the night for fellowship and intercession.
To them Christianity is taking every opportunity to spread the Gospel. If there is not an opportunity to take, they will make one in order to expose the love of Jesus.
Yet in today's church, multitudes refuse to be used of God. I was listening to a pastor on television the other Sunday morning and heard him say that this was the Church's finest hour. If it is, why do more churches close than open in a years time? Why are pastors discontinuing Sunday evening services and Wednesday night prayer meetings?
These are the last days, scripture is clear, it tells us that many shall depart from the faith. "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold." (Matthew 24:12) The NIV makes it a little clearer. "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold."
Is this the Church's finest hour? No! According the Apostle Paul, it is one of the most dangerous times in the Church's history. We have replaced the call of passion for Jesus with sermons and programs for the carnally minded.
The false doctrine of accumulating riches instead of righteousness has bewitched the children of God. Men and women who preach the uncompromising word of repentance and holiness are mocked and ridiculed as being legalists or dooms day prophets.
If this in fact is the Church's finest hour it could only be for the culmination of the harvest. The fields are white unto harvest, but churches are closing their doors. There are more lost people in the world today than in any time of history past. They are waiting and longing for someone to tell them about the love of Jesus. But the church would rather sit and hear sermons about how to become rich and comfortable.
Our prayer should be that when our time here on earth is finished, we can leave with the same testimony as the Apostle Paul. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:" (2 Timothy 4:7)
The majority of church members who leave this life, leave unfinished work behind them. Paul's life had been used by God. The Greek word "dromos" is translated course. It refers to a race, but figuratively implies a career or calling.
Paul was telling Timothy, "I have become all that God has called me to be and I have done all that He has commanded me to do. Now the race is finished and I am ready to go home and be with Him."
How about us?