Recently at the Influence Conference in Anaheim, California, Mark Batterson spoke to the crowd about the importance of prayer. Pastor Mark made a statement which riveted me to my core. He admonished us to begin to pray to God our bravest prayers. The prayers we can barely believe God for. Something ridiculous. Something maybe we’ve prayed over and over and over again and which has gone un-answered. The challenge was powerful….but I couldn’t think, in that moment, of the bravest prayers I was currently praying.
Sometimes in our lives I think our ability to believe God is diminished. Early in our walk with Jesus, particularly in our calling, we pray brave prayers and believe God for great things. We work at it and strive for it, all the while trusting He will do something ridiculous. We listen to testimonies of His provision, or how a church here or there is exploding. We hear about healings and miracles and ask God to do these things in our ministries. Sometimes God answers those prayers in extraordinary ways. But sometimes no matter how hard we pray or how long we work or how passionately we believe, the answer from God is simply “no.”
I’ve had some “no” answers in my life. A few years ago, my family and I went on vacation and I asked God to keep us from getting sick. Seems like a simple request which wouldn’t require a ton of faith, and at the time, I really needed a win. Then, a few days into vacation, my wife became ill. One by one we all fell. After my youngest succumbed, God and I had a conversation which shaped my life for the next few years. I stopped asking God for brave things that night. My thought was if He couldn’t even keep us from getting sick, why ask him for anything bigger? I still believed He COULD….I just wasn’t convinced He WOULD.
Two years later I still wasn’t praying brave prayers. Our church was in the midst of a church plant. We had a great plan and did a lot of the right things. Launching Easter Sunday with a launch team of 40 wonderful people, our attendance was a whopping 48. I was expecting hundreds. I went home that day, all my un-belief confirmed, and wept bitterly with the Lord in my yard shed (everyone hits rock bottom somewhere). I cried. I complained. Then I repented. The Lord graciously reminded me of that vacation a few years back and how I stopped praying brave prayers over something relatively small. He said, “Son, this is the same test. Will you still believe even though what you see is not what you wanted?” The tears flowed freely now as two years of bitterness and pain were released from my soul.
Since that Sunday afternoon in 2014 God has done a deep work of faith in me. For a while, I still struggled to ask God for brave things, but I did it anyway. I couldn’t see in that season what God was doing. I know now He was at work strengthening my faith. Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength?” Now I understand if God hadn’t taken me through those few years of trial and discipline, I’d have never believed him during our adoption. I’d never have prayed and believed for the brave prayers I prayed for that. And I’d certainly not be able to pray some of the ridiculous things I’m praying now for the Kingdom of God in Indiana!!
In that season, as God worked in my heart, I learned a little about praying brave prayers.
First, brave prayers have to actually be prayed to be answered. James says we don’t receive because we don’t ask in faith believing. The author of Hebrews says without faith it’s impossible to please God. One of his criteria is believing God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. If we won’t dare to ask Him for ridiculous things, we’ll never receive those rewards reserved for those who seek Him. What are the ridiculous things you’re hoping for in your heart but not actually turning into brave prayers?
Second, they cannot be prayed with wrong motives. James also says when we ask with wrong motives we cannot receive what we’ve asked for. I know I’ve often asked God for brave things, but with selfish motivation. We have to circumspect our own hearts before we pray the brave prayer. It is possible to ask for the right things but with the wrong motives. God cannot answer this prayer, not because He’s begrudging us blessing, but to protect us from the selfish ambition which so easily pollutes our motivations. The motive of the pray-er is as important as the prayer itself.
Finally, all of our brave prayers must be prayed according to the will of God. Jesus said we can have anything we ask….as long as we ask according to His will. Being comfortable with God’s sovereignty is a tall order for many of us. Mark Batterson’s brave prayer was for a personal healing. But God didn’t answer for 30 years! Praying brave prayers requires absolute trust in His sovereignty to answer “yes” or “no” in His perfect timing.
Since that long drive home from California, I’ve begun to pray some incredibly brave prayers. I’m asking God for every church to multiply at least once by 2030. For every pastor to see themselves as God’s plan for their community and church. I’m asking God to multiply the Kingdom in the forgotten places. I’m asking God for $2 million dollars for church planting and revitalization. I’m asking God that every single community and every single person in Indiana will be within reach of a healthy, Spirit-filled church.
What are the brave prayers you’re praying? Are you struggling to believe God and pray the bravest prayers of your life? Maybe that’s the first brave payer you should pray….and ask God to do an incredible work in YOU!