By Scott McDermott-
Are your prayers really big enough? And just in case you are wondering, I am not referring to prayers that are motivated by pride or greed. I am referring to the type of big prayer that has one agenda and one agenda only – advancing God’s work in the earth. So I will ask you again, are your prayers big enough? Are you asking God to do big things for you and through you that advance his kingdom’s agenda? Are you asking God to do big things for and through your church to advance his kingdom’s agenda?
It wasn’t long ago that God reminded me of the power and importance of praying big. I was preparing to lead our weekly church staff prayer meeting when it occurred to me, “Hey, why not ask the Lord how he wants us to pray?” It’s amazing what happens when we simply stop and ask God what he wants us to do. I must confess I was surprised by the direction I received.
What did I hear God say? “Tomorrow when you pray, I only want you to ask me for big things.” I don’t ever recall hearing that kind of direction from God about prayer. Yet the more I thought about it, the more challenged I became by that direction. In fact, I began to do some serious self-examination regarding my own prayer life. Were my prayers really big enough for my life, my family, and my church? Was I settling for less when God wanted me to believe him for more?
The next day I introduced this idea to my staff and they were more than gracious to indulge me in this prayer exercise, but as we prayed something extraordinary began to happen. The more we prayed big, the more confident we became that what we were praying was the heart of God for our lives and for our church. The more we prayed, the more we realized we were praying the very heart of heaven over us. Heaven’s agenda always looks for earth’s agreement. When we were finished, I knew why God had given us these instructions. God’s agenda on earth advances through big prayer.
George Mueller said, “Faith doesn’t operate in the realm of the possible.” If you think of it, we don’t need faith at all to live in the realm of the possible. We only need faith to live in the realm of the impossible. And that is precisely our problem. Somewhere along the way many of us pastors, leaders, and regular church goers have given up the quest for the impossible and the content of our prayers show it.
Perhaps you’re thinking, but is it really biblical to ask God to do big things? Well, yes it is! The Bible is filled with big prayer that’s designed to advance God’s kingdom and when they prayed, they prayed expecting God would do it. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the kingdom to come, he was praying a big prayer. When the Apostle Paul prayed, he prayed big as well. He prayed for his church “to increase and overflow” in love (1 Thessalonians 3:12). He wasn’t just praying that they would love each other, but that it would be an increasing and overflowing love. That is a big prayer.
Paul also prayed that God would give them “peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). He even prayed that they would be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will for their lives.” Who wouldn’t want to be filled with that kind of knowledge? Big prayers expect big things to happen. When life got tough, Paul expected God to work in a big way (Philippians 1:19) even to the point of believing that God could use him in any situation (Colossians 4:3,4). Paul prayed big and believed big. It’s little wonder that Paul concluded that God is able to do “more than we could ever ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
Our God does big things. The Bible describes prayer as “powerful and effective” (James 5:16). It can bring healing to the sick (James 5:16), grant the emotional strength and spiritual strength needed to face any adversity (Ephesians 3:16), set the oppressed and tormented free (Matthew 10:8), raise up the next generation of spiritual leadership (Acts 13:2), empower people to fulfill the calling God has placed upon their lives (2 Timothy 1:6,7), grant wisdom (James 1:5), give guidance (Acts 10:9-22) and so much more. Prayer possesses the power to change everything. Once again, are you praying big enough or have you settled for a faith that only lives in the realm of the possible?
I have come to believe that unless the church ascends to the place of believing God for big things, we will never have the big impact upon the world we hope to have. These times are challenging and they demand big prayer. We must do more than plan our way forward, we must pray our way forward.
So, if we were going to pray big prayers, how would we pray? Let me suggest a few ways we can begin to pray big.
1. Pray for God to take charge. I love this way of praying. In fact, I believe that when Jesus taught his disciples to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10) he was simply teaching his disciples to pray for God to take charge. Imagine what it would be like if you dared to simply ask God to take charge. Maybe it’s a problem you are facing, a relationship that has gone the wrong way, a church that is in turmoil, someone who is making the wrong choices with their life. Why not just simply ask for God to take charge? Let’s invite God’s kingdom to come. We need to turn our problems into big prayers.
2. Pray that you will be more fruitful in this season of your life than ever before. Once again, I am not suggesting we pray anything that’s rooted in our fleshly desires. I am referring to praying God’s will for our lives. He wants our lives to be fruitful. He wants to use our lives so that they can have lasting kingdom impact (John 15:8, Colossians 1:6). I must confess that this has become one of my favorite prayers. Whenever I pray it for my life or for others, it seems to have a special power to it. I have led a few groups in this prayer exercise and every time it seems to have the same effect – breakthrough! It is powerful! As I have entered this season of ministry, I can tell you this is what I am praying over my own life. I am praying that this season of ministry will be more fruitful than all the other seasons combined.
3. Pray as if your prayers will change things. Most of us pray hoping things will change, but few of us pray expecting that things really will. I think that is why Jesus told his disciples that when they prayed they are to believe that they have received their answer (Mark 11:24). Prayer doesn’t hope things will change, prayer believes things will change.
Just think how this one important insight changes the nature and character of our prayers. What would happen if we not only believe that God could take charge of our problems, but that God would take charge of them? What would happen if we not only believed God could but that God would bring revival to his church? What if we really believed that our prayers empower the church to impact the world? And here is the amazing thing. I am not suggesting anything new at all. I am simply suggesting that we pray the way the early church prayed. They prayed big at every turn, no matter what they faced and they prayed knowing that God was going to do big things.
So, are your prayers big enough?
Scott McDermott is the senior pastor of The Crossing, a United Methodist congregation in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person and has a PhD in New Testament Studies from Drew University.