How to pray extraordinary prayers
Friday, April 28, 2017
Children have extraordinary powers of imagination. Christmas and birthday celebrations demonstrate that the price and sophistication of their gifts don’t mean much to young, creative little geniuses. Often, they find more pleasure in the wrapping paper and boxes than they do in the toys themselves! Why? They have fully functional, dynamically active imaginations!
But something happens as they grow older. Imagination loses out to boredom. No longer as adept at dreaming up fun things to do, they depend on others to entertain them. Actually, this same observation applies to adults. Instead of allowing themselves to creatively dream of great things to come, the status quo becomes their vision. That which is prevails over what could be. The older we get, the less imaginative we become.
Then, when we hear Jesus promise to answer our prayers — to give us whatever we ask in His name — we’re stymied! What should we ask? We’re not even sure where to start thinking about something of that magnitude. Yet with every promise that He will answer our prayers, Jesus invites us to use our sanctified imaginations. He challenges us to dream big. Sadly, the possibility of what He could do if we asked can be limited by what we know and believe of Him. Self-imposed boundaries limit our ability to think outside the box.
Years ago, a friend admitted that sometimes when she prayed and was not sure what to ask for, she would simply begin with, “God, give me an idea! Show me something I can sink my teeth into, something that won’t happen unless I pray for You to make it so!”
Paul encourages that kind of praying. He reminds us that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined” all that God has for His people (1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV). We choose safe requests, tame “asks.” Consequently, we struggle to build much enthusiasm or consistency when we pray. If we’re not making a heart investment in what we ask for, what does it matter if He answers our prayers or not? Too little of our praying excites, or even exercises, the imagination. We pray “ho-hum” prayers and have few expectations.
Therefore, when we run into the promises of Jesus about the power of prayer, we may be tempted to skip over them. We hear Him say, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). But we aren’t sure we even know what that means in practice. Most likely, fearing failure or avoiding fanatical faith, we seldom think to ask God for an idea about what to pray. As one old saint said, “We’re so afraid to go out on a limb that we stay away from the tree altogether!”
So here’s a suggestion — be brave. Go ahead and ask Him. Invite Him to unleash your long dormant imagination so that you can dream big kingdom dreams! Trust Him to separate any ideas of what will bring glory to Jesus’ name from “visions of your own imagination, [ideas] not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:16). Go ahead, be bold and get invested in prayer worthy of Christ — petitions that will require His sovereign strength and power and creativity and wisdom. Ask for specific things that will show His glorious hand at work.
When we pray, we make choices. Will we be safe … predictable … unimaginative? Then our prayer life will be cold and barren. If we are in Christ, we have the mind of Christ. Use it! Imagine great things, and then ask Him to make them happen. Without the faith that He will or can accomplish mighty things, we tend to keep our imaginations under tight reins. But if Jesus means what He says about asking in His name, it’s time to step up and ask Him to give us an idea worth praying fervently about. Then go for it! Ask, seek and knock, believing that Jesus is faithful and will keep His promises.
Editor's note: David Horner pastored Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh for over 37 years until late 2015. In 2016, he began a new ministry called Equipped for Life. Horner and his wife, Cathy, have three children and five grandchildren. More of Horner’s writings may be found at davidhhorner.org