Pray BIG Prayers – Listen

How often do we treat prayer like a box to tick, or a wish-list to ask for?

There is a wonderful passage in 1 Samuel 3 wherein young Samuel is given some points on prayer from Eli.

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”

1 Samuel 3.7-10

Whilst we do have the confidence, the ability, and the access to go directly to God in prayer (Hebrews 4.16), often there is a reverence lacking in our prayer. Often the conversation is not actually a conversation or a communion between two parties, it’s simply one asking the other for something; a gift, a barrier to be removed, a hurdle to be overcome. 

Eli’s words to Samuel are today’s BIG prayer. It’s only a few words, but they will transform your prayer time. Praying them – and then acting on them – will take discipline, diligence, and dedication. It’s so easy to have the mind wander, so easy to rattle off a list of cursory thank-you’s, so easy to ask for so many things, but, have you ever paused and said, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears‘?

So today I would challenge you to pray this, and only this, and see what the Lord has to say to you; 

Speak, Lord, for your servant hears‘.

Pray BIG Prayers – Belief

We’ve talked about doubt a few times before, and, simply, not all doubt is bad. Some doubts will surely take us away from God, but some will actually take us closer to the Lord. 

The account of Jesus delivering a boy who was demon possessed in Mark 9 includes a Father who many think was faithless.

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9.24

When challenged to be a man of faith, the Father here cried out “believe; help my unbelief!“. Rather than being faith-less, the Father actually shows here that he was as faith-filled as he possibly could be but desired to be of even more faith. 

Is that you? 

Do you know that you are as faith-full as you can possibly be but yet still you desire more? 

Do you desire more faith or do you feel that you have arrived, maxed-out, peaked?

This kind of doubt is not of God, it not a doubt of Jesus, not a doubt of the power of the Spirit, rather, it’s a doubt of ‘Do I have enough faith, I’m not sure, please Lord, give me more faith!‘.

Charles Spurgeon said this,

“While men have no faith, they are unconscious of their unbelief; but, as soon as they get a little faith, then they begin to be conscious of the greatness of their unbelief.”

Today then, make this your BIG prayer – ‘Lord I believe, help my unbelief!‘.

Pray BIG Prayers – Location

In James 4.13-17 we see a strong word of counsel on our location and occupation as believers. Let’s read it and pray a BIG prayer after it.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

James 4.13-17

Most of us have grown up in a country or culture that highlights the fact that you need a life plan. Maybe when you were in high school this was really emphasised; what will you be, who will you be, where will you be, and how will you be? As a result, we’ve been conditioned to think that we are responsible for planning and guiding and bringing to fruition our own future and plans. 

But, as a believer, as someone who has declared that you are not living for yourself anymore, as someone who has declared that you are living for the glory of God (BIG prayer #1), is this right?

Can you live for God’s glory yet still retain exclusive planning rights on your own life?

James says not. Rather than planning your own future, we ought to think  “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that“. James is pretty clear that this is arrogant and sinful. If you are bold enough to pray today’s BIG prayer, be prepared to obey and submit to the guidance you receive. Think carefully before praying this one. You know you should, you know you want to, but as Jesus teaches in Luke 14.28-33, think deeply and count the cost because if you pray this, you could be on the move!

Lord, I know that anything I can plan for my life will be so insignificantly small and dull compared to the abundant life you want me to live. For my arrogant and sinful self-centredness in planning my own life I ask forgiveness.

I pray today that you would begin to show me what you want me to be, who you want me to be, where you want me to be, and how you want me to be.

I want to follow the example of Jesus and say “Your will be done, not mine”. 

Pray BIG Prayers – Repentance

If you look up repentance in a dictionary you’ll find something like this for a definition, 

sincere regret or remorse.

This isn’t talking about trivial things like ‘I regret not buying any more milk, now we’re out‘,

or ‘I am remorseful that I honked my horn at that guy on the highway earlier‘.

Repentance is a serious thing, a sincere thing.

It’s more of a ‘I’ve committed adultery and had the former husband sent off to the frontlines and killed‘ kind-of feeling.

It’s a feeling of ‘At the core I know I’m a sinner and that my sin will have consequences‘. 

Psalm 51 carries a lot of repentance. You can read it in full here. In the middle of the lamenting prayer we read this,

 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51.10-12

Have you reached a point in life where you know that you will never, hard as you try, work yourself into becoming a better person? 

Have you arrived at the point where you know that in your own strength, you cannot control your eternal destiny and destination?

Have you accepted that, left to your own devices, sinful thoughts and actions just pour forth from your heart?

If you have, then today’s BIG prayer is absolutely for you. Although fair warning, be prepared for a radical life transformation. Be prepared to reevaluate and reconsider everything in your life. Be prepared to be shown a completely new way of thinking, speaking, acting, and reacting.

It starts with create in me a clean heart, O God. We cannot create this new heart, God must (Genesis 1, Ezekiel 36.36). 

We follow that by praying for a right spirit within me. Alone we are utterly powerless to resist the temptations, trials, and tribulations that the world, the flesh, and the devil can throw at us. We need the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to do so. 

Accepting that we cannot change ourselves and our life means that we need to trust and rely on another, so we pray cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. We know that being separated from the Lord and devoid of His Spirit is the consequence of our sin. 

Try as we might, we will never save our own souls. We can never work for our own salvation, so we pray restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. We will never feel more alive, live more abundantly, and experience more fulfilment than when we know the joy of [the Lord’s] salvation

Psalm 51.10-12 is a BIG prayer. Praying it sincerely will surely result in a change in your life. If, as Charles Spurgeon wrote, your own sin disturbs and disgusts you, I would challenge you today to take it to the Lord in prayer with these verses and this BIG prayer, and then watch what God can do with a life yielded to Him. Ready?

 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51.10-12

Pray BIG Prayers – Glory

God does everything for His glory…

– John Piper

Living to the glory of God is something we see come up again and again in Scripture (1 Corinthians 10.31 for example). God’s master passion, His chief end, His #1 goal is to glorify Himself and glory in this glory. Is this stunning to you? Have you ever really understood this before, that everything God does, everything, is done precisely in the way that will glorify Himself the most?

Here’s where it gets interesting. This is stunning, shocking, scandalous some may say, because this means that God is for Himself before He is for you. John Piper writes that many are happy to be ‘God centred’ as long as they feel that God is for them first and foremost. Many are happy to live for God as long as they feel that He lives for them. Well, He doesn’t. His ultimate commitment is to Himself, not you (ibid.).

If you’re not sure this is a Biblical view, check these passages as an example;

 Isaiah 2.22, 48.9, 11, Ezekiel 36.22-23, 32, Ephesians 1.6, 12, 14, Isaiah 43.7. You can do so here

So, when we pray, are we truly praying for God to glorify Himself in our lives, or are we praying for God to glorify Himself by making our lives comfortable, successful, or prosperous?

Are we praying God’s-glory-focused prayers,

or our-glory-focused prayers?

When we pray, are we petitioning, interceding, lamenting, crying out, wrestling all in the truth and on the platform that God does everything for His own Name’s sake? (Jeremiah 14.7, Psalm 79.9, 25.11, 115.1).

Today then I would challenge you to pray that God is glorified in your life, not that your life is glorified to make God look good. Subtle difference in wording, but a profound difference in attitude.

Try this – Lord, whatever it looks like, glorify yourself through my life.

Use my life in whatever way you see fit: use my circumstances, my time, my talent, my treasure, for your name’s sake, not my own.

I don’t want to share your glory with you, act in my life so people see you, not me.

I’m ashamed and embarrassed by my former ways of glory-seeking, forgive me, and for the praise of your glorious grace, use me for your glory.