If we were playing Family Feud, and the word to play was PRAYER, I would guess that one of the top responses from the audience would be POWER. Have you read the Christian end times books that have the heavenly hosts completely handcuffed in their last battle against Satan, bound in helplessness until they are released by the prayers of the faithful on Earth?
I read one of those books once and found myself wondering if we are not turning prayer into a power tool that we wield rather than kneeling humbly and letting our requests be made known to Almighty God.
Asking, knocking, crying out, seeking, supplicating, longing, beseeching, calling out, these don’t sound like power words to me; rather, they sound like words of neediness.
But we don’t want to be needy; we want to make things happen, so we Christians want to turn acts of worship, of submission and surrender into acts that compel or instigate or change.
Greg Pruett has written a wonderful book Extreme Prayer: The Impossible Prayers God Promises to Answer, published by Tyndale House, and available through Amazon.com.
Greg is the president of Pioneer Bible Translators in Dallas, Texas, but before that he and his wife Rebecca, along with their three children, served as Bible translators in West Africa for over twelve years. I met Greg a few years ago, but we had never really had much time to talk until the North American Christian Convention in Indianapolis earlier this month.
At the end of our time together, Greg gave me a copy of his new book, which I began to read on the plane home, and it captured me with the opening pages.
He begins with a dark time in his ministry, his faith, and his marriage. One of the characteristics of liturgical churches that I wish our churches would imitate is that their liturgy often begins with, but in every case includes, a confession of our own sinfulness and our need for the grace of God before one more song is sung or one more prayer is spoken. And so it seemed to me a wonderful thing that a book on prayer begins with a confession of unworthiness even to be in the presence of God—which in turn makes His gracious gift of prayer even more precious.
Drawing from many of his experiences in West Africa, Greg teaches us to pray. “This book is centered on . . . extreme prayer—the discipline of maximizing Jesus’ promises about prayer. Each of the following chapters unveils a different kind o prayer that Jesus backs with a blank-check promise (“whatever you ask”—mw). “
I might have been a little nervous about the book still to this point, but then Greg really reveals his message: “But watch out! Don’t read this book to get your own wishes out of prayer. God wants something so much bigger than that.”
Greg makes prayer about God and not about me! And that’s the way it should be, but often isn’t.
He teaches us what it means to pray “in the Name of Jesus.” He teaches us to pray in “faith and faithfulness,“ not making the answer to our prayer the condition of our faith. Even his shorter chapter on what he calls “shameless” prayer teaches us that persistence is not from entitlement but from the humble acknowledgment of our total dependency on God.
As the small book draws to its close, the writing becomes more specific, more concrete. We need that kind of instruction, not just the inspirational.
Extreme Prayer taught me about prayer in a way that has grown my understanding of and my faith in Almighty God. If you read this book—which I highly recommend–you may not hear exactly the same message because it is full of words of Truth, but you will hear the Word, and you will be changed because of it.