My chest pains went away last Sunday when Charlene, my wife, prayed with me. But I went into my closet anyway (I have a walk-in) and spoke openly and quite frankly. “Look, Lord, you didn’t suggest it, you commanded that we should ask and you guaranteed we’d receive. It’s your sacred word. So I’m expecting you to keep that promise. We’ve asked you to heal me and that I’ll make no trips to the ER. However, if I do end up there, I’m OK with that, but I want you to know—it’s on you, not me!”
Yes, I actually said that. And while it seems presumptuous, I sensed Heaven’s smile, went about my business feeling peaceful and relaxed and haven’t had chest pains all week.Is it OK to pray like that?–almost cocky? I found some surprising answers in the Bible. First I examined the word “boldly” in Hebrews 4:16. As it turns out, “boldly” doesn’t do the Greek justice. It’s a noun derived from a verb that means “speak freely, openly, and fearlessly; express yourself frankly.” So we might translate Hebrews 4: 16 “Be audacious and even a bit gutsy when you come to God asking for help, expecting him to meet your need.” Is there precedent for this kind of praying? I found many examples. Here are a few.
The Man Who Amazed Jesus. We often read how Jesus amazed the crowds, but there was one man who turned the tables on him. A certain centurion called out to the Lord and asked him to heal his servant. Jesus agreed to go to him, but the Roman said stopped him, brashly telling Jesus he could heal his servant right then and there, long distance. “When Jesus heard this, he was surprised, turned to his followers and said, ‘Truly, I’ve never found anyone in all Israel with such faith!’” (Matthew 8:12, NLT).
Did She Make Jesus Smile? A Syro-Phonencian lady (another Gentile), stood her ground when Jesus rebuffed her request to deliver her child. Almost rudely, he answered, “The children get fed first. If there’s any left over, the dogs get it.” She took his term “dogs—what the Jews called Gentiles—and turned it into a kind of joke. “Even the dogs get to eat the scraps the children drop, don’t they?”—implying,”Don’t you think you should help me anyway!” Jesus, seeming to appreciate the joke as well as her insistence, congratulated her, “Good answer! Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” (Mark 7: 27-29 NLT)
They Wouldn’t Take No For an Answer. How about those four audacious fellows who, when they couldn’t get in the front door, hoisted their crippled friend up on the roof and ripped a hole large enough to lower their friend down at Jesus’ feet! I might have said, “What are you idiots doing? Remove this fellow and repair that roof you tore up!” But Jesus applauded their gutsy actions. In chapter two, Mark writes that when he saw their faith, he not only forgave their friend’s sins and healed him, but gave the proud Pharisees something to think about. How different this praying is from the tentative approach we hear Christians take, almost saying, “Sorry to bother you with this, Lord, but….”
Jesus Applauds A Rude Request. I then remembered the strange parable in Luke 11 where Jesus urges us to pray like the cheeky, desperate woman who pesters a neighbor, not even a friend, for bread in the middle of the night. How rude! Yet Jesus tells us her neighbor finally “gave her all she wanted because of her importunity.” Webster writes that importunity means “persistent in requesting or demanding.” Demanding? We don’t demand from God, do we?
I looked closer and was surprised at the context of this parable. It follows the disciple’s request, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Do you think they wanted the right words or the results they saw Jesus get from his prayers? Surely they wanted the results and Jesus seemed pleased they did.
He Commands Us to Ask. Right after this parable Jesus virtually orders his followers to ask and later we read that we don’t get answers to our prayer because we don’t ask expecting results. The Greek is in the imperative, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks, finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened”. He then reminds us how earthly fathers give good gifts to their children so, “how much more will your heavenly Father give to those who ask him.” (See Luke 11)
What’s the bottom line? Isn’t Jesus teaching us it isn’t rude or wrong to insist that God keep his promises? Isn’t he delighted when we persist and insist in our prayers? Dare to pray gutsy prayers like that and you will get amazing results. Genuine faith is saying “if God said it, that settles it.”
The Most Daring Prayer Of All was lifted by Jesus to His Father while facing the terror of Calvary. In agony of soul he didn’t ask, “if it be thy will.” He knew it was the Father’s will that he endure the cross to save us from our sins. Yet, incredibly, he prayed so intensely that sweat fell from him like drops of blood. Seeking an escape clause somehow, he implored, “Father, all things are possible to thee; take this cup from me.” We see Jesus now in his full humanity, daring to ask his Father to find a way out.
Jesus Didn’t Stop There. He continued in prayer until, I believe, he “prayed through.” That’s a term prayer warriors of old used to express utter surrender. By God’s grace and mercy, Jesus came to a state of acceptance and peace when he said, “Yet not my will, but thine be done.” At his arrest, during his trial, and even on the cross, we find Jesus in control, possessing amazing serenity. And the benefits and results for him and for us, were far greater than if the Father had granted his original request
So, while the outcome won’t always be what we ask for, we can be sure to get wonderful results when we pray with expectant audacity. The Bible states that God applauds it and rewards it.
Please join the conversation. Your comments and questions are welcome.