By Lee Adams
“Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.”
Every great movement?
That’s a pretty bold statement from D.L. Moody. Can the prayer of one individual truly bear such power? I mean, Jesus gave us authority over all things, the ability to move mountains and what-not, but most of us have the idea that this applies only to the miraculous, the healing, the casting out of demons and depression, and the fulfilling of promissory notes, paid-off mortgages, cut-up credit cards, and financial freedom all made possible by applying the mystical words “…in the name of Jesus!” to the ends of our requests.
It’s a legitimate concept. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out 72 of His best people to spread the word that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. When they returned, they were ecstatic over the tremendous deeds they had performed and witnessed in the name of Jesus. As they excitedly told Jesus of their accomplishments they had been part of, Jesus congratulated them, but tried His best to give them perspective:
“Yes, yes…You have authority over serpents and scorpions and spirits of all kinds…but don’t get too excited about this. This is what should fire you up…That your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19 – my paraphrase).
Jesus is making a powerful point. Yes, indeed, all things are possible through the intercessory power of Christ working on our behalves. Just look at the dramatic examples in the New Testament alone Jesus fed thousands with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. He healed numerous maladies including: blindness, deafness, leprosy, paralysis, and mental illness. He raised Lazarus from the dead!
But do those things really represent a great movement? Did they really change the world? The people who ate the fishes and loaves undoubtedly got hungry again at some point in life, probably just a few hours later. The sick people Jesus healed most likely became ill again. Who’s to say that the woman with the issue of blood didn’t come down with whooping cough, tuberculosis or measles or chronic diarrhea the week after Jesus healed her? Lazarus…poor Lazarus…He died, probably went to heaven, had to come back to earth, and then died again!
Jesus himself admitted that there were greater works (John 14:12) than the healings and wonders that were displayed through His power. It boggles the mind to consider this concept, but please understand that the thought isn’t an idea or opinion of some half-baked youth pastor Jesus said it!
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with provisional prayer. The power of prayer can overcome any individual conflict, obstacle, or pain in our lives. Prayer gives us hope for a brighter future, will to fight through another day, determination to make it through the worst circumstances and deepest troubles. It’s no sin to ask our Father, who gives good gifts to His children, for food, money, healing, shelter, safety, security, or a smokin’ hot spouse.
But provision is not a movement. Provision is day-to-day, fill up my hands with enough to get by, please, God, let me have it right now “if it’s your will” (of course) kind of stuff. If I’m going to make a real impact in my generation that ripples into generations to come, if I’m going to start a movement, then I have to change myself, and if I’m going to change myself, then I have to change the way I pray beyond just being provided for. If I’m going to institute change, then I have to allow myself to be changed, not just provided for.
A Buddhist folk tale tells the story of a young monk who decided that he wanted to change the world. After years of trying, he realized he had failed, and set out to change his country. Again, years of work proved fruitless, and he decided to change his city. He had no luck doing this, despite even more years of his best efforts, so he shifted gears, and attempted to change his family.
Finally, as a very old man, he looked back on his life, and came to this conclusion:
If he had first sought to change himself, he could have changed the world.
There is a different type of prayer; prayer that doesn’t treat God like an intergalactic vending machine, a cosmic creative Santa Claus with a halo. These are prayers that lead to radical personal change, personal change that will leave you unsatisfied, filled with a healthy discontent, and wanting less of yourself, and more of God.
Some of these prayers are ancient in their terminology, and others timeless in their nature. None will make you wealthier, more appealing to the opposite sex, or more popular at parties. These are not provisional prayers.
They are prayers for personal reformation and they are all very dangerous: “Be the center of what I believe…”
“Make me radiant…”
“Bend me to Your will…”
“Make me transparent…”
“Ruin my life…”
“Make my worship shake the world…”
“Let me shine like the stars…”
“Change me, for the glory of Your Name…”
Think before you begin to pray these things out loud, or even whisper them in the most quiet and dark corners of your heart.
God might just give you what you’re asking for.
If you liked this article, check out: Answered Prayer in the Grand Canyon
Lee is a UGa grad and works as a student pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Athens, Georgia. When not working with teenagers, he is organizing mission trips to Bulgaria and trying to teach his boxer, Daisy, to be appropriate in social settings. Lee does very little to impress Jesus, but is infinitely impressed with Him.