Our prayers have unlimited potential. God actually wants to do big audacious things through his people. So ask! God said, “Ask and I will give the nations to you.” I think we might start by asking for O’Fallon, Owensville and STL
God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.
Mark Baterson, The Circle Maker
In the first century BC there was a drought in Israel that threatened to destroy an entire generation but there was one man with the faith of Elijah who believe in the power of prayer. Today he is know as Honi the circle maker. One day, Honi walked outside, took his staff any placed it on the ground and he began to turn and he turned all the way around until he drew a circle. Then he got down on his knees and he prayed this prayer, “Sovereign Lord, I swear before your great name that I will not leave this circle until you have mercy upon your children.” That’s a bold prayer. If God doesn’t answer that prayer your gonna be in that circle for a long time.
But here’s is what I want us to hear tonight. I believe that God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.
And it began to rain. The people started to rejoice. Honi was still kneeling in his circle and he says not for such rain have I prayed but for rain that would fill pots and caverns and cisterns. And it starting to rain so hard that according to the historical record the people had to flee to the temple mount because of flash floods. Honi, still in the circle prayed one more time, “Not for such rain have I prayed but for the rain of your blessing and favor and graciousness.”And it began to rain in perfect moderation.
OK, so here’s what’s interesting – the Sanhedrin threatened to excommunicate Honi because they believe that his prayer was too demanding. That’s the same Sanhedrin that had a few problems with Jesus healing on the Sabbath. But it’s hard to argue with a miracle so amazing so Honi, the circle maker, was honored for “the prayer that saved a generation”.
I really do believe that prayers change things. And I believe that our prayers can be so powerful that a single prayer can save an entire generation. Do you believe that ?
These past few weeks we have taken an in-depth and practical look at prayer. Why have looked at the Why, Who, and How of prayer. And through these past 3 weeks we have learned that even though God is in control of and knows the future, our prayers matter. We have learned that he is the omnipotent. God is all powerful and all knowing. He is God and yet he invited us as his children to communicate and even to ask of him as a loving Father. Last time we explored how to pray. Specifically what language we should use when we pray and especially words we need to avoid when we pray. Prayer will be more meaningful if indeed we prayer more meaningful prayers.
So, Now, Today, lets wrap this little series up. Now that we know the why, and the who and the how – lets talk about what to pray for. And here is what I think. I think we should pray big bold audacious prayers. God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.
I want to look at Acts chapter 10 tonight, but before we do, let me offer 3 quick notes. First, a good deal of material that I will share in this message comes from a book entitled the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I wanted you to know that because if you get fired up tonight about bold praying you might want to check the book out. Secondly, and this is important – I need to say right up front that God is not a genie in the bottle. There is no secret to getting God to answer your prayers – including praying till you’re blue in the face. This will not be a sermon that says you can ask ANYTHING in Jesus’s name and it will be given to IF you have enough faith or IF you ask hard and long enough.
But… that being said – we tend to swing like a pendulum on just about everything. And so, since I just said that – and since most conservative non-charismatic non-prosperity evangelicals believe that, what we do is we swing all the over in the opposite direction and just do “God’s will” prayers. We say, “If it’s your will give me the house”, or “if it your will give me the job.” But those kind of prayers are just as manipulative. They also put God in a box. If God answers that prayer and we get the house then we can later blame him when we have to foreclose on it because we told him to give it to us only IF IT WAS HIS WILL. And because we have swung to that kind of ultra timid prayer life – we don’t pray big audacious prayers because, like the Honi Sanhedrin, we think they are too presumptuous.
I believe that God is audacious. I believe that God created us with dreams and a dream by definition must be unbelievable and dream like. Have you ever thought, that if you have big dreams, maybe, just maybe, God gave you those dreams. I believe we should be praying for our dreams. We should be praying for things that only God can answer.
The third quick note is this. Even though this message is gonna be about asking God to answer big dreamlike prayers, let me remind you that asking for stuff is only 1 quarter of prayer. We have already covered that prayer is about Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and then asking for things. Never forget that.
A BOLD PRAYER FOR Personal Revival
Acts 10:1-8: Right off the bat 2 things jump off the page to me. First this Italian soldier – a centurion. This is a powerful guy. He is devout. And the Bible defines for us what devout is. What does a devout man look like. He fears God, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. You know I could preach an entire sermon on that. He gives and prays. He give generously to the poor and and prays continuously. I don’t know how much he gives (generously) and I don’t know how much he prays (continuously). But what strikes me as convicting is that this is the description given of him. He was an Italian soldier. But he was known for giving generously. And praying continuously.
Well, I might not even need to preach on that. It’s convicting enough. I wonder what does the sentence that follows your introduction say. He was a church planter who… fill in the blank.
Cornelius was devout and he was devoted to giving and praying. We will see shortly that he wasn’t a Christian, at least not yet. He was a devout Jew – a worship of God. And He cared for the poor and he was praying to God for something. Then an angel came to him in a vision. I don’t know what that means. It’s not entirely clear. And this vision is an answer to his prayer. He had been praying continuously. Cornelius is about to change the world. He doesn’t know it yet but God is going to use him to literally change the world.
Tonight I want to pray for big bold audacious world changing things. I want you to step out and go big. Go big or go home. As they say. So where do we start?
I heard this story about a man name Gypsy Smith. This man was born in a gypsy tent, of humble origins, and yet ended up being invited to the White House by two presidents. A lead thousands to Christ. One day a man came to him to enquire how he might be as effective as he. They wanted to be used the way Gypsy was. Without hesitating, he said: “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle round yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.”
Gypsy didn’t hesitate because this was his practice. When he would enter into a new town he would draw a circle in the dirt and pray that same prayer. “Lord, send a revival to this place and let it begin inside this circle.” That is were I think we need to start. “If we wanna make the world a beta place take a look at yourself and make the change.” vv
A BOLD PRAYER FOR Personal disciples
Acts 10:9-23 How awesome is this. Two men praying fervently and God shows up. Look this Italian Jew is devoted in prayer and Peter, a disciple of Jesus, is also devoted to prayer and God is gonna use both of the them to change the world. Essentially what is happening, if I could over simplify, is God wants Peter to disciple Cornelius. Peter should be honored that God would chose him to disciple this devoted Jew who hasn’t yet met Christ.
This, btw is how the early church grew so fast. Through discipleship. One man disciples another man who in turn disciples another man and the cycle is still going on today. Well kinda, discipleship has really become a lost art. We depend on the professionals to do it these day. The preachers and televangelist and radio teachers. But I want you to know that the church is also not growing. We need disciplers.
Let me define that real quickly for now. There is someone in your life. Maybe at work maybe in you neighborhood, maybe even here in church that you could invest in. Please do not see discipleship as a program where you go through a workbook with a young believer. It not that. At one time Peter was afraid and hostile towards centurions. Discipleship is not top down. Cornelius is an Italian centurion – come on! He’s also a devout Jew. But Peter is going to lead him to Christ and disciple him. What is discipleship? It is doing life together so that you can speak into and influence others to love Jesus and engage in the mission of God. Because discipleship is a cycle. Peter leads Cornelius and Cornelius will lead others.
I want us to take a minute to think of 3. Maybe unbelievers, maybe nominal Christians, maybe someone who is in a place in his her life that you can offer discipleship or mentoring. Write there names down and start circling them in prayer for the rest of your life. While your doing that I want to tell you another powerful story.
Duncan Campbell was a Scottish preacher and evangelist who traveled all of Scotland to preach – by motorcycle. This is my kind of guy. The story goes that once, while he was the main preacher at a Convention he suddenly felt that he must leave at once, despite being engaged to speak at the closing meeting there the next day. He went (according to the call) to the island of Berneray off Harris. Campbell got off the boat and there waiting for him was an elder of a local church that did not have a minister. This man, had been praying for Duncan Campbell to come to his island and he was so convinced that Campbell was coming that he had already announced the meetings at which Campbell was to preach. Duncan showed up to a full church waiting for his arrival. He taught and discipled and revival spread through out the island.
A BOLD PRAYER FOR MISSIODEI
Acts 10:24-43: So Peter opened his mouth…. And the rest… is history. Do you know the history. Cornelius is known today as the first Gentile to become a Christian. When Peter entered into his house and opened his mouth he brought Cornelius to Jesus, and baptized he and his entire household. Cornelius the gentile and all his house were saved and that cycle of discipleship multiplied and spread all the way to you and me. God was pleased to answer Cornelius’ prayer and he chose that Italian man to be the gateway or starting point for all the Gentiles. In fact it was here that Peter learned that the door was open for Gentiles too.
That is what the church is supposed to look like. It is a missional organization. A community of believers who are reaching out to people who are far from God and discipling them to faith in Jesus, making them a part of his church to go out to do the same thing all over again. That is why are vision statement here at MD is “seek, send repeat.”
Tonight I want us to spend some time in prayer for the vision and mission of MISSIODEI church and that extends to O’Fallon and Owensville and the city of St. Louis & the entire globe. I have been praying for audacious things. I believe God is audacious. HE uses swarms of locusts, a storm of quails. He destroyed a fortified city with only the sound of marching feet and shouting. He parted an entire sea, and the most audacious thing of all – he become a man, a baby even, in order to die for our wickedness. Why not pray for some big audacious things for MISSIODEI and STL?
One more story. George Mueller is another very famous preacher. He is most famous for building 5 large orphan houses in Britain in the 1830’s were he cared for over one hundred thousand orphans. He work with D.L. Moody, he preached for Charles Spurgeon, and inspired the missionary faith of Hudson Taylor. Muller was a very unconventional guy. He was a maverick. He did not believe in debt and would never take a loan. Some called him eccentric because he had many large-hearted dreams that were all directed outward for the good of others. It has been said that George Mueller “devised large and liberal things for the Lord’s cause.”
The most famous story about Muller is that he never took a loan and he never asked for or raised money for his 5 orphanages. Instead he prayed. And the money would just show up. He simply trusted God to put in people’s hearts to send him what he needed. It has been calculated that he prayed in millions of dollars. And then there are hundreds of stories of Muller’s prayers being answered miraculously. One well-documented occasion, they gave thanks for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table, even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with fresh bread to feed everyone, and the milkman gave them plenty of fresh milk because his cart had broken down right in front of the orphanage.
Prayer is powerful. It has to be. Seeking God for big bold things that only he can answer forces us to our knees in constant prayer. I like the way Baterson says it:
When you pray regularly – irregular things will happen on a regular basis. If you don’t pray, your life is boring!” Mark Baterson
Jesus has prayed for the same things. Jesus prayed to his Father that you and I would be effective in ministering to the culture and the world that we live in.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
(John 17:15-21, ESV)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14