How bold are your prayers?
by Max Lucado
ARE YOUR PRAYERS BOLD like John Wesley’s prayers? He prayed that a storm on the Atlantic Ocean would cease. It did. Or, are your prayers bold like Martin Luther’s? He beseeched God to heal two friends. Both were saved from their illnesses. Or, do you pray boldly like Joshua? He asked God to make the sun stand still.
Boldness in prayer is an uncomfortable thought for many. We think of speaking softly to God, humbling ourselves before God, or having a chat with God … but storming heaven with prayers? Pounding on the door of the Most High? Isn’t such prayer irreverent? Presumptuous?
It would be had God not invited us to pray as such. “So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need” (Heb. 4:16 TLB). As I get older, my prayers are getting bolder.
Joshua did this but not before he didn’t. His prayer life teaches us what happens when we don’t pray as much as it tells us how to pray.
Joshua was leading a ragtag group of Hebrews into Canaan, but before they could claim the promised land, they had battles to fight, cities to conquer. After the walls of Jericho crumbled and Ai fell, a group of strangers entered Joshua’s camp. They presented themselves as hapless pilgrims from a distant place. Everything seemed to fit their story. Their grain sacks, sandals, and clothes were worn-out. Even their bread was moldy and dry. They claimed to be allies of the Hebrews. They praised the accomplishments of God and asked Joshua and his men to make a covenant with them. Joshua weighed the options, and his rulers eventually agreed.
Three days later, Joshua realized he had been snookered. These people were not from a distant land; they were from Gibeon, only a day’s walk away. Their weathered clothing was a disguise. They pretended to be foreigners because they knew that the Hebrews had ransacked Jericho and Ai. They may have known that God’s laws had made special provision for cities outside of Canaan (Deut. 20:10-12). Any city that agreed to make peace would be spared.
So, being afraid, they resorted to deception. Why didn’t Joshua and the elders detect the ruse? “They did not ask counsel of the Lord” (Josh. 9:14, NKJV). The practice of the Hebrews was supposed to be pray first, act later. Joshua was told to “stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the Lord” (Num. 27:21, NKJV).
Joshua failed to do this. He and his council entered into an alliance with the enemy because they didn’t seek the counsel of God.
We do well to learn from Joshua’s mistake.
Our enemy enters our camp in a disguise as well. “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14, NIV). He is crafty. That’s why it is essential that we …
CONSULT GOD IN EVERYTHING.
Always. Immediately. Quickly. Live with one ear toward heaven. Keep the line open to God.
- “Is this opportunity from You, God?”
- “Are You in this venture, God?”
- “Should I take this road, God?”
At every decision. At each crossroads. Acknowledge Him, heed Him, ask Him, “Do I turn right or left?”
Our relationship with God is exactly that, a relationship. His invitation is clear and simple: “Come and talk with me, O my people” (Ps. 27:8, TLB). We abide with Him, and He abides with us. He grants wisdom as we need it.
He will help us against the devil. He will disclose the craftiness of Satan. But we must regularly consult Him. In everything. And …
CALL ON GOD FOR GREAT THINGS.
Joshua did. The alliance with the Gibeonites quickly proved to be troublesome. The other kings of Canaan saw them as traitors and set out to attack them.
Five armies bore down on the people of Gibeon. They were outnumbered. But since they had an alliance with Joshua, they asked the Hebrews to help. Because he had given his word, Joshua had no choice but to come to their rescue.
The five kings never stood a chance. Apparently, they did not expect Joshua to respond with such fervor. They turned and ran with Hebrews hot on their heels. As Joshua’s army thundered behind them, the clouds began to thunder above them. “Large hailstones” fell from the sky in a divine carpet bombing (Josh. 10:11).
Joshua saw the hailstones and anticipated the sun setting. They needed more time. Nightfall would give the enemies a chance to regroup. If he had just a few more hours of daylight, he could win the battle and strike a decisive blow. So he began to pray. He had failed to pray about the Gibeonites. He didn’t make the same mistake twice.
“The day God gave the Amorites up to Israel, Joshua spoke to God, with all Israel listening:
“‘Stop, Sun, over Gibeon; Halt, Moon, over Aijalon Valley.’ And Sun stopped, Moon stood stock still Until he defeated his enemies.
“(You can find this written in the Book of Jashar.) The sun stopped in its tracks in mid sky; just sat there all day. There’s never been a day like that before or since — God took orders from a human voice! Truly, God fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned, all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal” (Josh. 10:12-15, MSG).
This was a stunning, unprecedented prayer. The narrator, knowing his readers would be shocked at the story, referred to the Book of Jashar, an extrabiblical volume that contained stories of the Hebrew people. He was stating, in effect, “If you find this hard to believe, check it out in the Book of Jashar.”
God, in His providence, pressed the solar Pause button. He chose to hear and heed Joshua’s request. Might He do something similar for us?
My friend Greg Pruett believes God will. He is trained as an engineer, linguist, and Bible translator. But his most significant contribution might be in the area of “extreme prayer.”
In 2008, Greg returned from Guinea, West Africa, to serve as president of Pioneer Bible Translators. The great recession was sucking dollars out of the economy and confidence out of the public. The ministry’s financial chart indicated a free fall. Greg had no experience in leading such an organization. He had no tangible place to cut expenses. Resources were few, and the donors were disappearing.
Greg knew of only one response: prayer. “That’s when I began to learn not to pray about my strategies, but to make prayer the strategy,” he said.
In July he wrote a letter to his teammates worldwide, calling them to prayer. He urged them to stand before God’s throne with specific and bold requests. They did. And when Greg analyzed the results, he knew there was no explanation for the growth in giving. No explanation but God and prayer.
Maybe God and prayer are all you have too. Like Joshua, you face battles. Five kings are bearing down upon you. Discouragement, deception, defeat, destruction, death. They roar into the wilderness.
Don’t give an inch. Respond in prayer — honest, continual, and audacious prayer. You are a member of God’s family. You come to God not as a stranger but as an heir. Confidently approach His throne. Earnestly make your requests known to Him not because of what you have achieved but because of what Christ has done. Jesus spilled His blood for you. You can spill your heart before God.
Excerpted from Glory Days: Living Your Promised Land Life Now by Max Lucado. Thomas Nelson ©2015. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.
More than 120 million readers have been inspired by the words of MAX LUCADO. He lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy, in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves the people of Oak Hills Church.
This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine (October 2015). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.