I'm known by my friends and family as the "reluctant pastor." This nickname isn’t because I don't love the church, or my job, but because I never thought that would be who I am today. When my little church in Oklahoma captured my heart over 35 years ago, I agreed to help with their youth (12 kids) and their choir (16 voices).
Then, all of a sudden, they needed a pastor and they had the crazy idea of asking me to do it. I didn't have the resume or credentials, but for some reason, they thought I was the right person for the job.
My wife was a lifelong member of this fabulous church and thought we should pray about it. So we did. And, as the saying goes, the rest is history. I became the pastor of a church--this Oklahoma City church--in 1985.
In 1993, we had about 500 people attending our church and I wondered if I was still the right person to lead them. There was potential for more growth and I was beginning to think I should move out of the way and let someone else take over--someone who was more qualified to lead a larger congregation. Leading a small church was one thing, but I decided from the beginning to hold my role with the church lightly and always be ready to move over when stronger leadership was needed.
As I was considering my next step that spring, I decided the best thing to do was seek counsel from two pastors of healthy, growing churches: Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church. God used both of these men to give me the courage to continue leading my church, which was something I thought was far beyond my own leadership experience or capacity.
It wasn’t long after those visits that I read a book Bill wrote entitled Too Busy Not To Pray. There’s a chapter in the book that caught my attention called “Mountain-Moving Prayer.” In it, Bill writes, “How do you pray a prayer so filled with faith that it can move a mountain? By shifting the focus from the size of your mountain to the sufficiency of the mountain-mover, and by stepping forward in obedience.”
Years later I heard Bill give a sermon called “Dangerous Prayers.” It was his list of mountain-moving prayers. He encouraged us to make our own list. So I did. And, maybe not surprisingly, that list hasn’t changed much over the years.
I shared my list of dangerous prayers last weekend at Crossings. Of the many prayers on my list, there are two that I find most difficult. The first one is a prayer from Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Why do I find this difficult? It’s really personal. It is an invitation to let God evaluate me. Maybe I fear this text because when I pray this prayer, I usually have a hunch what God will find as He searches me. I’d rather He didn’t know.
The other dangerous prayer I find challenging is: “Use me.” In 2 Timothy 4:6 Paul says, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God.” In Isaiah 6:8 God poses a question to Isaiah: “Who should I send as a messenger to this people?” And Isaiah answers God by saying, “Here I am...send me.”
In the early years of ministry, I found this verse a bit daunting because I know that praying these words would take me out of my comfort zone. In my thirty-sixth year of ministry, I find myself hesitant to ask God to use me because, to be honest, I sometimes feel used up and wonder if I have any more to offer. God always reminds me that my strength will only be adequate when he decides to use me. So often, the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9 end up being the answer to this prayer:
My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
How God can use me is not based on my strengths; if it was, I might think I’m the one accomplishing everything. But, rather, God uses me in my weakness when I'm not enough or don't think I have anything to give. It is in those times that He shows up and does His most powerful work.
Join me in praying some dangerous prayers. Make your list. Then hold on and be ready when God answers! You’ll never be the same again.