I am ashamed to say that there are three words I have spoken to God only a few times in my life. After all, they are not easy to say, and I am quite sure that the Enemy works hard to remove them from my vocabulary. Yet, when spoken from the heart, they are the most powerful – and most dangerous – words that any Christian can utter in prayer.
Most Christians, like myself, know exactly what to pray for. We speak fluent Christianese. Before offering up my specific requests to God, I typically open up by saying a personal variation of the Lord’s Prayer, which goes something like this:
Father, thank you for hearing me. Your name alone is worthy of praise. Thank you for the gift of eternal life through your son Jesus Christ. I pray that I might glorify you here on earth so that others may come to know you. Thank you for providing for my needs and for forgiving my sins. Your grace is more than I could ever imagine. Help me to extend this grace to others. Help me to live through your Spirit as a child of God – to flee temptation – and to live in the light. I pray that I might do everything that I can to further your Kingdom.
Any Christian would tell you that this is a good prayer. For the most part, it is genuine and heartfelt. However, there are too often veiled stipulations that run so deep in me that I can hardly detect them. How do I know they exist? Because sometimes, I utter three words that unmask them:
No. Matter. What.
These words stand out because the commitment that they imply is rare. My prayers seldom end with “no matter what” because that is the very mentality that they lack. After all, these are big and bold words to say to the God of the Universe. He might just answer them. In fact, when these words are spoken, He almost always will answer them.
During my freshman year of college I was on fire for the Lord. I desired more than anything to have a profound impact at my small, secular school. One night in my dorm, after being emotionally moved by how spiritually lost some of my classmates were, I cried out to God. Father, I want to dedicate my four years here all to You. If even one person gives their life to You, my time here would be worth it. I pray that You might use me to do this…no matter what.
God did answer that prayer. It took all four years, but one of my good friends did commit their life to the Lord (it’s a very cool story). However, it also included two knee surgeries and a football career that lasted half of what it should have. Yes, it was a dangerous prayer indeed – but gloriously effective. If I could do it all over again, I would not change a thing.
If God does not have complete control of our lives, how can we expect him to answer our prayers? God wants total commitment from us. He wants to use us to glorify himself…no matter what. Although unspoken, this was the mentality that Jesus had when he came to the earth. He allowed God’s will to be done – for His glory – even though it meant dying on a cross.
When we pray these words, whether implicitly or explicitly, we are inviting God to do damage. We are inviting hardship and persecution. We are inviting danger. These, ironically, are things that seem counterintuitive to prayer in the first place. After all, how often do we pray for safety and comfort? Certainly these are not wrong things to pray for. Yet, we must be careful not to lose the attitude of prayer for the articles of prayer. Prayer is an attitude of sacrifice. It presents us as humble and willing servants before our God. What we ask Him to do for us is only meaningful insofar as it enables us to do more for Him.
This is a truth that is often difficult to come to terms with. Sacrifice and humility are not easy for sinful people. But God’s work, no matter how inconvenient, or even dangerous, is always for our good. It always produces joy in the end. I pray that God would continue to teach me this lesson…no matter what.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
What we ask Him to do for us is only meaningful insofar as it enables us to do more for Him.