Prayer is good and powerful. Prayer can also be dangerous.
Growing up, I went to a nondenominational Christian private school through high school and then to a Baptist university. I learned to worship often and consistently and I learned the importance of prayer at a young age. Hillsong was always a favorite. What I did not learn until later, through raw experience, is that some worship songs and prayers are dangerous. In the best way possible.
I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith, with selfless faith
I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees, we’re on our knees
This initial verse stirred and excited my passionate, earnest, and young heart. My peers and I truly believed that we had everything ahead of us and yearned to be a part of doing something great for God. We had the best of intentions but very little direction.
I did not yet possess the maturity to understand that “doing great things for God” might mean the quiet and unsexy acts of service and love to those in my daily life. It might mean thinking responsibly about where to spend my money and doing research on which organizations use donations wisely and efficiently.
God answers prayer.
I believed then and still believe now that God answers prayers. Through experience, I knew how prayer had led to beautiful and vulnerable relationships to form. I had seen prayers answered in ways that were better and different than I had imagined God would answer them. Prayer is a powerful thing.
Slowly God worked in my heart and mind (in addition to the natural maturing process) to help me to hear the words of another verse in this same song:
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
Open Eyes and A Broken Heart
This verse slowly morphed into another earnest, dangerous prayer to God. I genuinely asked God to “open my eyes to the things unseen” and to “break my heart for what breaks yours.”
At this point in my faith journey, I should have known that God answers prayers and that it may not be what I expected. I thought I could handle it. Slowly, my eyes were opened to a number of social issues, injustices and pain in the world. It hurt. As an empathetic person and an enneagram 1, this awareness truly did break my heart.
The truth of human injustices shredded my heart. People made in the image of God, valued and loved by him are suffering all over the world. Thousands of children die daily from lack of clean water and food. People are enslaved and abused. Trafficking and sexual abuse are real evils effecting too many. Economic status, race, and nationalism divides our world into categories that humanity uses to justify war and violence.
For a season, I was so overwhelmed by the suffering in the world that I withdrew into myself. I turned my focus back on self-centeredness, hoping I could shove my head back into the sand. It did not work. Really, all it did was to make me feel like I was personally not good enough in any area of my life.
That season was so dark. Even though it hurt me deeply to be made aware of the the true reality of sin and brokenness, both in the world and in myself, I am thankful that God answers prayers. God answered the dangerous prayer to break my heart for the the very real brokenness of this world. I needed a season of time to grieve that reality and my own loss of innocence. But I did not stay there. God did the healing work of giving me hope, a framework and a theology for how he is working, in establishing and building the kingdom of God here on earth.
Hope in Answered Prayers
While the world looks dark and hopeless, we serve a God of goodness and hope, that operates in unexpected and subtle ways, choosing the lowly and the outcast to do his work in the world. While the people of Israel prayed dangerous prayers for a militant messiah to free them from social and political oppression, God answered the prayer for a Messiah in the form of a carpenter’s son and lowly teacher rather than a powerful king. God chose to do his redemption work in a humiliating and painful death, claiming victory in a final breath rather than a roaring victory cry. But we know that is not the end of the story, victory was revealed in the hope of a resurrection- completely unexpected.
Even now, I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, turning people’s hearts and minds towards what will be our final reality of love, justice, and true relationship with God and with one another.
This kingdom-building work is so quiet and subtle in a world that clamors with heartbreaking violent news stories and outrage. It can be difficult to have the eyes to see it for what it is. It is in the small acts of love, generosity, service and forgiveness. God is in the redemption and restoration of humanity business. God is in the healing and hope business. Wherever there is good at work, building a better world, the Holy Spirit is there, even when unrecognized.
So, I will keep praying dangerous prayers, because they are powerful. I will pray for the eyes to see the things that break God’s heart, yes. I will also pray to find creative ways to join with what God is already doing to bring hope and healing to the heartbreak of the world. And I will pray to have open eyes to see the Holy Spirit at work in the world, in people’s lives, and in my own life.
God knows what he is doing when he answers prayers.
The question is this: Will we be brave enough to open our hands in prayer and our hearts to what God will reveal to us? Both the heartbreaking reality of sin and brokenness and the reality of the hope that God is bringing to this world? Will we pray dangerous prayers?