In his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster writes about various facets of the gemstone of the Christian life that is prayer. Among them is “authoritative prayer”, in which Foster suggests that God’s people are too often too timid about exercising their God-given abilities in prayer.
He cites all kinds of times when Jesus spoke authoritatively in prayer, and then he writes,
“Certainly I should not be expected to do those kinds of things. But then I came upon Jesus’ shocking words: ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ (John 14:12)….In my concern over falling off the deep end, I realized that I just might fall off the shallow end. My desire to maintain religious respectability could easily result in a domesticated faith” (pp. 234-235, emphases mine).
Re-reading this book always challenges me, and on this go-round, it was this section that slapped me ‘upside the head.’ Am I more interested in religious respectability than I am about doing the work God has intended for me to do?
It’s as if I would sooner sit in the cold than get up and turn on the furnace.
Now, what might be running through your mind certainly courses through mine, and that’s this: What about the sovereignty of God?
Foster would remind us that any prayer we offer authoritatively must come not from any authority of our own, but from the authority of the Holy Spirit working in and through us – and the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Trinity, is sovereign and ultimately decides whether a prayer should be granted or not.
Yet, I want to suggest, too often we don’t even bother.
Instead of shrugging our shoulders and saying, “There’s nothing we can do,” what if we were to speak to the sickness in our loved one, in Jesus’ name?
Many of us are reluctant to do such things because we don’t own a white polyester suit, or a personal jet; we don’t want to be lumped in with those Christians. To be sure, any authoritative ministry we exercise does not happen for our own self-aggrandizement, but for the glory of God. But if God were willing to heal, willing to cast out, willing to aid – if we were simply to ask – would that not be worth the risk of losing religious respectability?