Most of us have probably prayed them. Most of the “most of us” have probably also laughed about them in terms of what a silly idea it was. Most of that “most of us” consequently made decisions to think twice before we prayed them ever again.
I’m talking about dangerous prayers. You know the kind I mean.
“Lord, make me more patient.” That sounds all nice and noble until you find yourself the next day standing in a mind-bendingly long line while some sweet grandma at the cash register is counting out six dollars’ worth of pennies and trying to use expired coupons.
“God, teach me how to grow in humility.” That lovely little number will ensure that the pride you didn’t even know you had gets a good jab — or lots of good jabs — in the days and weeks to come. If you want to learn humility, God is good at finding ways of getting you practice.
If we’re feeling really crazy during an exciting worship service, we may even burst out with something like, “Remove everything that hinders love!” or “Let the winds blow!”
I’ll leave it to your imagination (or more likely, your experience) to fill in the results for that one.
God doesn’t do these things because He takes sadistic pleasure in watching us squirm. He does it because He’s infintely kind and really wants to see us grow and become tender before Him. He cares a lot about our hearts, which is why He’s only too happy to answer us when we pray those dangerous prayers. Of course, He will do it in wisdom, taking fully into account how much we can bear and what season we’re in, but rest assured, He’ll do it.
Being stretched hurts, and growing often involves pain. Our pride gets wounded. Our patience gets tried. Our anger gets aroused. All the inner turmoil, darkness, and pain — things which, ordinarily, we have enough grip on our hearts to suppress — it all comes to the surface in a dark-but-lovely mess. And so we make note of which prayers we never want to pray again, or at least, not without at least two angels and a prophet showing up and instructing us to do so.
If you haven’t had some excitement with praying dangerous prayers yourself, chances are you’ve heard of someone else who has. The anticipation is enough to spook a lot of sincere people away from saying such things. But this is where a bit of perspective can become quite useful.
Consider the alternative. What would we have to ask for in order to avoid getting our feathers ruffled? “Dear God, please don’t mess with my pride, sense of entitlement, or convenience. I would much prefer to end my days with a bitter heart and a backlog of anger that I have allowed to sit and fester for as long as it likes. Cranky self-absorbed hermitry sounds like the way to go.”
We refer to dangerous prayers as dangerous because they strongly imply that we’re going to have a bumpy ride for awhile. But the alternative is a million times more devastating than having a bad couple of weeks where your friends keep saying irritating things to you and your boss overlooks you again. The alternative means a locked-down heart that will slowly lose all capability of love and hope, because we’d rather cling to our darkness than put up with a little pain which yields greater transformation and joy. The trade-off is not worth doing. In Paul’s words, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
Admittedly, I’ve used some glib examples here, but I do so only to state the point: the only thing “dangerous” about dangerous prayers is if we neglect to pray them. I’d rather let my heart become tenderized (even if that means enduring a little bit of what meat goes through to become tenderized) than resign myself to a distant bitterness that prefers temporary comfort to holiness.
So pray those dangerous prayers. Do it with boldness. Do it unhesitatingly. God will sort out how much of it you need and when, and all you have to worry about is responding to His lead. And that’s a very good thing.