Welcome to this final week, part four of our series called “Pray” as we’ve been studying prayer and prayers that touch the heart of God. Now as we approach Easter Sunday we’re watching as Jesus walks to the cross and what we discover are some dangerous prayers. And as we reflect upon those prayers I believe that we will find ourselves becoming more dangerous even shaking the gates of hell. My prayer today is that we would determine to become more dangerous, because I believe that the only way that the Church is ever going to be as dangerous as God called it to be is that if we begin to take Jesus at his word, that we make him our passion and priority, and that we would begin to pray dangerous prayers.
If you have your Bibles with you this morning open them to the Gospel of John and we are going to look at John chapters 11 & 12. There are four things I want to show you, four things to keep in mind if we’re going to pray dangerous prayers. Now the context here is that Jesus friend Lazarus was sick and his sisters Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick.
Look with me at John 11:7-16,
“Then (Jesus) said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
“After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better."
Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
Number one, if we’re going to pray dangerous prayers, we must be willing to walk with Jesus wherever he goes.
Now I don’t know about you, but as I think about this passage I can’t help but wonder what the disciples were thinking or talking about at this moment. There had to be a sense of anticipation and excitement, you know, an expectation that something great was about to happen, because they knew that wherever Jesus went something unexplainable, something miraculous happened, and so when Jesus said, “Let’s go.” Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
I believe that today, you and I, the church, that we should have that same sense of anticipation and that if we’re going to get speeding tickets it shouldn’t be because we’re late for the game, it shouldn’t be because we’re late for work, it should be because we can’t wait to get to church. You know it’s like, you roll down your window, “I’m sorry deputy, but I know what Jesus did last week and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do this week!” And so if there’s one place that we should never be late it should be to church. We should have that same sense of anticipation as these disciples who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” You see, they knew that something exciting was about to happen and they wanted to be a part of it. They were going to walk with him, because he might not be doing anything right now, but they knew that if they hung out with him, if they stuck with him, that he was going to do something that they’ve never seen before. And so it didn’t matter how dangerous the going might be, they were going to keep walking with them, because there was an anticipation that something big was about to happen.
And I know some of you have a sense of frustration, you don’t have this anticipation, because you’ve asked God to do something and he hasn’t yet. You may have asked God to heal somebody you loved, or your relationship was falling apart, or your job, but let me assure you that it’s never too late for Jesus. Let’s back up and look at verse 6. “When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” It’s like, it’s Sunday, they called Jesus to tell him that his friend fell down the stairs, he’s in bad shape, and Jesus says “Call 911… on Tuesday.” But here’s my point, I assure you that Jesus knows where you are. It may be the second day, but we’ve got to be willing to walk with Jesus even in dangerous circumstances, even when we don’t understand his timing if we’re going to pray dangerous prayers. Amen?
Look at verse 17, “On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.” Verse 34, Jesus asked, “Where have you laid him?” “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" (John 11:35-37). And that brings us to our second point. Jesus came to the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled over the entrance, and Jesus said in verse 39, “Take away the stone.”
So number one, we’ve got to walk with Jesus and… number two, we’ve got to be willing to listen to Jesus.
Reading again at verse 39, "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go" (John 11:39-44).
Today, if we’re going to pray dangerous prayers, we’ve got to be willing to listen to what Jesus says to us. If we’re going to speak life into things that are dead we’ve got to walk closely with Jesus and listen to Jesus. There’s another example in Luke’s Gospel, Luke 7:12, where Jesus came to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd were walking with him. “As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."
Now that sounds like a really stupid thing to say at a funeral doesn’t it? You know, here’s a widow, a woman who’s already lost her husband, and now she’s lost her only son and Jesus comes and says, “Don’t cry.” But this is where faith comes into play, we’ve got to trust Jesus, and we’ve got to be willing to listen to Jesus, because what Jesus is saying to this woman is, “I’m bigger than the problems you’re facing.” And today Jesus is saying, “Don’t cry. I’m bigger than your financial problems, your marriage problems, your health problems, and every other problem that you may be facing in your life.” So even though, don’t cry seems like a ridiculous thing to say, for the crowd walking with Jesus there was an expectancy in the air, because they knew something amazing was about to happen.
Now this is crazy, this is a dangerous prayer, verse 14 tells us, “Jesus went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. (He stopped the funeral procession and said), "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother” (Luke 7:14-15). Just like Jesus spoke to Lazarus in his tomb, Jesus spoke and commanded this widow’s son to do what was seemingly impossible, to get up, for that which was dead to rise. And I believe that when we listen to Jesus, when we’re filled with faith, and we believe him for the impossible, we’ll be a dangerous church. Instead of giving him a list of reasons why we can’t do what he’s called us to do, we need to walk with Jesus, we’ve got to listen to Jesus, and third we’ve got to believe in Jesus!
You’ve got to believe, because you’ll never pray dangerous prayers when you live in doubt. You’ve got to believe. And you know these people in that little town of Nain were blown away when this young man sat up and spoke. Do you believe today that Jesus can do the impossible? Do you believe that he can do what the Bible says that he can do? My prayer for myself, for this church, and this community, is that we would constantly be blown away because of who Jesus is and what he does. I believe that what happened in the Bible can happen today. I believe that Jesus still heals people. I believe that Jesus still speaks to people. I believe that Jesus is still in the miracle business. And I believe one of the problems in the Church today is that we just don’t believe he can do what the Bible says he can do. But our Jesus is still the same. Hebrews chapter 13 verse 8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Let’s look at John chapter 12 as we pick up our story. We’re looking at praying dangerous prayers because we’re walking with Jesus, because we’re listening to Jesus, and third because we’re believing in Jesus. Verse nine tells us what happens,
“Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.” Many were walking with Jesus, many were listening to Jesus, and many were believing in Jesus, putting their faith in him. And the Bible says in verse 12,
“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!"
Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
“At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him” (John 12:12-16).
Here we see the commitment of Jesus. He was committed to the very end. He had set his face toward Jerusalem and he held the course. In verse 23 he said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:23-26).
This morning, we need to make a decision. We need to commit to walking with Jesus, to listening to Jesus, and to believing in Jesus. And it’s that believing that results in the commitment, where deep down inside you believe what God is saying, and you have the guts to make that faith decision. That’s what Jesus did and that’s what we need to do. Number four… Committed to Jesus!
We see that when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and he prayed to his Heavenly Father. Matthew chapter 26 records this dangerous prayer, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping… He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (Matthew 26:39-42).
I believe it was at this very moment that he committed, no matter how much pain, no matter how much ridicule, no matter how much torture, at that moment he committed to the end. “Not as I will, but as you will!” A dangerous prayer, a commitment, and a finishing decision.
It was so well illustrated in the movie, “The Passion” when they were beating Jesus for our sins, maybe you remember the scene where he fell down to the ground and the soldiers stopped beating him. With everything in me I wanted him to stay down, not to get back up, but he did. He knew that he wasn’t finished. He knew that there was more pain for him to endure. He could’ve stayed down, but he got back up, he fought, and he finished the work that he came to accomplish. He made it up the hill where he was nailed to the cross and died for our sins.
This morning as we close, I want to challenge you, dare you, to make a similar decision, to pray a similar prayer, a dangerous prayer, “Not as I will, but as you will!” It’s a prayer of commitment, a prayer of surrender, and it says here I am, I’m available. It’s a prayer that says, if you want me to go I’ll go, if you want me to stay I’ll stay, if you want me to say something I’ll speak, if you want me to be quiet and pray I’ll pray, whatever you need, here I am. God, I’m available. It’s an incredibly dangerous prayer, because when you start praying that prayer I guarantee you God’s going to interrupt your plans, he’ll prompt you, he’ll move you, and it all begins with a decision, a point of surrender, a commitment to Jesus.
This is one of the most dangerous prayers you can pray, “Not as I will, but as you will.” “God I’m yours; anywhere, anytime, anything.” It’s what Jesus spoke of in verse 24, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25).
This morning we need to come to that point of commitment, of dying to self, dying to our flesh, so that our spirit would live. It’s crying out to God, “I’m all in, I’m available.” It’s what the apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me!" When we’ve truly experienced the presence of God like Doug spoke about last Wednesday night, when we’re aware of our own sinfulness, and when we’ve experienced the grace of a God who forgives us when we didn’t deserve it, our response is “Here I am, may your will be done.”
It’s a dangerous prayer to cry out in surrender. And I think many people refuse to pray this because they’re afraid that God is going to make them sell everything and become a missionary in Africa. And he may, but it’s more likely that he’ll call you to be a missionary where you work. It’s more likely he’s going to call you to serve the people right in front of you. You know, just to stop and listen to someone who’s hurting, just to reach out and give a hand to someone who’s in need. It may not even be a big thing to you, but God would say “That was a big thing, because you were faithful and obedient to me.” I don’t know what God is going to call you to do, what he’s going to prompt you to do, but I do know that when you start to say yes to Jesus, you’ll find that he’s calling you to be his hands and his feet in the world. The prophet Isaiah understood that and he said it this way, “Here am I. Send me!" (6:8). As we close, I’d like you to pray with me a dangerous prayer, “Here I am. Not as I will, but as you will."
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
March 20, 2016