The Six-month Prayer Challenge

November 3, 2009 — Leave a comment

[we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this special post]

I was all set to blog about one of my bedtime snack books.* Then I started reading If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg because I’m working on a character who is stuck in his life and I thought it might give me some insight into him. But as it turns out, I think I’m really reading this book for me.

It’s about risk and following God and believing Him to work in our lives, drawn from the gospel account where Peter gets out of the boat in the middle of a storm and walks on water to Jesus [Matthew 14:22-33]. Given my non-love of sailing, it would be more accurate for me to say it’s about getting into the boat. Or maybe that’s the prequel: If You Want to Sail on Water, You’ve Got to Leave the Shore. At any rate, I resonated with what Ortberg has to say.

Obviously his main idea is that we have to get out of the boat. He says that when Jesus passed by the boat in the middle of the storm, it was similar to God passing by Moses so Moses could see His glory [Exodus 33:22]. Peter says “If it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Ortberg makes the point that Peter’s goal is not so much to walk on water, but to come to Jesus, and he asks for a command which he then obeys. This is so much deeper and richer than our saying, “I think I’ll just hoist myself over the side of this boat and go for a little power walk.” There’s a God-directed goal and obedience at work.

Ortberg discusses how we need to use the talents God has given us, and how fear is not a good motivator. Fear will never go away, so it’s better just to forget that it’s there. Then he mentions that people who take God-directed risks usually pray a lot. “There is something about getting out of the boat that turns people into intense pray-ers, because they are aware that they cannot accomplish things without God’s help.”

He tells a story about a man who became a Christian and came to where Jesus said, “Ask whatever you will in my name, and you will receive it.” In typical new Christian enthusiasm he decided he needed to pray for something, and he thought he’d pray for Africa. A friend suggested he might want to narrow it down to a country. So he did. Then the friend challenged him to pray for this country every day for six months. [They actually made a monetary bet about whether something extraordinary would happen in that time frame.] The story of what happened is one of those incredible unbelievable stories, about as unbelievable as–well pick your favorite one from the Bible.

Ortberg asks “What are you praying for?” and suggests committing yourself to pray every day for six months and seeing what God will do.

As soon as I read Ortberg’s idea, I knew I was up for it. There are some things going on in my life that I’ve been praying for a lot recently, and I think this challenge is just what I need to keep my eyes on Jesus as I follow him in the middle of the storm.

I don’t think there’s anything magical about six months or about praying every day. Prayer is not putting quarters in the bubble gum machine until the big prize comes out. But there’s no downside to talking over the big things in my life with God every day for six months and reminding myself, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” [John 15:7,8]

What about you? What’s going on in your life now? Would you like to join the challenge? One thing, every day, for six months, now until May. Are you interested in coming along on the journey? Pass it on to your friends. As Arlo Guthrie sang in “Alice’s Restaurant” if three people do it, it’s an organization; if fifty people do, it will be a movement. And all we have to do is pray.

[*Don’t worry, I’ll serve the other post next week. It’s not perishable, plus it fits in nicely with the six-month challenge.]

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