Bible Gateway interviewed Susie Larson (@SusieLarson) about her book, Your Powerful Prayers: Reaching the Heart of God with a Bold and Humble Faith (Bethany House, 2016).
What is bold prayer?
Susie Larson: Bold prayer, I believe, is biblical prayer. We’re tethered to the faithfulness of God who makes promises and keeps his promises. We get into trouble when we equate our bold prayers with our very specific expectations of what the outcome should look like.
I’ve seen many people give up on prayer, utterly disappointed because God didn’t jump through their hoops or come through in the exact way they expected him to. He’s not bound by our dictates. He’s God. But he’s better than we know; kinder than we can fathom; and wiser than our minds can comprehend.
When we remember that he’s God and we’re not, and that he’s faithful to his Word, we can come boldly into his presence, assured of his glad welcome (see Ephesians 3:8-13). And from that place, we can pray big prayers and dream big dreams because he’s a miracle working God (see Ephesians 3:20-21).
How does understanding God’s love make a person bold in prayer?
Susie Larson: For the Christian, everything springs out of God’s great love for us. We love because he loved us first (1 John 4:10). We lose our way when we put more weight onto what we do than on what Christ has already done.
A thriving faith-life becomes rigid religion when we turn our get-to’s into ought-to’s and should-do’s. But when we live in response to God’s unchangeable, unfathomable love for us, we grow into the person God always intended us to be.
When we develop a holy confidence in who we are because of who Jesus is, we dare to pray like there’s a God in heaven who hears us when we pray, because there is, and he does, and it’s awesome. To know this love is to be filled with the fullness of God (see Ephesians 3:19).
What do you mean that the Bible and prayer are a person’s lifelines?
Susie Larson: The Bible is the living breathing word of God; it’s active, powerful, and life-changing (Hebrews 4:12). When we open the Word, we open God’s mouth; he speaks to us. If that were not enough, he invites us into his presence, and asks us to come with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
We don’t have to get in line, take a number, or know someone who knows someone. We know the star-breathing God and he knows us intimately. Nothing is more important or valuable than a thriving, intimate walk with the One who gives life to every step we take.
Someone once said, “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” Exactly. That’s why we need to see the value of time with God, otherwise we’ll be swept up in the current of the culture and miss the treasure of what it means to dialogue with the Most High God.
How do you respond to people who say they’ve prayed for years for a specific need but it seems God isn’t listening?
Susie Larson: Many years ago my mentor said something to me that helped me sort through this dynamic. She said, “Susie, it’s important that you understand the difference between expectation and expectancy. Expectation is premeditated disappointment. It’s like creating a bullseye for God to hit and then getting offended when he doesn’t. Expectancy, on the other hand, is faith-filled prayers mixed with holy expectancy. There’s a mystery to God. We can’t explain everything he does. But we know he’s good. So we pray big prayers, and we live with an open-handed expectancy, knowing that he moves when we pray, and that he’ll show up and answer in his way, which is the best way. And our faith matters to him; it’s precious to him.”
I love that. If you’re in such a place, maybe it’s time for a different approach. If you’re offended with God, sort through that issue, and approach him with fresh humility and expectancy.
What stories from Scripture have helped you adjust your perspective to circumstances and pray with endurance?
Susie Larson: Someone once said that if there’s a story in Scripture you return to time and time again, then there’s something of your life-script hidden within that story. In other words, there are deeper truths God wants to show you from that story that will better help you to understand your own story.
I’ve returned to the Old Testament story of Joseph more times than I can count. I’ve walked through much hardship. I “watched” how Joseph handled heartbreak, delay, disappointment, and injustice with such a heart of honor. His response to hardship challenged and confronted me and helped me to persevere.
There’s even a little nuance that jumped off the page one day. He was unjustly imprisoned, unjustly accused, yet he stewarded his heartbreak to such a degree that he was available to encourage others when they needed it (think about that for a moment). In Genesis 40 we read how Joseph noticed that the chief baker and cupbearer looked troubled. In so many words, Joseph asked, “Why the long face?” That floors me!
If I want God to use me in every season, then I need to steward my perspective and guard my heart so I never get so wrapped up in my stuff that I miss those around me.
What do you mean Christians should focus on the bigger story?
Susie Larson: When we encounter life’s disappointments, we instinctively start to think small. We pull inward, focus on our hurts, and view our lives totally out of context. In Your Powerful Prayers I explore two women who faced their disappointments in different ways.
In the book of Ruth, for example, we read about Naomi. She, her husband, and two sons lived in Bethlehem when a famine hit the land. And instead of seeing themselves in the bigger story and seeking God to find out why their people were suffering (Bethlehem meant ‘house of bread’ after all), they kept themselves in the smaller story and traveled outside God’s protective boundaries for them. One scholar wrote that Elimelech traded one famine for three funerals. Read the story and you’ll see the consequences of such a devastating choice.
But if you stay with that story, you’ll see how God went ahead and made a plan to redeem the story. Ruth, a Moabite dared to step outside her small story and trust God with the unknown. And God grafted her into the lineage of Christ. This is a too-quick synopsis of this amazing story, but read it again, with fresh eyes.
Let’s apply it to us today. What does it look like to pull ourselves out of the smaller story so we can pray big prayers? Consider your own heartbreak. Step back and know that though you’re uniquely loved and understood by God, you’re not alone in your struggle, and you’re not the only one who’s walking through what you’re walking through.
For example, if you have a prodigal, what if you stepped into the bigger story and asked God to bring all of the prodigals home, and to use them in mighty ways in the days ahead? Or what if you prayed for every struggling marriage, and asked God for a revival of love in the church today?
Don’t let the enemy isolate you in your troubles or convince you that your story doesn’t matter. Because when you step into the bigger story, and pray on a bigger scale, that enemy will be sorry he ever messed with you.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Susie Larson: I’m on Bible Gateway multiple times a day. I work as a talk-radio host and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for Bible Gateway. I often do quick searches when callers wonder about certain passages. I have Bible Gateway open constantly whenever I’m writing a book. It’s a priceless tool for which I’m so very grateful!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Susie Larson: Look around and you’ll notice how amped up the culture is; and what’s the default response? Fear. Anger. Self preservation. Yet, you know how would God have us live? With holy confidence and humble dependence.
My husband often says that things aren’t falling apart, they’re falling into place. We can trust God. And if we forget about his faithfulness, our default response to the times will be to either numb out on some faux comfort, or to shake our fists at the darkness as if that somehow makes things better.
But what if we prayed? What if we asked God to do the impossible in and through us? What if we dared to pray bold prayers and take faith risks in a way that not only changed the trajectory of our lives, but also hugely impacted the people in our midst?
I dare you to up your game. I dare you to boldly run into the presence of the Most High God and pray like you’ve never prayed before.
Bio: Susie Larson is a popular radio talk show host, national speaker, and the author of many books, including Your Beautiful Purpose: Discovering and Enjoying What God Can Do Through You, Blessings for the Morning: Prayerful Encouragement to Begin Your Day, and Bountiful Blessings. She has a passion to see women and men everywhere strengthened in their faith and mobilized to live out their high calling in Jesus Christ. Susie and her husband live near Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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