Do you ever wonder, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” Do you wish you could see the evidence that prayer changes lives? Are you tired of playing it safe with your faith? Does prayer really move the heart of God? What does it mean to pray boldly and powerfully? What are dangerous prayers?
In this Q&A, Craig Groeschel (@craiggroeschel) talks about his book, Dangerous Prayers: Because Following Jesus Was Never Meant to Be Safe (Zondervan, 2020).
Explain your book’s message.
Craig Groeschel: I’m incredibly passionate about this book because it’s really a reflection of the personal struggles I’ve had with my prayer life. I think there are many Christians who know they should pray, who want to have great faith when they pray, but often don’t. We get easily distracted or we end up praying really safe, boring prayers, like, “God, bless my food and keep me safe today.” You almost wonder if God sits in heaven going, “You’re probably going to be okay today, you’re probably going to be safe. And you want me to bless your double cheeseburger and fries? I’ll do the best I can with that or whatever.”
This book really is born out of my own desire for more in my prayer life. Hopefully, I can help give people a pathway to fall more intimately in love with God by not praying safe, docile prayers, but instead have more of a daring, radical faith to believe in a God who says all things are possible through him.
What was your writing process for this book?
Craig Groeschel: Well, there was a guy that joked with me one time and asked me if I really believed God could do anything. I said yes. He asked if I really believed in the power of prayer, and I said yes again. His response was something like, “Good, I asked because your prayers are so lame.” He was critiquing my prayer life and pointing out how flat, boring, and dull it was. It really stuck with me and convicted me. I realized I was praying for the same things, in the same way, over and over again. In other contexts, people say, “If you want something different, you have to do something different.” I wanted more with God, but my prayer life hadn’t changed.
This book was born out of a personal desire to stretch my faith. I studied this and shared a lot of these ideas with our church. What I found is that it really resonated with many Christians who are sick and tired of what I call self-centered Christianity, where all the prayers are about me, what I want, and what I hope God will do for me. Instead, these prayers are more selfless, more God-centered, more others-focused, and more eternity-minded than praying about the normal day-to-day stuff we often focus on.
Are you saying no prayer should be safe?
Craig Groeschel: I think prayer is inherently dangerous because we’re surrendering and submitting our desires to God. I wouldn’t ever say don’t pray for the safety of your kids. I think any loving parent would want their kids to be safe. I don’t think I’d ever say don’t pray that you have a good day, because I hope you do have a great day. But if our prayers are only for parking spots and blessing food, we’re almost insulting our God who can do so much more.
When I look at some of the prayers in Scripture, they’re much more dangerous. In one of the prayers we talk about in the Old Testament, David asked God and gave God permission to search him. That’s a dangerous prayer: search me, God. Then he prayed, “See if there is any offensive way in me.” In other words, if there’s any part of me that’s impure, unclean, unrighteous, displeasing to you, God, I give you permission to show it to me. That’s not a prayer I was taught to pray growing up in Sunday School. That’s a dangerous prayer. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. “God, I give you permission, in fact, I invite you to do something more in me, to search my heart. I’ll bare my soul before you.” When I started praying that particular prayer, God started showing me more impurities in my own soul that he would help cleanse through that dangerous prayer.
What is another prayer you cover in the book?
Craig Groeschel: I almost hate to tell you the second one because it’s so scary and dangerous to pray. But I’ll give you the story behind it. When we were starting Life.Church, I had a mentor who was an expert in church planting. His name is Gary Walter. He’s helped a lot of people plant really strong, life-giving churches. We had breakfast one time and he was giving me advice. He said, “I have one promise for you, that I guarantee God’s going to do.” I was so excited because we were starting this new church, and I thought he was going to say, “God’s going to use it to reach people and hundreds are going to come to faith in Christ.” So, I was leaning in, waiting for this great promise, and he said, “My only promise is this: through the church you start, God will break you.” When he said it, it was like all the life in my body just oozed out. It was a bit of a shock to think about how God would break me.
That one conversation started me on a journey where I asked myself, “Am I willing to actually have the faith to pray and ask God to break me?” After I talked about this at our church, I went to my small group where we were in a cozy living room with a fire going and music playing. Almost everyone in the group said, “I’m too afraid to pray that.” We don’t want pain. We don’t want hardships. But we know when we read Scripture that the difficult things are the very things that God often uses to strengthen us, to draw us close to Jesus, to conform us to the image of his will, to create within us a spirit of perseverance. It’s the hard things that often change us. We’re even told to consider it pure joy when we face trials, and yet we’re often praying away the very things that make us closest to Jesus. So, that’s a really long answer to the second prayer we talk about in the book, which is the prayer “Break me, God. I give you permission to do whatever it takes to bring me to a place of complete dependence on you.”
Why do you say “send me” could be the most dangerous prayer of all?
Craig Groeschel: This prayer comes from the Old Testament, in Isaiah chapter 6. It’s a really bad year for God’s people. The beloved King Uzziah, who everyone loved and trusted, had died. Isaiah sees a vision of the Lord in his temple and these angelic beings worshiping God, and God asks the question, “Who is going to go and do my mission?”
What I love about Isaiah is that he’s so counter-cultural to what we’d have today. If there’s an assignment somewhere, we want to know how much we’re going to get paid, what the benefits are, what’s the school system going to be like, if we like the climate, if we’re going to be comfortable. We want all these details. Instead, Isaiah prayed a very, very dangerous prayer: “Here I am, Lord. [I don’t need to know any details. I’m not even going to ask any questions. If you ask me to do something, my answer is going to be yes.] Here I am, send me.
Why do you think these three prayers are the most important prayers for someone to pray?
Craig Groeschel: I think there are a lot of different ways to pray dangerous prayers. Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but your will be done.” That’s a prayer of surrender that’s dangerous.
I chose these prayers because, in my mind, they most get in the face of what I call cultural Christianity. Today, in some parts of the world, like where I live, it’s pretty easy to call yourself a Christian but not really live like it. You can comfortably say you believe in God but, most of the time, not have to change the way you live. These three dangerous prayers we talk about are incredibly counter-cultural and can really help us grow closer to Jesus.
Why do you think it’s so difficult for us to want to pray these dangerous prayers?
Craig Groeschel: I think ultimately, what we want is for God to do what we want, and that’s why our prayers are safe: “God, bless me, protect me, help my kids grow up fine, help me win the lottery.” Whatever it is, our safe prayers are asking God to do things that benefit me. These prayers aren’t saying, “God, you’re here to serve me.” They’re saying, “God, I’m here to serve you.”
Jesus didn’t call us to be safe. He didn’t call us to be comfortable. He didn’t call us to be cozy. He called us to deny ourselves and follow him. That’s a dangerous calling. “Search me, show me my sin.” That’s dangerous. “Break me, God, of myself, my own self-sufficiency.” That’s dangerous. “Send me, God, anywhere. Interrupt me and my answer is yes.” That’s an incredibly dangerous prayer. And I believe on the other side of that is real intimacy, real faith, and ultimately, real effectiveness and fruitfulness for God.
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Who did you write this book for?
Craig Groeschel: I wrote Dangerous Prayers for people who would say they’re a Christian, but they know there’s something more. They feel stuck. They might go to church sometimes, and they might even try to pray, but they haven’t sensed the presence of God in a long time. Maybe they haven’t ever seen a movement of God in their lives. They know they have spiritual gifts, they want to make a difference, and yet, they’re not living out the full potential of their calling. I believe, often times, it’s out of a posture of safety.
In the book, I talk about praying dangerous prayers by using the parts of the body that God created. I actually pray a version of this every day. I start with my mind, my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my arms, and then my feet. I’ll pray, “God, give me the mind of Christ. May my thoughts be pleasing to you. May my eyes only look on things that are pure. God, when it comes to my ears, may I hear your truth and reject the lies of the evil one. May the words of my mouth be pleasing to you. May I lift others up and point them to Jesus. God, I know my heart is deceitful above all things. God, cleanse and purify my heart. May my hands offer your love and assistance to people. May my feet take me to places where I can deliver the good news of who Jesus is.” Those are dangerous prayers that you can start off the day with and say, “With every part me, God, I want to consecrate myself to you for your purposes and your service.”
I believe this book will speak to the people who’d say they’re curious about Christ and want to serve Jesus, but their life doesn’t reflect it. For someone who says they look more like the culture than they do like something that’s different, and they want more.
Why is it so significant to surrender ourselves each day with these dangerous prayers?
Craig Groeschel: These aren’t prayers to pray only once, just like following Jesus isn’t a onetime decision. The apostle Paul said he died to himself daily. This is incredibly important because the trajectory of our heart naturally is deceitful. It’s not toward the things of God, but it’s toward the things of this world. If we’re a follower of Christ, there’s a battle going on every day between our flesh, or our sinful nature, and our spiritual nature. Every day we have to die and crucify that fleshly nature.
So, every day we pray, “God, I want you to search me and show me where I’m off track today.” Every day, “God, I allow you to break me. If there’s something that needs to be cleansed or transformed, break me.” Every day, “God, I’m on call, I want to be available to do your will.” For me, I wake up thinking about my agenda and what I want to accomplish. But a “send me” prayer, helps me say, “God, I’m looking for you to interrupt me. I want to have eyes to see the needs and people who I can help and bless and serve and show God’s love to. It disrupts the trajectory that’s headed toward self, and it moves our heart toward heaven.
Why is this book needed today?
Craig Groeschel: Many people look at my life and think that because I have a good marriage, a good wife, good kids, and I’m leading a good church that I must be madly and passionately in love with Jesus. But truthfully, there have been many times where I’m distracted and living for things that don’t matter. If I can get to that place in this environment where I’m a pastor and surrounded by the things of God every day, think about the mom who is raising three kids, working two jobs. Or the dad who is trying his best to pay the bills, or the student who is facing all kinds of temptation. If it’s really, really difficult for me, I’m assuming it’s really, really difficult for a lot of people.
I wrote Dangerous Prayers with a raw, gut-level passion and knowing that I wanted this and needed this. I wasn’t even sure I could translate my thoughts into words, but I wanted to do everything I could to pour my heart out about my brokenness, my selfishness, my small prayers, my faithlessness, my dead prayers, the times when I don’t pray, the times I don’t even know if prayer works, the times when I just want to give up. I wanted to open up my heart and put words on the page that inspire people to pursue a real, raw faith with God. I wouldn’t say I have it all the time, but when I have it, the fire is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.
What would you say to someone who is scared to pray these prayers?
Craig Groeschel: Most of us can look back on a time where we went through something that we wouldn’t wish on anyone, but we also wouldn’t trade it for anything. That to me is what the other side of these prayers are like. They’re daunting, they’re scary, they’re intimidating, and they feel like a mountain too big to climb. But when you pray it, God really will reveal something to you. You’ll find yourself broken before him with nothing to depend on but him. You’ll be raw, ready, and completely available for the assignments he’s sending you that you never thought you were capable of doing.
You have to walk through those scary times, those low times, those broken times, and those vulnerable times to reach the other side where you can say you wouldn’t change it for anything. That’s when you can say it was all worth it because you’ve been obedient, you’ve been transformed through the presence of God, and you’re being conformed in the image of Christ.
Dangerous Prayers is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: New York Times bestselling author Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of Life.Church, an innovative and pacesetting church meeting in multiple locations around the United States and globally online. He’s the author of several books, including Hope in the Dark, #Struggles, Fight, Soul Detox, The Christian Atheist, and It. Craig, his wife, Amy, and their six children live in Edmond, Oklahoma.
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