Day 37: Prayer Contracts
More than a decade ago, I walked by a crack house on Capitol Hill, and God gave me a vision for a coffeehouse. It was a ridiculous prayer at that point because we had hardly any money and hardly any people. So we just kept walking around it the way the Israelites circled Jericho. Over the course of ive years, we must have laid hand son it, stood on it and circled it ten thousand times!
The owner’s original asking price was $1 millino, but the more we prayed, the more the price dropped. By the time we purchased it, we got it for $325,000. The amazing thing, however, is that four different parties offered more money for it than we did, including two real estate developers.
So how did we get it? My only explanation in Matthew 18:18, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Our prayers were hyperlinked to that promise. We genuinely believed that our vision was given by God. Just as Jesus hung out at wells – a natural gathering palce in the ancient world – we wanted to create a postmodern well where the church and community could cross paths. And this piece of property – one block from Union Station, kitty-corner to the Securities and Exhange Commision, and right in the heart of the historic Capitol Hill – was our Promised Land.
The word bind has legal connotation. It means “to place a contract on something.” This is precisely what happens when we pray in the will of God. Our prayers place a contract in the spiritual realm. So while February 7, 2022, is the date we put signatures on a piece of paper and took ownership of the property in the eyes of the government, the spiritual contract predates it by several yaers. The deal dates back to the first prayer circle we drew around that property.
I’ve emphasized a simple truth throughout this book, and I’d like to say it one more time for good measure: the purpose of prayer is not to get what you want; the goal of prayer is to discern what God wants, what God wills. But if your prayer is in the will of God, then it is backed by the full authority of the King and His kingdom.
A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So let me ask the question: When you think about God, what images come into your mind? The image that comes into my mind is a picture of Jesus with a lamb draped around his shoulders, because that is the painting that hung in my grandparents’ house. For most people, I suspect the dominant image is Jesus hanging on a cross. That gruesome cross is the most beautiful picture of what true love looks like. But let me make an observation that may sound a bit sacrilegious. You aren’t praying to a God who is hanging on a cross; Jesus is seated on the throne, and the earth is His footstool. All authority is His. And if you are His, then His authority is yours.
We grossly underestimate the authority that is ours because we are children of God. And we desperately need a vision like the one Isaiah had, who saw the Lord high and lifted up.
I think Tozer was right when he stated that a low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils and a high view of God is the solution to ten thousand problems. Our biggest problem is our small view of God. God is so much bigger than our biggest problems. God is so much better than our best thoughts. He is infinitely wiser and more gracious and powerful than anything we can imagine.
Day 39: Holy Ground
General Cecil Richardson is a retired chief of chaplains for the United States Air Force. While stationed in D.C., General Richardson attended one of our campuses and spoke to our men’s ministry one weekend. As a Major General, he understands chain of command. So when the Holy Spirit gives marching orders, he salutes, falls into rank, and obeys orders.
That’s what happened one Saturday when he was awakened at 5:30 a.m. with an inexplicable prompting to get new glasses. His wife had been telling him for years that he needed new glasses, but he had ignored her prompting. This new prompting was a strange one at a strange time. And the problem, of course, is that optical shops aren’t open early on weekends. So the general had a long breakfast at Denny’s and then visited the nearest vision center just as it opened.
When he got to the shop, Cecil felt led to tell the woman behind the counter that he was a chaplain. He resisted at first because he didn’t want her to think he wanted a military discount of some sort, but he felt she needed to know. So he saluted the Holy Spirit and simply said, “I’m a chaplain.” That’s when the woman started trembling as tears filled her eyes. She said, “My husband is in the military and stationed abroad, and I just found out I have cancer. I have no idea what to do, so yesterday a friend and I prayed that God would send me a chaplain. And here you are.”
These are the moments that give you goose bumps. These are the moments when you are reminded that God cares about every detail of your life. These are the moments when you take off your shoes, because you know you are standing on holy ground.
Can you imagine a more monotonous existence? And Moses did it for forty years. He must have felt that God had put him out to pasture. He once dreamed of delivering the people of Israel out of captivity, but that dream died when he killed an Egyptian taskmaster and fled the country as a fugitive. Moses spent the next forty years in spiritual exile on the backside of the desert.
Then God appeared to him in a burning bush.
I have a feeling that Moses got up that morning, put on his sandals, and picked up his staff, figuring it would be an ordinary day just like the day before, and the day before the day before, and the day before that. But you never know when or where or how God will invade the routine of your life.
Jewish scholars used to debate why God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. A thunderclap or lightning bolt would have been more impressive. And why the far side of the desert? Why not the palace or a pyramid in Egypt?
They concluded that God appeared to Moses in a burning bush for one simple reason: to show that no place is devoid of God’s presence, not even a bush on the backside of the desert. So they gave God a name I’ve learned to love: The Place. God is here, there, and everywhere. So it doesn’t matter where you are, God can meet you anywhere.
A few years ago, I heard author Ken Gaub share on of the most amazing prayer testimonies I’ve ever heard. He and his family were driving on I-75 near Dayton, Ohio, when they decided to stop at a restaurant. Ken’s wife and children went right into the restaurant while he stretched his legs. As he walked past a nearby gas station, he heard a pay phone ringing. The phone kept ringing, and Ken thought it might be some sort of emergency, so he answered it. He heard the voice of an operator, who said, “Long distance for Ken Gaub.”
Ken almost passed out. He said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I was just walking in the middle of nowhere and heard this phone ringing.” The confused operator said, “Is Ken Gaub there?” After making sure there weren’t any candid cameras, he said, “This is Ken Gaub.”
A voice on the other side of the line said, “Mr. Gaub, my name is Millie. I’m from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You don’t know me, but I need your help.” She went on to explain that she had just written a suicide note but had decided to give prayer one more shot. She said, “God, I don’t really want to do this.” And as she prayed, she remembered seeing Ken Gaub on television. She thought to herself, “If I could just talk with him, he could help me.” But this was pre-Google, making it extremely difficult to track him down. As she prayed, some numbers popped into her head, and she wrote them on a piece of paper. She couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God were giving me Ken’s number?” Then Millie said, “I decided to try calling the number, and I couldn’t believe it when the operator said it was you.”
Millie asked Ken, “Are you in your office?” When Ken said no, Millie sounded surprised. She said, “Then where are you?” Ken said, “You made the call. Don’t you know?” She said, “I don’t even know what area I’m calling. I just dialed the number on a piece of paper.” Ken said, “You won’t believe this. I’m in a phone booth in Dayton, Ohio.” Millie replied, “What are you doing there?” Ken said, “Answering a pay phone!”
Ken went on to draw this conclusion:
“I walked away from that phone booth with an electrifying sense of our heavenly Father’s concern for each of His children. What were the astronomical odds of this happening? With all the millions of phones and innumerable combinations of numbers, only an all-knowing God could have caused that woman to dial that number in that phone booth at that moment in time.”
When Ken hung up the phone, he walked over to the restaurant and sat down with his family. Still stunned, he said to his wife, Barb, “You won’t believe this. God knows where I am.”
Take Off Your Sandals
There are two moments in Scripture when God gives the same curious command: take off your sandals. The first one happens on the backside of the desert with Moses before God delivers Israel out of Egypt. The second one happens just before God delivers Jericho to Joshua. As Moses’ assistant, Joshua had heard the story of the burning bush a thousand times. But no one can live off someone else’s experience, someone else’s story. We need our own epiphany, our own testimony.
So why did God ask them to take off their sandals?
I think it was an act of humility, an act of worship. It was a way of acknowledging absolute dependence on God. It was a way of removing any obstacle that could get in the way of God and Moses, God and Joshua.
In case you car, one of idiosyncrasies is that I remove my shoes whenever I’m writing. I do it as a reminder that I need God’s anointing. It reminds me that I’m fulfilling a sacred calling.
One last observation, because sometimes the obvious eludes us: the holy ground wasn’t the Promised Land. It was right where Moses was standing. Don’t wait to worship God until you get to the Promised Land; you’ve got to worship along the way.
This is holy ground. This is a holy moment.
Right here. Right now.
Take off your sandals.
The purpose of prayer is not to give orders to God; the purpose is to get orders from God.