Learning How to Pray from Napolean Bonaparte

I read, in a book, this story about Napolean.  It goes like this:

The great French conqueror, Napolean, in his quest to rule the world, was quite surprised on one occasion when he encountered unexpected resistance while attempting to capture an island in the Mediterranean.  The fighting was fierce and he lost many good men in the battle before finally overcoming the enemy.

Napolean and his generals were having a celebration feast when from out of nowhere, it seemed, a young officer approached him.  Napolean saw the young man and asked abruptly, “What do you want?”

The young man said, “Sir, please give me this island.”

The generals were deeply offended at the brashness of the young man.  But, suddenly, Napolean asked for pen and ink, promptly writing out a deed to the island.  He then signed it and gave it to the impetuous officer.

By this time the generals were astounded.  They asked their leader, “How could you give away the island to that young man when so many of our men paid such a high price to obtain it?”

Napolean responded, “He honored me by the magnitude of his request.”

Did you catch that?  “He honored me by the magnitude of his request”!!

You know, I think sometimes we simply pray too small.  We pray prayers that might come to pass on their own because we’re afraid to believe for the impossible.  We pray safe prayers, for things that we can make happen on our own with hard work and perseverance.  We pray for mud piles, but God wants us to pray for islands!

This story about Napolean provokes me to ask God for the impossible, implausible, and downright grandiose.  I believe the Lord is honored by those kinds of prayers.

What’s YOUR island?  Let me encourage you to bring your massive, hairy, crazy dream to God and see what happens.  In fact, why don’t you start right here?  If you’re willing to put yourself out there and share your impossible prayer in the comments section, I’ll commit to agreeing in prayer with you for it.

If you’re reading this, and would like to pray for the requests posted here, just hit that reply link under the request and let that person know you’re praying for them.

I’ll start OK?  My big prayer is to be able to take three missions trips a year, including one to Africa this August to visit the well our church just financed.  It’s a $4,300 trip, but it might as well be a million dollar trip for us.

Now how about you?

Getting God’s Will Right

“I just want to know God’s will.”  “I just need some clarity.”  “I want to make sure I’m not missing God’s plan for me.”

Ever find yourself saying these things?  I know I have, many times.  Heck, I’m the king of “I just want to be in God’s will.”  In fact I’ve spent entire seasons of my life (sometimes lasting a year) trying to determine God’s will for me.

It can be a really unpleasant place to be, this position of in-between, uncertainty, and longing to know what to do next.  After all, we just want to make God happy right?

Although I can’t sit here and tell you exactly how God wants you to spend your life, I can tell you a few things that I’ve learned that will help you discover His plan without losing your mind in the process.

Learn to trust.  A cry for “clarity” is often an indication that we really don’t trust Him.  We want to see more clearly, but that’s because we don’t have faith that our lives are really in His hands.  Learn to accept uncertainty with grace and believe that He will not abandoned you to fumble around in the dark.

Do something. Sometimes we put the brakes on serving or committing to anything for fear that we won’t be available once we figure out what God’s will is.  Stop being so selfish!  There are bigger needs out there than the warm fuzzies you’re seeking.  Don’t you believe that God is big enough to move you on  when He’s ready to reveal His plan?  1st Peter 4:10 tells us to use our gifts to serve others.  To not be serving is to be out of God’s will, so serve.

Pray. To say that you’re “seeking God’s will” but to not be praying is simply lying about what you’re doing.  You’re just worrying about your future.  Seriously, there’s no single act that will bring you closer to discovering God’s will than praying.  In fact, God’s will is that you pray!  (1st Thessalonians 5:18)

Cultivate intimacy with the Father. In times when God is not offering you a plan or a map, He is offering you Himself.  Don’t mistake his silence for indifference.  It’s a call for intimacy and, in time, you’ll learn to cherish that quiet intimacy more than anything else.

God’s will is a call to become. At the end of the day, Father God is far more interested in who you are becoming than what you are doing.  Focus on becoming all that He created you to be and the doing will come naturally.  In fact, you may even find yourself stepping into His plan without even realizing it!

One last thing: God is not cruel.  He is not playing “find the plan” and deliberately making it hard on you.  He’s not high fiving the angels saying, “look at that idiot trying to find my will.”  His will is not a needle in a haystack that you have to find or God will be unhappy with you. He loves you and wants you to experience “life abundantly”.  He may even have several options for you to choose from.  He probably even wants you to have a wonderful time exploring them!

Blood from a Turnip

“You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.”

I heard that phrase lots while I was growing up and, to be honest with you, I had no idea what it meant until well into adulthood (along with many other colloquialisms, I’m a slow learner).

The thing that really brought this alive to me was ministry, and dealing with such a variety of people.  I remember praying for a young man one night at the tail end of a church service.  He came asking for prayer because he was struggling with thoughts of violence.  He claimed he would drive the streets at night looking for a fight to pick.  He said he couldn’t help himself and really wanted God to intervene.  Out of the blue (or by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) I asked him what kind of movies he liked to watch.  He proceeded to give me a list of the most violent, agro-filled, angry films on the market.  What surprised me was that he really didn’t know why he felt so violent all the time!  He was clueless to the fact that all the garbage he was taking in was making its way out.

What we fill our souls with doesn’t end with our subconscious reactions to entertainment though.  One lesson I’m constantly reminding myself of, as a minister, is that I can’t give away what I don’t have.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to be filling up.  If we’re going to give others more than pithy sayings, trite answers, and fake smiles, then we MUST be filling ourselves up!  We must be on our knees before Jesus, we must be filling up on His word, and we must be gleaning from the faith generals that have gone before us.

So many leaders are running on an empty tank and they’re useless.  They’ve exchanged refueling for the sense of accomplishment they get from working ridiculous hours.

OK, I’m going down a rabbit trail so I’ll end.

You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, you can’t get salt water from a fresh water stream, and you can’t get depth, wisdom, and anointing from a leader who isn’t deliberately being filled with the Spirit and wisdom of God.

Take time to be filled up.  Read, pray, rest, and grow.  The people you are leading need you to.

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Tozer Tuesdays

Another edition of Tozer Tuesdays, prayers from his book The Pursuit of God They have profoundly impacted me and I hope they challenge and move you as you pray them too.

Lord, make me childlike.  Deliver me from the urge to compete with another for place or prestige or position.  I would be simple and artless as a little child.  Deliver me from pose and pretense.  Forgive me for thinking of myself.  Help me to forget myself and find my true peace in beholding Thee.  That Thou may answer this prayer I humble myself before Thee.  Lay upon me Thy easy yoke of self-forgetfulness that though it I may find rest.



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