how I won't pray for you

I am regularly honored to have people ask me to pray for them.

Maybe it's because I'm a pastor, or maybe it's because I'm their friend. Perhaps it's a little bit of both.

Sometimes I sense they want me to pray for something I'm not sure I can pray for.

For example, I once had a family ask me to pray over a medal they were going to give to their son who was heading off to serve in the military. I have no critique for their motives. Essentially, they were asking that I could impart something supernatural onto the medal that would make it protect him while he was there.

Obviously, that's not something I can do. It's one thing for God to say to Moses, "Hey, your staff will do this now..." and another thing for me to make a similar declaration about an inanimate object without first checking in with God to see if He wanted to work that way.

So I prayed on my own for wisdom, and eventually circled back to the family. "I'm sorry," I began. "I can't do what you're asking me to do. What I do know is God would much rather first look out for your son's eternity than promise you he will be safe at every turn. He's challenged me to pray with and for your son for that reason. I'd also like to be a prayer partner and pray for his safe return and journey with God while he's away, but I can't pray for this medal to do what you want it to do."

They replied, "What if we make a donation to the church?"

I answered, "I wouldn't know about it because I'm not the guy around here who personally keeps track of any of that. I do that on purpose so I can give you honest answers like this one."

They thanked me for my honesty. It was pleasant.

Then I learned two days later that they'd left the church and found someone down the street who would pray for the medal like they wanted.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

A man once walked up to me and asked that I could pray that he and his wife would ultimately have a safe life. I asked if something was prompting this, like a threat or situation they were worried about. He explained there wasn't any threat, but he was sure God's best plan for them was that they'd live a safe life.

This happened a few months after the first situation occurred. Perhaps fueled by that a bit, I explained, "I can do one of two things. I can pray that prayer, and we can assume that God's greatest plan for your life is safety. Or I can pray that you will experience the life God has for you to live. That means I will not directly pray that God makes you safe, but allow Him to know and declare what the ideal tone for your life needs to be. If you want, I will pray one step further... that God makes you dangerous – so dangerous for Him that when you walk into a room all the demons of hell flee because of your presence. How does that sound?"

He nodded his head, thought for a moment and eventually said, "The second one." We prayed that prayer. That family is also still around in our church today... and yes, they're quite dangerous for Jesus.

I'll let you figure out your own application now.

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

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