The Power of Bold Prayer
About the Guest
Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. It all sounds so simple, but is it really? Pastor Max Lucado takes us back to the battle of Jericho, a crisis the Israelites faced before reaching the Promised Land. Max reminds us that what secured the victory for the Israelites then is available to us now-bold prayers and an almighty God. Begin to take God at His word, and see God work in your life.
Pastor Max Lucado takes us back to the battle of Jericho. Max reminds us that what secured the victory for the Israelites then is available to us now-bold prayers and an Almighty God.
The Power of Bold Prayer
Bob: The Bible teaches that prayer offered in faith has an impact in our world. Max Lucado says that’s something we need to believe and something we need to practice.
Max: We’ve got to be careful. We don’t want to ever say that the power of prayer depends on the way we say it—that the power of prayer depends on the emotion that I put into it—but there is something about sincerity and heartfelt longing for God to do great things that touches the heart of God. It’s an astounding thought: “…the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much [James 5:16]”; right—the fiery prayers. So, let’s ask for some bold things and pray some bold prayers.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Max Lucado joins us today to talk about praying by faith and walking by faith—what that means / what that looks like. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity—this was a great privilege—Mary Ann and I spent a little more than a week in Israel. I remember, as we were driving east of Jerusalem on our way to the Dead Sea—I think the bus driver said, “Now, off to the left here, up to the north, is where Jericho is.” And I thought, “Well, let’s take—can’t we take the bus up to Jericho?” We didn’t. Have you been to Jericho?
Dennis: I have—last time I went to Israel—depends on who your guides are—
Dennis: —because Jericho, as I understand it, won’t allow a lot of Jewish guides—
Bob: Oh, it’s in Palestinian-occupied territory.
Dennis: Isn’t that right?
Max: That’s correct—right.
Dennis: So, they wouldn’t, necessarily, let us in. So, we just, kind of, drove by it.
Bob: I’m just curious if—Max Lucado is joining us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back to the program.
Max: Thank you. Thank you.
Bob: You’ve just written this book that’s all about Joshua and Jericho.
Have you been to Jericho?
Max: I have. I have. The last trip was year before last that I went. That—and you’re right, Dennis, because it depends on—you have to prearrange it, and we did. It was fascinating—fascinating. It’s a remarkable thing to see a structure that has been there so many, many years.
Bob: Tell us about what’s in modern-day Jericho, but tell us about the city when Joshua first saw it. It was pretty amazing—pretty massive.
Max: Especially for its day. You know, now, it probably wouldn’t grab our attention—but [then] two huge walls 40 to 50 feet tall, each—two concentric circles. If you could scale the first wall, then, you would come down and look and there would be one even taller that you would have to scale. So, it gave the soldiers plenty of time to protect the city of Jericho. It sat on the plains up on a bit of a rise. There are not too many hills there—but set up on a plain. So, it was really the safest place to be.
It was from there that the Canaanites kind of ran the country—or ran the area.
I don’t think we can overestimate how evil the people were. They practiced child sacrifice. They ran like roughshod over everyone in the area. It was kind of an ancient version of Nazism. They—these were the same people to whom God had been, according to the promise of God to Abraham, He had been reaching out for 400 years. So, we don’t know exactly what that means; but God had told Abraham, “After 400 years, this land will be your land.” But He knew, even then, that the people would never respond to Him.
Bob: And there are some folks listening who may be troubled by the idea that God raised up Joshua and this army to go and to ultimately destroy a city and a people. It’s kind of like: “What kind of a god does this?”
Max: I had to add an addendum to the book because, as I was teaching out of Joshua, I had that question so many times.
It’s just one of those difficult questions of Bible interpretation: “Why would God allow such violence to happen?”
Well, number one, it’s not common. It’s very unusual in Scripture for there to be this type / this level of violence; but number two, it is there. You can’t study the Book of Joshua without sensing that there was a lot of bloodshed that happened there. I think, in context, we have to understand that God had been exerting His kindness upon these people, longing for them to turn for four centuries. He who knows everything / He who knows the future as well as the past knew that their hearts were hard. So, in order to continue His promise and His plan, it was time for Him to claim the land. For many people, that’s a difficult truth. I understand that.
You know, we look at some of the actions of God to protect His namesake / to protect His plans to redeem His people, and sometimes, we shake our head and say: “You know, would He be that drastic? Would He go to that degree?”
And we love it when God does something wonderful—pouring grace and forgiveness out—but when God protects us by punishing those who are unjust / who have turned their hearts against Him, it’s more difficult for us to understand that; but I believe it is in God’s sovereign plan.
Dennis: Well, it’s interesting to me, as I revisit the story of Joshua and the battle at Jericho, that God took the nation through that city to get into the land that He had promised them—I mean, there are a lot of other routes you could go. Now, you can’t walk through the—well, yes, God could have parted the water and allowed them to walk through the Dead Sea; but they went through this city that was, as you’ve mentioned, this stronghold of evil. Are you drawing a parallel, for followers of Christ, that in order for them to get where God wants them to go, they’re going to have to deal with some strongholds as well?
Max: Exactly, Dennis. Thanks for making that so clear because I think that each one of us has a Jericho that we need to deal with.
All of our Jericho’s are not the same, but there is something—there is a mindset, there is a presupposition, there is an attitude—there is something that is really keeping us from moving into that next level of victory, and faith, and joy, and peace.
God sent His Son, Jesus, so we could find joy and find peace. Many Christians are not finding it. I think it’s because they are not dealing with these strongholds that they have. Remember, the big idea of Joshua is that He was leading the children of Israel out of wilderness wandering into receiving their inheritance.
Jesus is our Joshua. He comes to lead us out of wilderness wandering / out of purposeless meandering—walking in circles—and to lead us into a time of victory that will continue into eternal life. As He leads us in, we find these mindsets. Oftentimes, they are passed down to us from our parents—my mother was a worrier / so, I’m a worrier—
—our tendencies toward alcohol, or chemical abuse, or even suicide; you know?
So, we have these mindsets / these attitudes. We must deal with them, and we have to deal with them through spiritual weaponry. That’s what the story of Joshua is all about—helping us press into a new season of victory by overcoming mindsets that are holding us back.
Dennis: One of the things you talk about in the book is praying some God-sized prayers. If you are facing a big obstacle / a big challenge, lean into God in a big way. I love the quote by A.W. Tozer. Bob has heard me quote this many times in messages and on FamilyLife Today, but it is a good reminder for us. Tozer said: “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.” I think God wants us to pray some God-sized prayers; don’t you?
Max: Absolutely! And this prayer that Joshua prayed is such a God-sized prayer.
There are five kings—this is toward the end of the Book of Joshua—actually, it’s toward the middle; but the back half of the Book of Joshua is a lot of genealogy. So, right at the end of the action of the Book of Joshua, there is this account of five kings who collaborated. They create kind of a consortium. They all come together. They formed their own United Nations, I guess; and they just said, “We’re going to battle Joshua together.”
They come down on Joshua, and Joshua responds in great faith. He goes right back with his men, and he attacks these armies / these five kings; and they turn and they start running down a hill—they are trying to get away from Joshua. Joshua is beginning to get such traction that he knows, if he had more time, he could defeat these armies, and it could be over with; but he’s running out of daylight—he’s running out of daylight. If night falls, then, these armies are going to have an opportunity to regroup and, maybe, even escape.
Max: So, Joshua cries out: “Lord! Don’t let the sun go down. Don’t let the...” What a wild prayer!
What a wild prayer! But the thing that’s more amazing than the prayer is the fact that God answered it. God stayed the sun—He kept the sun from going down so that Joshua could discover great victory.
Bob: I think most of our listeners probably know that we’re talking to Max Lucado—well-known author/pastor. He’s written a book called Glory Days that’s about the life of Joshua.
I have to tell you a story that was shared, here on FamilyLife Today, by a guy you may know. He is a pastor from Southern California. He’s name is Ed Underwood. Ed had a chronic critical skin disease that had him hospitalized. His whole family and the doctors thought this skin disease might actually take his life.
He tells the story about the night that the elders from the church came and stood around his bed. They were praying for him; and he said: “I was—I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t open my eyes. I was helpless in the bed, but I could hear the prayers.”
And he said, “Honestly, I was lying in bed, listening to these brothers / these elders praying theologically-precise prayers”—you know, “Lord, if it’s Your will….”
He said, “In the middle of this,”—he said, “one old guy from the church / one of the older leaders of the church came in.” He said, “He threw himself across the bed and started crying out to God, saying: ‘Lord, we need Ed. Lord, don’t take Ed! We need him!’” And he said, “I’m lying there, thinking, ‘Finally, somebody’s praying for me!’”—right? [Laughter]
But that story has stood out to me because, so many times, I want to pray like the good kid in class who comes forward and does it just the way the teacher wants it so I’ll get patted on the head and the teacher would say, “That was very nice,” rather than crying out with any passion saying, “This is what’s on my heart!”
And the truth is—God knows what is going on, and He invites me to just cry out; right?
Max: Absolutely: “The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”; right?—the fiery prayers. And again, we’ve got to be careful. We don’t want to ever say that the power of prayer depends on the way we say it—
Max: —and the power of prayer depends on the emotion that I put into it. But there is something about sincerity and heartfelt longing for God to do great things that touches the heart of God. But I believe that we are children of God, we are ambassadors of God, we are co-heirs with Christ; consequently, God hears us when we come into His presence. So, let’s ask for some bold things and pray some bold prayers.
Dennis: So, what’s the most courageous prayer that Max Lucado has ever prayed?
Max: Some years ago, when I was about 53, I went through some serious health issues. My heart—apparently, inherited something from my dad’s side of the family.
I just did not know if I could continue ministering—I was just tired all of the time. I just would—I couldn’t stay focused in a meeting. I couldn’t get my projects done. I couldn’t really get my sermons prepared. I just felt like I was being overwhelmed by this physical challenge.
I can remember climbing out of bed, in the middle of the night, saying, “Lord, I know I’ve got great doctors, and I know I’ve got great care; but I need You to restore my heart—just renew my energy—and grant me more years of service.” I think the Lord told me, “I’m giving you 30 more years.” So, I’m pressing forward, from the age of 53, knowing I have to the age of 83—30 years of ministry and service. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever have to slow down some—I don’t know exactly what that means. That’s kind of a bold thought to me, but I’m going to stand on that. I’m just going to believe that God has extended my life and has extended my ministry.
Dennis: God’s fully capable.
Max: He is.
Dennis: He is fully capable. So, you’re very much alive. You’re very much—your—
Max: —energy has been restored?
Max: I’ve never seen more fruit in my whole life.
I still have challenges / I still have problems; but you know what? I’m feeling a sense of victory and power that I did not know before I offered that prayer—before I had that heart problem.
Bob: And that’s what glory days are.
Bob: And I think listeners may have experienced these times—when you are striding in faith, when you sense the presence of God, when you are aware that He’s at work, when you’re seeing Him working in Your midst—that you go: “Yes! This is what I was made for!”
Dennis: And there are some other listeners, who are going: “When I was a little boy, I threw myself across the bed of my dad and asked God to heal him and He didn’t. He didn’t rescue me.”
Bob: Or “I thought I heard Him say, ‘30 years’; and now, I’m facing a disease that the doctors tell me I’m going to die. So, did I not hear God right?”
Dennis: Yes, I mean, Max, this has always been one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith.
God calls us to walk by faith. He’s got a timetable, and we’ve got a timetable; and sometimes, they don’t match.
Dennis: That can create loss, discouragement, hopelessness.
Max: Yes. You know, the other prayer in the Bible that I really treasure, in addition to the prayer of Joshua, is the prayer of Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she came to Jesus at the wedding and they’d run out of wine. She said, “They have no more wine.” That’s a very simple statement, but that’s a bold statement—you know, like: “Jesus, are You going to do something about it? Are You going to help us out here?”
She was depleted. So, she took a problem and brought it to Christ. Then, Christ—remember?—said: “Dear woman, what does this have to do with Me? My time has not yet come.” And then, Mary turns to the servants and says, “Whatever He says to you, that is what I want you to do.”
That prayer / that interaction tells me that prayer is not so much telling God what to do as it is trusting God to do what is right.
“Here’s what I want, Lord, but whatever You say—that’s what I want.” So, prayer is not trying to get God to do something I want to do as much as it is asking God to do what is right, after I’ve made my request.
Bob: Well, it’s in part why Jesus, in instructing us to pray—says at the front-end, “Thy will be done,”—it needs to be an intercession because, anything you’re going to ask after that, you’ve already asked for God to do His will.
Max: Absolutely. Absolutely—and even Jesus experienced the unanswered prayer—right?—in the Garden of Gethsemane [Luke 22:42]—at least, unanswered prayer from that perspective. Now, we look back and say, “Well, God was answering our prayer.”
This idea of presenting our request to God with boldness / with confidence because we have a High Priest who can understand us—we make our request / we leave them with Him and say, “Whatever He says, that is what I want.”
Dennis: There may be a listener who needs to be reminded of what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ asked for the cup of suffering to be removed from Him so He didn’t have to do it; right?
Max: Exactly—and the cup of suffering was that phrase that suggested the death of Jesus on the cross. Christ knew what was coming; and He said, “Is there any other way?” He prayed it three times; and the answer was, “No, this is the way.” Jesus trusted that. After that time of prayer, He became a man of courage; and He went into the weekend of suffering with that courage. He died on the cross for our sins; and He rose from the dead, victorious, on Sunday morning as a picture and proof that He can raise us from the dead as well.
Dennis: And you had just a brief phrase there, Max—that I want to make sure our listeners heard—you said something to the effect: “God, the Father, had a higher purpose than removing the cup of suffering from Christ. He had our well-being in mind; and as a result, we now can come into a relationship with Him because of that.”
Max: God has this incredible vision for how things are going to unfold.
One of the greatest challenges we have, right now, is recognizing that our lives on this earth are so brief, and they’re so small, and they’re so quick. Really, the reason we are here is to make a decision, “Do we want to be a part of God’s great dream or not?” because God has this immense dream that will so far outlive this time on earth that the Bible says, “This life on earth is like a breath,”—it’s just a shadow / it’s just passing.
God has a dream. That dream includes you, and me, and every person, who is listening, to be a part of a Kingdom in which He will reign with us and we will reign with Him forever.
Bob: At the end of the Book of Joshua, he makes a speech to the nation that’s a speech that says: “Look, there is a choice before you. Here is what I’m choosing, but you’ve got to decide what you’re going to choose.” That speech—we know it today because we’ve heard people say Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
This is at the end of the book. He’s been serving the Lord all of that; but he’s still reaffirming: “This is the kind of person we are going to be;” right?
Max: “Everyday, we choose faith / everyday, we can either choose faith or fear; and we choose faith,”—that’s what Joshua is saying: “I’m going to keep choosing faith. I’m going to keep believing God is with me. I’m going to keep trusting His Word. I’m going to keep being obedient to Him. I’m going to choose faith.”
I think, for some people, this is easier than others. Some people just seem to have a heart of faith they are born with; but I think for all of us, we have this choice, every single day: “Choose faith or choose fear.” And I’m praying we choose faith.
I want to just challenge that person—who feels stuck / who feels like they haven’t made any spiritual advances in forever—that they are still struggling with the same temptations they struggled with a decade ago. Let’s break out of that. Let’s say: “Lord, I’m ready for a new day. I’m ready for a fresh revelation of how strong You can be. Please, Lord.” And begin to believe, by faith, that God will lead us into a new level.
Bob: Well, and I think folks who get a copy of your book and read through it are going to get some help in that direction too. Let me just mention—we’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s called Glory Days: Living Your Promised Land Life Now. You can order the book by going to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We’ll send it out to you. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Max: I love that sermon you talked about that Joshua gave—I guess it was sermon / it was a speech. He also said this in that same message—he said, “Not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you.” In other words, God kept every single promise. He never let a promise be made that He couldn’t keep, and He kept every single promise. Our God is a promise-keeping God.
Dennis: You know, you spent so much time in the Book of Joshua, I was going to ask, here at the end of the broadcast, to have you kind of become a Joshua and turn to the audience and give a charge—
—but you just did it. [Laughter] You really did. I hope our listeners will take that charge to heart and not cave into their doubts / not allow the stronghold to continue to latch hold of them and to define their lives but to break free in faith, surrender to Christ, and keep on following Him. You can live out God’s purposes for you. It just means you—when you fail, when you doubt, when you find yourself tripped and fallen—you get back up and you keep going.
And Max, I’m glad God answered your prayer, back when you were 53—there is a sparkle in your eye. This book has been written because I think it’s a needed book for our day. Love you / appreciate you and look forward to your next journey, up here to Arkansas. We’ll keep letting you, Texans, into Arkansas—but only temporarily. [Laughter]
Max: Do I need a passport?
Dennis: You do! [Laughter]
Max: Thank you very much.
Bob: You know—before you do go, I know some of the books you’ve written have been kids’ books. You have a heart for—
Bob: —sharing the gospel with kids / sharing the good news about who Jesus is with kids. We want to give you a set of these ornaments that our team has put together called “The Twelve Names of Christmas™”—
Max: Thank you.
Bob: —that communicate the truth about who Jesus is to elementary and preschool kids—a dozen ornaments. There is a storybook in there as well. This is something you can take with you and share with your family—and as grandkids come into the Lucado clan—you can use this with them.
And let me just tell our listeners too—we have “The Twelve Names of Christmas” available—a lot of families calling us this week to order these 12 ornaments, designed for children, along with the accompanying storybook. You can find out more about this resource when you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call us, toll-free, at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, this has been a pretty good week—to have Max Lucado joining us / Tony Evans earlier this week.
Dennis: Not bad! In fact, it’s been quite a year. Listen to some of our guests we’ve had on FamilyLife Today—Crawford and Karen Loritts, Matt Chandler, Russell Moore, David Platt, Dan Allender, Francis and Lisa Chan. All of these Christian leaders have been here because a group of people have stood with us, who are heroes. They are people who give to the broadcast and to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. They’re stakeholders in this ministry. They are setting up these leaders to speak to millions of people.
And I just want to say: “If you haven’t given, now is a great opportunity.”
Dennis: Bob’s going to tell you about it, but we’ve got a special matching challenge out this month that is a real—it’s a real challenge. If we don’t raise the money, we don’t get all of what has been pledged to FamilyLife Today.
Bob: Yes, the matching gift works like this: When you make a donation during the month of December—
—let’s say you make a $50 donation. We have a group of donors who have agreed to match that two-to-one. So, they will add $100 in response to your $50. FamilyLife winds up with a $150 donation. And they’ve agreed to do that up to a total of $2 million.
So, we’re trying to take full advantage of this special matching-gift opportunity. To do that, we need you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com—make a donation today online. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make a donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to us—and I’ll give you our mailing address here in just a minute.
Dennis: And when you give, you’re, not only touching a life, you’re changing families and legacies for generations to come. Would you be one of the heroes of this ministry and stand with us, here, as we finish our yearend strong? We need you to stand with us now.
Bob: If you’d like to mail your donation to us, the address is FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
We look forward to hearing from you; and “Thanks,” in advance, for your support of this ministry.
And with that, we’re done for the week. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family can worship together in church this weekend, and then, join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about how challenging the holiday season can be, if you’re in a stepfamily, and how challenging things can be if everybody is getting together over the holidays. Ron Deal will be with us to discuss that. Hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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