Hey, Calvary Fremont –
What do the following passages have in common?
And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Matthew 8:2-3
… a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” Matthew 8:5-7
One of the synagogue officials named Jairus implored Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.” And He went off with him… Mark 5:22-24
What do they have in common? Short prayers! At a normal rate of speech, I prayed the first request in 2.87 seconds. “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.” The second prayer is implied in the statement of the centurion. I prayed this in 4.07 seconds. The third prayer in the Mark passage took me all of 6.75 seconds. Whew – that exhausted me!
Consider the first passage – in 2.87 seconds, the leper got heaven moving his way! It took the centurion 4.07 to get Jesus to move! In under seven seconds of prayer, heaven mounted a rescue mission bound for Jairus’ house. These men knew how to pray! It seems like it takes us a lot longer to get Jesus to move. What’s going on?
If Jairus were the typical Evangelical, his prayer might sound something like this. “O Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, there is no one like You who is good and faithful. We thank You for creating us and preserving us. Thank You for Your Word to guide us and Your Spirit to empower us. Thank You for all the glorious gifts You have given. And thank You for our salvation in Christ. I praise You for the daughter You gave to my wife and me. And Lord, You know our daughter is sick and that she has this rare form of cancer that has kept her in the hospital and specialized treatment these last 18 months. You know that the doctors have tried everything and yet the disease continues to progress. And so, we humbly ask You, mighty Father, in the name of Your mighty Son, Jesus, that You would come down in power upon this little girl and heal her and raise her from the bed of affliction. You cleansed the lepers, opened blind eyes, and made the lame to walk. We believe You for this healing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
It took me more than 45 seconds to pray that prayer. That’s ten times longer than it took Jairus to ask Jesus for His power. Why does it take me (us) ten times longer than Bible characters to get Jesus moving our way? Why have our prayers become so loonnonnnggg? I think you would have something to say to your daughter if she came to you and said, “O father, thank you for helping to bring life to me. I am so blessed by your love and the clothes you buy for me and the house we live in and the toys you provide. I know that you think of me and different ways to make me feel special and I feel so secure in your love. Will you get me a drink of water, please?”
You’re thinking, “Yikes! What!? If that’s all you wanted, why didn’t you just get to the point without all the padding? Did you think you had to soften me up with all the flattery and praise?”
Why does it take us ten times longer than Jairus to ask Jesus to do something? It might sound like I’m making fun of the way that some of us pray, but I’m not – I think it’s symptomatic of a misunderstanding of the heart of God.
Some people pray long prayers thinking that they’ll impress God with their piety, and He’ll be more inclined to answer. This isn’t faith – this is coercion and manipulation. This praying doe does not lay hold of Jesus.
Some people pray long prayers thinking they’ll impress others with their piety. And many are impressed with those who pray long prayers. But those who pray this way are not praying in faith and do not lay hold of Jesus.
Some people pray longer prayers because they think they need to pray long prayers for God to hear and answer. This is what they’ve grown up with and been taught. They’ve been taught by those who don’t lay hold of Jesus. Once, in a prayer meeting, a man was going on and on and on, and a women butted in and said, “Just call Him Father and ask Him something!” Wise and timely words. God’s not looking for long prayers, He’s looking for faith. A two-second prayer can express faith where a five-minute prayer can be utterly devoid of faith. Don’t be impressed with the length of the prayer – be impressed with the depth of the faith! In two seconds, the leper laid hold of Jesus!
Some people pray long prayers because they couch their requests and express their faith in praise, worship, and communion. Their prayers are like Psalms. I get this and affirm this. Yet there are those who feel that a short prayer is dishonoring to the Lord. Not so – just glance back at the three examples at the beginning of this article. A two-second, a four-second, a six-second prayer got Jesus moving into a situation marked by death, disease, and destruction!
Don’t work on the length of your prayer, work on the depth of your faith. People might be impressed by the length of your prayer (or, if they’re like me, they’ll be depressed by it!), but God is impressed with the depth of your faith! Two-seconds of faith is more powerful than five-minutes of a prayer designed to manipulate God or impress others.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim