The Power of Our God
By: Chris Rollman
One of the biggest gifts you can give the teenagers that you love and lead is that you are committed to praying for them. Spending focused time each and every day in prayer petitioning the God of the universe, on their behalf, is absolutely invaluable in the grand scheme of things. I used to think the more wisdom I could impart, or the more that I could teach, or the more that I could somehow get into a teenager’s mind, that all of that would make more of a difference. And then I realized that there was something far greater then all of my wisdom, all of my effort in this area, all of the relationship clout that I carry with a teenager that I’ve invested in and it is that I have the God of the universe ON my side. As I pray for teenagers, I am trying to pray things that I believe God desires for their heart, families, lives, and relationships. I want to pray the will of the Father and be very careful about praying that “my will” be done.
People sometimes talk about the power of prayer in someone’s life. I have never liked the phrase because it would seem to me that there isn’t ‘power in prayer’ rather we serve a powerful God that we have the privilege of talking to. Often, he chooses to answer in powerful ways. He chooses to give life to the lifeless, heal the sick, blind, and wounded and totally restore brokenness. As I have prayed, I have seen teenagers released from addiction, become free from demon influence in their lives, give up whatever had them captured internally, and work out destroyed relationships with their families to total restoration. I have seen teenagers go from questioning the very existence of God to being totally convinced that he is ‘there, real, and active.’ I didn’t see these things in the days previous where I worked my tail off to address issues like this in teenagers’ lives. It was only when I started praying and asking God to give clarity and direction in this way that strange, bizarre, amazing things started happening.
I remember being on a mission trip (don’t crazy things always happen on those?) and coming upon a couple in our hotel lobby who seemed distraught. We had prayed passionately about an hour before for opportunities to love people that came into our path and this seemed like an opportunity. We took a few minutes to stop, to listen to what they had been through and experienced and heard a crazy tale. They had been robbed at gunpoint, most of their things had been taken, and this hotel was where the police brought them until they could recover some of their things. We offered to pray with them and they accepted (probably because they were in a moment of utter desperation). I remember praying confidently (on the outside) that they find all of their ‘stuff’ and that it be recovered in a timely fashion. On the inside, I had very little hope (which is not how you are to pray, according to some parts of scripture!). Honestly, they were alive and that was a blessing amidst the circumstances that they had found themselves in. No sooner had we got done praying that they got a phone call and recovered their materials. Our God is great, and most worthy to be praised! (Psalm 145:3).
This focus on praying for the teenagers that I work with and serve has not come easy and has been a process. There were several barriers to getting to the point where I could really focus daily on praying for them.
- My own Pride
- Theology of Prayer
- Do I have time?
My own Pride
The truth is, I often believe that somehow I can help, assist, or even change someone from the inside out. And the reality is, that is God’s job only. You would think that I would have learned this a long time ago (Like after Adam and Eve gave a great example of what happens when pride takes control! Genesis 3) but I am in a continual learning track in this area. I want so desperately to protect, to save, to restore brokenness that I try to do this in my own strength and power. I lived frustrated for years doing this. I would ask my wife regularly, “What am I doing wrong that we are not seeing life transformation?” She would respond with something about staying faithful and trusting God to do the work. And that is exactly the answer that I needed to hear but was not willing to hear, until one very special occasion.
There was a student that we were working with that had some significant barriers to God in their own life that would go back and forth between following Jesus and rejecting Jesus. I never knew where this particular student was in their relationship with Jesus and I would regularly ask them to try and help them forward. I remember the day when the student pulled me aside and said, “Chris, I know that you love me. I know that you want me to be ‘changed’. I realize that you want me to follow Jesus. But until Jesus reveals himself to me, I will not follow your efforts. I need to know that God is who you say he is. So keep praying for me. Keep telling me who he is. Keep loving me. But don’t try and change me. You can’t.” That hurt and it was good. I had invested years of my life into this student. I wanted so badly to see them follow Jesus. But this conversation was revolutionary in the world of prayer for me. I had to relegate my efforts to simply crying out to the God of the universe on their behalf. God did his thing and came through. He revealed himself to this particular student. There are still other students that I have not had the privilege of seeing be transformed from the inside out, but I no longer carry the burden of trying to ‘change’ someone. That is God’s burden and my only burden is to cry out for them on their behalf to the God of the universe. He is all powerful, all things are possible with Him (Matthew 19:26).
Theology of Prayer
This was a barrier for me because I didn’t want to turn into someone that always simply makes requests of God, rather, I wanted to be someone that trusted him deeply and knew him well. I also had experience praying for something and then God didn’t come through. These experiences were painful. I had constructed a theology of prayer from my experience (which is dangerous) instead of from scripture (which would have been more healthy.) If this is a barrier to you praying, I would encourage you to get in the scripture. Find what principles, examples, patterns, and outcomes of prayer are held in scripture and begin to live some of them out. Begin to grasp the power and awesome nature of our God through prayer. I am more convinced today then I was yesterday that prayer is really the conversation piece of my relationship with Jesus Christ. I am able to have an ongoing discussion with my Savior (even if sometimes it seems one sided) but praying for people, for me, on behalf of someone else, etc. I’m also convinced that prayer highlights when God works and bring glory to God. If the Westminster Shorter Catechism holds truth that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” then prayer does that. I can ascribe greatness to God’s name when I pray. When transformation and change was all up to me, I was often unable to do so and actually lived in a false humility. I would say things like, “I worked really hard to help make this happen, but really, it was God who did the work.” I didn’t believe that for a moment. But when prayer invaded my life and practice, I realized that God was glorified and I was humbled in my own right. I need to be humbled.
I don’t have time.
I’m a Pastor and Pastoral duties call. Answering email (which I find nowhere in scripture, by the way), making hospital calls, meeting with other folks, leading discussions, bible studies, and speaking at events, administrating staff and budgets, these are all things that I found myself doing. I had heard that the average Pastor spends less then 30 minutes per week in prayer and as I looked at my life, I realized that I was that guy. I used to take tremendous pride in efficiency. I could get a lot done in a short amount of time and I had delegated prayer to that same mindset. I needed to get a lot done in a short amount of time so I would put together an amazing list and pray through it quickly. The point of prayer was to ‘get through’ instead of to ‘pray through’ and develop relationship with the God that saved me. Once I realized the priority was not about praying more things but about a relationship issue, I tossed aside the list and begin to pray inefficiently. God no longer gets the list from me, but I get from God the intense love and clarity that only he can offer.
The power of our God is not able to be matched. He calls us to pray. He calls us to pray passionately. If you are leading teenagers in any capacity, one of the priorities that you can hold is to pray for them. There are several next steps that I would suggest if this is an area that you want to grow in and be intentional in.
· Examine your own heart and life to see whether pride has kept you from giving the glory of transformation and life change to an almighty God that can do all things.
· Read “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson
· Search “Prayer” in scripture and begin to construct a biblical theology and worldview in this area.
· Develop a ‘prayer team’ that would pray for each student you work with pairing an adult to each student. Give them instruction in these areas.
· Share stories of “God’s glorification” with other members of your youth ministry staff and church.
· Begin to keep a journal and log of what God does as you continue your relationship with Him through prayer.
If God never answered a prayer again with an affirmative, I know that he is faithful and that he has saved me from eternal punishment. What a great gift! Why wouldn’t I spend time in his presence, praying like crazy for students that I love and care about so much, but that he cares about and loves even more?
Chris Rollman is married to a wonderful woman, Cassie, and they have two pretty cool kids. Isaiah is a handful but a wonderful handful and Evy is a bundle of joy and a lot of fun! Chris is also a board member and contributor at www.calledtoyouthministry.com If you want to contact Chris, you can email him at email@example.com or check out his twitter, www.twitter.com/crollman, or find himon facebook.