DANGEROUS PRAYERS – COACH ME UP!
Psalms 86:10-11, 143:10
October 14, 2018
If you’re looking for a unique autumn festival, the happening over in Fayette County, WV next Saturday is one of most exciting. It’s called Bridge Day. It is one of the largest extreme sports events in the world. The New River Gorge Bridge, the world’s second longest single arch bridge, is shut down to traffic. Some 100,000 spectators will gather to watch 400 BASE jumpers leap from the bridge throughout the day.
As one daredevil participant remarked, “You don’t need a parachute to make the 876-foot-dive to the river gorge below…but you need a parachute if you want to do it twice!”
Now, when it comes to bridges, I don’t know if God necessarily calls us to take a leap…but I do believe that when it comes to prayer, God calls us to throw caution to the wind and jump!
Our prayers often revolve around praying it safe, begging God to protect us and bless us. We never take a risk, a leap, a chance, beseeching God to mold us and make us into more of what he would have us to be.
Yet, when we begin to pray dangerously, that faith becomes kindled and dynamic and real to us! Such dangerous prayers might include the petitions asking, pestering, perhaps demanding that God Clean Me Up, Shut Me Up, Fill Me Up, Sign Me Up, Use Me Up…. and today – Coach Me Up!
Yes, what would it mean for you and I to pray Lord, coach me up?
We are going to explore two brief passages in the Psalms this morning. The first is Psalm 86:10-11:
10For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name….
WE MUST BE COACHABLE IN THE WAY OF GOD!
Anyone here who is a fan of Baltimore Oriole baseball has heard the term The Oriole Way. It described the very disciplined system the franchise used to train fundamentally-sound ballplayers.
The Orioles knew they would never have the money and talent to compete with the Yankees and other rich teams. So they sought out potential players with great attitudes who could be molded into overachievers. Beginning at the lowest minor league level, such hardnosed players as Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer were taught meticulous, consistent position-by-position techniques of mastering the fundamentals of team baseball.
As catcher Elrod Hendricks put it, “The Oriole Way was ‘never beat yourself,’ and that’s why we won so many close games. We let the other team make mistakes and beat themselves, and when the opportunity came we’d jump on it.”
The Oriole Way produced six World Series appearances and three World Series championships between 1966-1983. Sadly, the organization has strayed far away from that philosophy. This season they set a new major league record for futility, with 115 losses.
When it comes to leading a meaningful, purposeful life, there is a particular system also. It’s called the Way of God. Walking this Way leads to truth in a world filled with deception and depravation.
As a 2nd grade teacher, my wife comes home some days deflated by what she sees in her classroom. Children today are being raised without any moral compass. She says her kids have no qualms about stealing from one another, and then they will lie like a rug when confronted with the evidence. And that’s sad.
Being coached in the Way of God must begin at an extremely young age, and it continues for a lifetime.
It starts with a solid foundation. Do you remember this compelling parable of Jesus:
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Yes, the Lord must be the rock upon which our lives are built if we are to live with strength and conviction.
And along with that foundation we need an accurate reference point to guide us in making daily decisions. Hear these words of Amos:
7 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,
“Behold, I am setting a plumb line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them;
Now, you might be wondering: what is a plumb line?
It is a cord with a non-magnetic weight attached to one end. When the cord is held in such a way that the weight can dangle freely, an exact vertical can be determined. Painters and carpenters use plumb lines to keep their work straight. It is difficult, while in the middle of a project, to determine a true horizontal or vertical line without an objective measuring tool, so a plumb line is employed. A plumb line applies the law of gravity to find right angles, to indicate the most direct route from top to bottom, and to keep things plumb. A plumb line doesn’t change or move with the whims of the contractor. It remains a true reference point, and all work must line up with it or risk being crooked.
God is that reference point in our lives, honing our consciences, helping us to determine that which is true and right and good.
To walk in God’s Way is to strive to make him the foundation and reference point of our lives. And as we seek to do this on a daily basis–immersing ourselves in his Word, practicing accountability with other believers, and yes, praying coach me up, Lord!, we discover meaning and purpose for our lives.
This is God’s game plan for our lives, and if we absorb this game plan we will walk in his truth! Life will not always be easy for us, but it will be better.
Yes, may we be coachable in the Way of God!
WE MUST BE COACHABLE IN THE WILL OF GOD!
If the Way of God is all about what God would have us to be, then the Will of God is all about what God would have us to do. Discovering what God would have us do each day begins with this prayer from Psalm 143:10:
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!
In a few short weeks we’ll be watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown is invited to be the director of the annual Christmas play. And yet, none of the kids in the cast are willing to take direction. All they want to do is dance to Schroeder’s jazzy piano playing. And poor Charlie Brown is endlessly frustrated and perplexed.
I believe God is a lot like Charlie Brown. God desires to give us direction, but we’re off dancing to someone or something else’s music.
Perhaps it’s time to abandon our navel gazing, self-aggrandizing approach to living and instead focus on what our Lord would have us to do with our lives.
Our Lord, in his darkest moments, could still bring himself to pray, “Father, not my will, but thine be done!” And we are called to do likewise.
He will always direct us toward attitudes and actions that involve two verbs: Love and Go.
In Matthew 22:34-40 we meet this bright, cocky Pharisee, an attorney trying to earn some religious brownie points with his colleagues, approaches Jesus with this question: Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?
Now this was no easy inquiry. Remember the Ten Commandments way back in the book of Exodus? By the time of Jesus the religious leaders have taken these original ten and stretched them into 613–365 thou shalt nots and 248 thou shalts.
Jesus responds to this challenging question in a most unique and refreshing manner. He takes Deuteronomy 6:5, the great Shema that every devout Jew stopped and prayed twice each day, and he marries it to Leviticus 19:18.
And Jesus proclaims it’s all about love: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
How can Jesus possibly command us to love? Because Jesus is speaking of love as verb…as a commitment, not a feeling. He is talking about love which seeks the highest good for others without any emotional attachment. As an individual, as a church family, we see a need, and we respond.
Yes, to love means we must go. Jesus not only gives us a great commandment…he gives us a great commission as well.
These are the closing words of Matthew’s gospel:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age
I recall an encounter I had at the Waffle House on East Market Street the Friday after Thanksgiving last year. Sitting next to me wolfing down their late breakfast were three members of the Harrisonburg Rescue Squad.
I overheard them talking to the server. Seemed they had had a hectic night running several calls. They had worked a couple of heart attacks. An automobile accident. Drug overdose. They looked totally exhausted.
I struck up a conversation with one of the squad members. She happened to be a JMU student from Maryland.
I asked her why was she not back home with her family celebrating Thanksgiving. She said she would rather be here. She told me she was a nursing student. She felt this was a way she could serve the Lord and give back to the community. She said it gave her great joy to do what she could to help heal the hurts of others.
That’s what Jesus is talking about when he tells us God’s will is all about loving and going. It means executing God’s game plan.
Jesus gives us many such examples of folk executing God’s game plan:
- Stopping to help a wounded man lying in the gutter along a desolate road as a Samaritan once did.
- Pausing to have lunch with a wealthy man of short stature and short soul named Zaccheus, a man whom others despised vehemently.
- Responding to those who are hungry and thirsty and homeless and cold and sick and in prison.
- Walking alongside those who, like Mary and Martha, lost a brother to death.
- Forgiving a son who dissed you and left home for brighter lights, offering him a hug instead of I-told-you-sos when he returned.
Yes, one of the most dangerous prayers we can pray is Lord, coach me up! God begins the exciting and sometimes painful journey of molding us in his way and in his will. We are granted a solid foundation and an accurate reference point upon which to base our lives. And then we are directed to love and to go, to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors. We absorb God’s game plan, then we execute it.
It’s that simple…and it’s that hard. For we often are like the inhabitants of a town described by the 19th century Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard. They had a problem remembering their true identity:
This was a make-believe town where only ducks lived. It was Sunday morning in Duckville and, as was the custom, all the ducks waddled out of their houses and down the street to the First Duckist Church.
They waddled down the aisle of the church, waddled into their pews, and squatted. Shortly afterward the duck preacher took his place in the pulpit and the service was under way. The scripture text for the morning was taken from the duck bible and he read it with great fervency:
Ducks, God has given you wings—you can fly!
Ducks, because you have wings you can soar as
Because God has given you wings, no fences can
confine you, no land animals can trap you!
Ducks! God has given you wings–you can fly!
All the ducks with one accord shouted, “Amen!” And then all the ducks waddled back home!
Somewhere in that silliness is a simple truth I need to take to heart….and maybe you do also!
Yes, Lord, coach me up!