I want to be confessional right off the bat.
For those who know me, it does not come as a big surprise that I am a motivated person – enneagram type three – which of course, is a double-edged sword. Perhaps the biggest blessing in having this disposition is that I am able to find challenges exciting, regardless of their size, and I certainly stretch myself to the limits to get through them.
On the other hand, one of the shadow sides of being an achiever type is relying solely on my own strength so much that I forget to ask God for what is needed beyond the task. The saying "if you want a job done properly, do it yourself" becomes the main mantra for people like myself. That’s not to say others are not able to help, it’s just a testament to our perfectionist tendencies. Now, while I know achievers are susceptible to becoming dependent on their strengths, I suspect that people with different personalities are as well. In fact, I know that to be the case, because I am also a pastor who has encountered and provided spiritual care to people over the last 15 years.
In the past, my prayer life had been based on asking God to meet the needs of others and myself. It was more like petitioning God to bring a solution to a specific problem – kind of like a Santa’s wish list but with a mixture of adoration, thanksgiving, and confession. My prayer life was based on what I was taught in my early and juvenile years as a Christ-follower. However, as I started to mature more in the faith, I realized something was missing. I was not praying audacious, faith-filled prayers. They were safe. They were constrained. I feared praying for breakthroughs in the lives of others, the congregations I have had the honor of serving, and even myself. I was unconsciously placing limitations on God’s power and mercy. There was still a heavy dose of me involved in the equation, and I knew I had to get over myself. Until this point, I felt that if I only worked harder, had a more extensive staff, more resources – you name it – we would all see the impossible. It was still about me, like I had the power in myself to make things happen. But as they say in the first step of AA, I had to admit I was powerless, and my life had become unmanageable. I needed to empty myself to be filled with God's power for my life. Now, I don't always get it right (remember, I am in recovery), but I have learned about and practiced the power that so many of the Christ-followers I have personally looked up to, have faithfully lived out.
The power I am talking about is not human might, nor is it of this world. It's the Resurrection power of Christ; it is referred to in Greek as Dunamis, where we get the words dynamite and dynamic. Dunamis is used 120 times in the New Testament, especially referring to the miraculous in connection to Jesus' ministry in the Gospels and the Holy Spirit.
I knew that before I led others in this type of prayer, I needed to lead myself first. And then, I needed to practice it in the context of community. This is where my friend, colleague, and one of the people I admire as a Jesus-follower and leader – Sue Nilson Kibbey – came in. Sue has worked with 100s of churches in a process called the Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI). "MCCI is a rigorous 360-degree coaching and training effort for select congregations and their pastors who have been invited to participate as a way to jumpstart a new life cycle of ministry fruitfulness." The process hinges on a congregation developing a breakthrough prayer, with the ultimate goal of seeing a transformation happen in their church and community. It is a prayer that is prayed individually and as a congregation based on an anchor scripture. As I learned more about it and helped congregations and nonprofits craft their own, a holy anticipation was built for God's dunamis power to be released. Each and every time, it has been amazing to see miracles happen.
One can have the most polished personal growth plan.
A church or organization can have a masterful strategic plan.
But all the human effort in the world cannot replace the critical work of dynamite prayer.