Reading through Jefferson Bethke’s book, “Jesus>Religion”, I was struck by his comment that too many Christians say “safe” prayers. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean by “safe” prayers. When we pray for missionaries or those facing persecution, we tend to pray for their safety. Pastors pray for the safety of those with them before doing an outreach event in some more dangerous parts of town. The problem is I never see Jesus, His disciples, or anyone in the early church praying for safety. Where did we get this model? I propose we start praying different prayers, prayers that are more aligned to what Jesus taught, and prayers that are far more relevant and powerful.
What if instead of safety we prayed that God would be glorified through our activities, regardless of the cost? What if we prayed that He would lead us to the darkest places so we could shine the brightest light? These prayers are powerful and have the potential to impact the world for His Kingdom. Praying for safety means the ultimate goal of our actions is to get through the thing alive and preferably unscathed. Have we forgotten that Jesus said that those who would follow Him would have to take up their cross (Luke 9:23)? Have we lost the fact that He told us we would be persecuted because of Him (2 Timothy 3:12)?
In his book, “The Insanity of Obedience“, Nik Ripken makes a great point. He mentioned how Jesus said He was sending His disciples out as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16). I’ve heard and read that passage hundreds of times in my life, but Nik makes an obvious point that we often don’t consider: when a sheep goes to hang out among wolves, it usually doesn’t end well. Thus, if we’re going to be true disciples of Jesus, we have to know that our default outcome will not be one of safety, but rather persecution and possibly violence.
Most of us weren’t taught this version of Christianity in Sunday school. It doesn’t play out well on flannelgraphs. But this is the only Christianity that was taught and lived by Jesus and the early disciples. We have watered down the Gospel so much that we have rendered it into something that would be incomprehensible to early followers of Jesus. We want the safe Jesus, the one in our portraits and most often taught in our churches. We don’t want the real thing; He’s far too dangerous.
Are you ready to start praying dangerous prayers? A life spent seeking safety will never find Christ waiting at the end of that road. Discipleship is for those committed to following Jesus no matter the cost. It’s not for those who look back and long for home (Luke 9:62). It’s not for those seeking luxury and peace (Luke 9:58; Matthew 10:34). Following Jesus means letting go of every safety net you’ve ever had. Are you willing to trust Him with everything, even your life, even if it hurts? This is the cost of discipleship.