Several years ago, I was serving a church that was considering a major change. Some of my key leaders felt that God was calling us to begin a new ministry that if implemented would dramatically change our church.
While we were looking forward to the possibilities this new ministry would bring, we also knew that not everybody in the church would share in our excitement. It would involve a significant rethinking of what it means to be the church in a new day and age. And it would involve a lot of adjustment and commitment on the part of the congregation.
One of those key leaders who felt God was calling our church to move in this direction was a retired accountant. He called me one morning and said, “Let me pick you up for lunch so we can think about this new possible direction together.”
When he arrived at the church, I got in his car. And off we went. I didn’t realize how fast retired accountants like to drive. He pulled out of the church parking lot as if he was responding to a fire. I checked again to make sure my seat belt was firmly buckled.
As we were driving down the highway at Daytona 500 like speed, I was sharing with him how I had been praying for our church and this new ministry opportunity. He responded by telling me something that I will never forget. Weaving in and out of traffic, he said to me, “Watch out what you pray for because you just might get it!” This wise and experienced member of my church who was ready to take on the challenge of this new ministry just wanted to make sure that this young and naive pastor knew what he was getting himself into.
“Watch out what you pray for because you just might get it!”
When the Israelites gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, this is the kind of message that Samuel offered to them. The Israelites were tired of the injustice they had been experiencing as well as the poor leadership they had been given. They wanted to be like the other nations who had kings, highly organized militaries, state of the art weapons, and plenty of wealth.
The request for a king was understandable. At the time, Israel was a very poor nation with no centralized leadership and they were at the mercy of the mighty Philistines who lived on the coast, were successful traders, had a highly organized military with iron weapons, and controlled the strategic geo-political highway between Egypt and the Fertile Crescent.
While Samuel was well aware of Israel’s limitations and the advantages in having a king, he also knew that there were also many disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage was that Israel already had a king, the Lord. If only they would have obeyed the Lord as their king, they wouldn’t be in the position they were in now.
The second disadvantage was that an earthly king would demand tremendous sacrifice on the part of the people. And Samuel goes on to spell this out. “He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his couriers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.”
And then Samuel asks them one more time: “Do you still want a king? Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it.”
Samuel then consults the Lord about this and surprisingly the Lord tells Samuel to go ahead and grant their request. Samuel had done his job. He warned them that a monarchy would come with a great price.
So Israel got their first king when Samuel anointed Saul just three chapters later. Over time, Samuel’s words of warning proved to be true. Some of the kings were good and some were not. More battles were lost than won. At one point, the whole nation was carried off into exile and for several centuries, they didn’t even have a homeland to protect!
Over the next several weeks, our Old Testament readings will focus on the life of one of the greatest names in the entire bible, David. David became Israel’s second king after Saul, and is known as the man who was after God’s own heart. This doesn’t mean that David was perfect, far from it. But as king, David led the people of Israel during their glory years. And it was through David’s lineage that Jesus Christ, God’s own Son became king and who continues to reign as king forever and ever. Because of all of these reasons, David will be our main focus throughout these summer weeks.
For today, as we set the context for David’s arrival on the scene and Israel’s desire to become a monarchy, I want us to think about the importance of being bold with our prayers. That’s the way our prayers need to be. Bold! Audacious! Risk-Taking! They need to be the kind of prayers where someone like Samuel or my retired accountant friend are prompted to remind us, “Watch out what you pray for because you just might get it.”
A church began preparing for a church wide focus on prayer and faith sharing. They had a very ambitious goal of having 40 small groups with 400 people participating in those small groups. They couldn’t have picked a more difficult time to begin forming these small groups, right before the Christmas and New Year’s holiday!
They were nowhere near their goal when their team met to discuss the situation. They felt discouraged and very overwhelmed coming into that pre-holiday meeting. They didn’t have a lot of positive responses with potential small group leaders and it looked like they might have to settle for half that number.
But somebody at that meeting broke through the status-quo and reminded them that all they needed to do was pray. And right there on the spot, they prayed and they gave their concerns to God.
It wasn’t that long after they had celebrated Christmas Eve and the birth of Jesus Christ that a miracle happened. In a matter of a week and a half, the number of people willing to lead a small group almost doubled. They were now in a position to reach their ambitious goal.
They had ordered 450 small group books to give out to their congregation over the span of the next six weeks. After just one Sunday, they had already handed out all of those books and they needed to order another 150 books! The response was phenomenal! God was answering their prayers.
When their planning group met later that same week, the pastor jokingly told them that maybe they needed to stop praying because now they were at a point where they couldn’t keep up with God!
“Watch out what you pray for because you just might get it.”
Many of you know that my brother is the Music Director in our home church located in south central Pennsylvania. For the past couple of months, he has been praying to God about the possibility of his church performing the musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
After he had seen the TV performance of this musical, he felt a tug at his heart that maybe God was calling his church to use this musical as a way to connect with the unchurched population of the surrounding area.
This would be no small feat because there were a lot of unanswered questions like would he have the musicians and the singers to pull something like that off? Where would they be able to perform the musical? It would need to be at a place that would be able to attract a large crowd with plenty of space for the performance.
Those were just a couple of the things that would need to begin to fall into place before he would be able to move forward to turn this bold dream into a reality.
A couple of weeks ago, he called me to tell me how God was answering his prayer. He said that he was beginning to get discouraged because the places where he thought it could be held were just too expensive and not practical, so he said a prayer one morning. He said, “God, if you really want this thing to happen, you’re going to need to give me a sign that this is what you really want me to do.”
He said to me over the phone, “You won’t believe what happened to me yesterday after I prayed that prayer. Somebody told me about the perfect venue to hold the musical.
It’s a place that holds lots of community festivals so people are used to going there and when I talked to the owners about our church performing “Jesus Christ Superstar,” they were so excited about hosting the event, that they are going to give us the space at a much lower rate.”
My brother said, “That was the sign from God that I needed.” And then he said, “But that’s not all, on that same day, I go back to the church. And as I’m walking down the hallway, you won’t believe this, but our church custodian is casually singing one of the songs from “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Now, this custodian had no idea that my brother was thinking about performing this musical, and here he was singing one of the songs.
My brother said, “It’s pretty obvious that I need to go after this.”
“Watch out what you pray for because you just might get it.”
The Israelites who came to Samuel might not have had the best of intentions when they asked Samuel to give them a king. Like us so much of the time, they didn’t fully realize the impact that their request would have on them and on the nation as a whole. Having a king would set them on a whole new direction, a bold future, and an exciting adventure in being God’s people.
David was certainly a man who lived boldly, who prayed fervently, and who lived courageously.
Which reminds me. My brother’s name is David.
Join us for our summer journey as we follow these Old Testament stories about the life of David.
And remember to be bold! And pray bold! Because you just might get what you pray for!
Life of David: Watch Out What You Pray For!”
Small Group Questions
I Samuel 8:4-20 & 11:14-15
June 10, 2018
This week marks the beginning of a twelve week summer sermon series on the life of David from the Old Testament.
What do you know about David from the Old Testament?
Our series on the life of David begins with the people of Israel demanding Samuel to anoint a king to rule over them. Samuel reluctantly agrees because he doesn’t want the people to forget who their true king is. The Lord is their true King!
What helps you to remember that the Lord is the true King over all creation?
Israel’s request to have a king to rule over them was risky because they didn’t know what kind of king they might get. At least, they were willing to be bold and try something new.
In what ways can we be more bold in our faith and be open to new ideas, new ministries, and new possibilities?
Pastor Robert shared about a church that set a lofty goal of creating 40 new small groups in their church. They stepped out in faith and ordered 450 small group discussion books which was a large expense to the church. On the first Sunday of signing up people for small groups, they ended up giving away all of the books! They had to order another 150 books for the people who signed up later! They attributed this incredible response to the many bold prayers several weeks leading up to the start of these new small groups.
When have you experienced a breakthrough in prayer where God exceeded your expectations?
Close your time together by praying this incomplete prayer where you can fill in the blank:
“Almighty God, today, we pray boldly for…..”