Paradigm Prayer Shift

Blaine kicked back on his dorm bed, phone in hand. Summer was over and his classes would be starting in the morning. Sixteen hours and an on-campus work-study job. The more he thought about what he had on his plate the more the pit in his stomach hurt. He spent his summer break working in the heat on a construction site. Dirty and tired every day while most of his friends had left town for some adventure job in the mountains or at the ocean. Honestly, his summer was quite boring, despite the money he earned. In fact, his entire spiritual life seemed blah. Maybe that’s why going back to college didn’t thrill him as it had in the past.

As he lay there on his bed, he recalled a podcast he heard about radical praying. Maybe it’s time to ask God to spice things up?  After all, with a boatload of classes and no girlfriend, it’s going to be a long semester.  That podcast focused on Psalm 139:23-24 ESV

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Blaine talked to God. 

Lord, I know there are things in my life that aren’t stellar. Things I’ve done that are quite shameful. Stupid. Just as David, the psalmist asked you, Lord, I’m asking you to search my heart and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that grieves you, cause I’m getting tired of life going nowhere.

The next day turned out to be an uphill race. With his profs piling on the first assignments, Blaine found himself up till 1:00 am or later most nights that week, making it super hard to get out of bed a few hours later. That same week, his car battery died plus the bike he depended upon had a flat tire. The university registrar informed him he still owed a few thousand dollars for the semester because a scholarship wasn’t renewed. By that Friday night, he was beat. He texted several friends on campus to hang out, but everyone had plans and no one invited Blaine to join them. Feeling dejected, he cried out to God. 

God, I thought I asked you to search my heart and know me? I was hoping I’d have a better week than what I did. I’m starting to doubt myself and if any of this is going to work out.

Pulling his phone out, he felt the temptation to look at porn. In fact, Blaine started to enter a website he had frequented when there was a knock on his dorm door. Startled, he turned on the light. It was Chase, his Bible Study leader from last year. Hey, Blaine, what’s happening? Blaine thought to himself but didn’t say If Chase only knew how bad my week has been. Instead, Blaine gave the impression he was OK. He invited Chase in and the two shared a bag of Cheetos and energy drinks.  Catching up on their summers, Blaine recalled how Chase was one of those safe guys he could open up to. Honestly, Chase, I’m not doing well. It was a rough summer and now that I’m back in college, I thought things would turn around. I even took this risk with God and prayed Psalm 139:23-24. Blaine read those verses. 

Chase leaned forward with a half-grin and said I’ve prayed those same exact verses and did God ever work me over! Blaine looked surprised. You too?!  The two swapped stories of a litany of bad circumstances they faced after praying those verses. Did things ever get better? Blaine asked. Yes, they did, but not at first. Chase explained.

For the next two hours the guys talked through what it means to man-up in one’s prayer life and how God will often use circumstances to sift through one’s soul; pointing out things that break His heart.  Like me going to porn when I feel stressed and lonely?  Blaine asked.  Chase shared how God not only pointed out his own struggles with that same temptation in the past but how God showed him a better way to handle stress and loneliness.  

When you ask God to search your heart and show you things that need to change, it can be quite painful. Shame and guilt rise up. It seems like spiritual battles increase and you feel pressure to face your wounds instead of self-medicating. That’s when your faith is tested and your choices reveal how intentional you are in having God change you.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

Blaine shook his head and commented, Growing up my prayers were all about asking God to bless my day and make life easy. Now I’m realizing those were boy prayers. Very self-focused. Here I am in my 20s and still wanting God to give me an easy life. I guess in praying Psalm 139:23-24, I opened the door for God to do a major work in my heart.  

Chase affirmed Blaine’s conclusions. Blaine, the truth is Satan wants to sift you, agitate you and destroy your faith, whereas, at the very same time God is using that sifting to strengthen your faith, to help you man-up. To grow in manhood maturity. The real question is how teachable are you?

That late-night conversation radically changed how Blaine thought about life and what he prayed for. He saw the value of putting off his boyish prayers and was internally challenged to man-up in his prayer life. Towards the end of the semester, Chase and Blaine recounted how things were different than a few months prior. 

Chase observed, Blaine, you are so different now than you were when we had that first talk. I’ve listened to how you pray now. You are asking God for bold things, for radical things, for life-changing things.  

Blaine agreed. It’s turned out to be the toughest semester yet, but know what? I thank God for Psalm 139:23-24. I’m so glad that God took me up on my offer for Him to work me over.  In fact, my roommate has started to ask questions about my faith and is curious as to why I’m not doing the porn thing anymore when I’m stressed and lonely. I really think God is healing some deep wounds in me and making me aware of others around me who I can help.

There is a parallel passage in 1 Peter 5:10 that talks about the benefits of asking God to search your heart.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

5 Benefits of Asking God to Search Your Heart

  1. Restoration. Things that were good in your life will be restored. That includes a healthier walk with God, through Christ, and how you handle relationships.
  2. Confirmation. Your identity will be clearer; who you are in Christ, including your manhood identity. 
  3. Strengthened. Whereas certain things used to rattle your cage, now you see them from a stronger faith-perspective. Your history with God is stronger and you see His hand at work even in horrible situations.
  4. Established. Your manhood journey shifts; less boy, greater maturity. You find yourself anchored more in Christ. Your day to day and your eternal perspectives are less ambivalent and more intentional.
  5. God shows up! The amazing thing about being opened up to God searching your soul is He gives you Himself in the journey. He doesn’t Fed-Ex you a package of grace or send someone in His place. He, Himself will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

All this because, by faith, you asked God to search your heart. Now, that’s one paradigm prayer shift we each need to take.  Will you?

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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