The Bravest Prayer
March 17, 2020
There are days, and then there are days that alter every day thereafter. For me, one of those life-altering days is July 2, 2016. Next to the day I was married, the days my kids were born, and the day I almost died, no day is more sacred. In fact, I can tell you exactly how many days it’s been from that day to this day.
I was kicking off a series of sermons titled “Mountains Move” and challenged our church to pray the bravest prayer they could pray. By bravest prayer I mean the prayer you can barely believe God for because it seems impossible. It’s often the prayer you’ve prayed a hundred times that hasn’t been answered, but you pray it one more time anyway. For me the bravest prayer was that He would heal my asthma. And it was brave because asthma is all I had ever known.
My very first childhood memory is of a middle-of-the-night asthma attack followed by a frantic trip to the emergency room for a shot of epinephrine. That routine was repeated more times than I can remember. There weren’t forty days in forty years that I did not need to take a puff of my albuterol inhaler, and I never went anywhere without it. Never ever. Then I prayed my bravest prayer, and I haven’t taken a single puff of an inhaler from that day to this day. That’s why I literally count the days, because each day is more miraculous than the last.
Over the span of forty years, I must have prayed hundreds of times that God would heal my asthma. But for reasons known only to Him, those prayers went unanswered.
Why did I keep praying?
The short answer is one whisper.
Right before my freshman year of high school, I was hospitalized for a severe asthma attack that landed me in the intensive care unit. It was one of a dozen such hospitalizations during my younger years. When I was released from Edward’s Hospital a week later, Pastor Paul McGarvey and a prayer team from Calvary Church in Naperville, Illinois, came over to our house, laid hands on me, and prayed that God would heal my asthma.
God answered that prayer for healing but not in the way I expected.
When I woke up the next morning, I still had asthma, but all the warts on my feet had mysteriously disappeared. I’m not kidding! At first I wondered if God had made a mistake. Maybe the signals between here and heaven were mixed. I couldn’t help but wonder if someone somewhere was breathing great but still had warts on his or her feet. I was a little confused, but that’s when I heard the still small voice. It wasn’t an audible voice; it was Spirit to spirit. And it was loud and clear: Mark, I just wanted you to know that I’m able!
All these decades later it still sends a chill down my spine. I was fourteen years old, and it was the first time I heard God’s whisper. Was I disappointed that He hadn’t answered my prayer the way I wanted Him to? Of course I was. But those two words echoed for three decades: I’m able. And He’s not just able; He’s “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
Let me connect the dots.
Without that whisper I’m not sure I would have had the faith to pray the bravest prayer. And if I hadn’t prayed that prayer, how could God answer it? After all, God doesn’t answer 100 percent of the prayers we don’t pray! You can guess where this is going, can’t you? My miracle was once a whisper. And that’s true of every miracle. As I survey my life, I realize that the genesis of every blessing, every breakthrough is the breath of God. It started out as nothing more than a still small voice.
Ebenezers, the coffeehouse on Capitol Hill that our church owns and operates, is a perfect example. When people walk by Ebenezers, they see a coffeehouse, but when I walk by it, I hear a whisper. That’s all it was two decades ago. Actually, it was a graffiti-covered building with cinder blocks in the doorframes. Then one day I walked by and a Spirit-inspired thought fired across my synapses: This crack house would make a great coffeehouse.
That thought came out of nowhere, which sometimes indicates something supernatural. I call it a God idea, and I’d rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas. Good ideas are good, but God ideas change the course of history.
That God idea turned into a brave prayer, which turned into a coffeehouse that has been voted the number-one coffeehouse in DC more than once. Since opening the doors a decade ago, we’ve given more than a million dollars to kingdom causes from its net profits. But every shot we pull and every dollar we give was once a whisper.
What does your answer to prayer look like? The photo on this page of a completely full albuterol inhaler in the trash…that’s what answered prayer “looks” like to me! What about you? What does your answer to prayer look like? Post your photos and share your stories here on Facebook!
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.
Mark’s book, Whisper, helps readers learn how to listen to God. Mark wants to introduce you to the seven love languages of God; each of them unique and entirely divine. Some of them you might suspect but others will surprise you.
By learning to tune in to and decipher each language, you’ll be able to hear His guidance in simple as well as life-altering choices. God is actively speaking through: Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings, and Pain. Batterson gives you the tools you need to unlock each of these languages.