Followers of Christ want to know how to pray (Luke 11:2-4)! Dynamic, unceasing prayer presents numerous approaches to communicating with God. Thoughts of radical prayer bring to mind a little ball-of-fire I heard at a pastor’s conference in Bogotá, Colombia. We walked into the auditorium and heard the voice of a woman praying. Simultaneously, we felt the commanding power and presence of God. This small-statured woman, whose pastor husband had been kidnapped by Marxist guerrillas, perceptibly knew how to connect with God. The guerrillas were demanding $1 million dollars for the release of her sequestered husband. But, everyone knew Christian pastors faced certain death at the hands of these atheistic Marxist captors. She knew if she did not go to the throne room of God with boldness, she would never again see her beloved husband alive.
Meanwhile, in the guerilla camp, various attempts were made to try to get this pastor to deny Jesus. Tied to a tree for months, they beat him. Women tried to sexually seduce him. They made him drink a deadly poison, but he did not die. Then something else happened. The members of this Marxist group began to call their prisoner Pastor! Finally, after months of torture, the commander of the group came to the pastor with a question. He wanted to know how he could get his own people to call him Pastor!
The word radical comes from the Latin radix, which means root. Radical prayer refuses to let us stay on the fringes of life’s great issues. It dares to believe that things can be different. Its aim is the total transformation of persons, institutions, and societies. And this is exactly what the world needs, the whole world, including the body of Christ!
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:14).
We are those people who are called by His name to a spiritual defiance of the world. We are subversives in a world of injustice, oppression, and violence. Our authentic prayer should undermine the status quo as a spiritual underground resistance movement. When we pray, we become the voice of the voiceless, the helpless ones, the orphans and widows, or whoever “the least of these” are in the world. In our prayers and in our actions, we stand firm against racism, sexism, nationalism, ageism and every other “ism” that separates and divides. Scripture is replete with instances where the faithful radical radically prayed.
Abraham had the brazenness to bargain with God (Gen. 18). Being aware of God’s intentions for Sodom and Gomorrah, he drew near with faith and freedom, and a holy boldness and confidence. Yet, he was mindful to come with great reverence of the divine Majesty. In all humility, under a deep sense of his own wickedness and unworthiness, Abraham intercedes for Sodom. His spiritual character is unfolded and exalted more and more while employing the language of a free-born son with his heavenly Father. Putting forward the plea of justice to the righteous on behalf of the city, he ventures to repeat his intervention six times, each time diminishing the number of the righteous whom he supposes to be in it. The patience of the Lord is no less remarkable than the perseverance of Abraham. In every case, he grants his petition. Abraham humbly demonstrates the comparative insignificance of the petitioner.
We also see radical prayer in Esther 4. Esther and her young women fasted and prayed after Mordecai warned of imminent doom on Esther and her family if she did not petition the king to intervene for the Jews. “…For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.” Mordecai was satisfied that prophetic Scriptures concerning the Jews said God would NOT allow his people to be destroyed before his purposes were accomplished.
What about the prayer of that little ball-of-fire pastor’s wife? After his meeting with the pastor, the commander set him free. But, he wasn’t the only one set free! Many of the men from that Marxist guerilla group came to the city and are now serving Jesus as active members of this pastor’s church! Not only was the pastor saved alive, but the aim of his wife’s radical prayer was the total transformation of persons, institutions, and societies. We are His people called by His name. Our radical prayer that gets to the root can do the same.