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"Pray Radical: Search Me, O God" Pastor David Welch, August 8, 2021

Updated: May 17, 2022

August 8, 2021

In the first message of Pastor David's new sermon series, the focus is on how prayer can have a radical effect in your life – if you know the right prayers to pray. The Bible gives us at least four examples of the most radical things you could ask from God.

First, you must find in you the radicalness to pray

“Search me, O God.”

Five Steps to “Search Me, O God”

  1. 1. You feel God’s scrutiny

  2. 2. It makes you claustrophobic

  3. 3. You want to hide from God

  4. 4. You come to treasure what God thinks of you

  5. 5. You begin to ask “Search me, O God”

Verses to Study

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What is the most radical prayer that you could pray?

David Welch

I'm so grateful that you're here, I want to say it again, we're in God's presence, I really want all of us to experience that. And I'm beginning this brand-new series that's called “Pray Radical”. My heart is that God would just use it in me, and that he would use it in you to do something really radical in us. And so, I just want to ask if we could pray again, and just really open our hearts to that, would you be open to that? Let's bow and let me just lead us. Father, I want to thank you that you are here. You're here through the power and the presence of your spirit. And God, I don't have adequate words, I don't have powerful words. I can't put together thoughts that can move a human spiritually, only you Spirit of God, can move us to you, and we want that. And we're thirsty for that, and we're hungry for that. Just open us up to it. And we pray that now in Jesus’ name, amen. Amen. Thank you for being here.

So, this series, “Pray Radical”. Here's the criticism, I hear sometimes about prayer. Sometimes, it's different versions of this very same sentence. A criticism I hear from time to time is essentially, prayer just doesn't work that well; it just doesn't work all that well. So, when I hear that criticism, usually, when a person says that they mean one of two things. And the first one of these two is not hard to guess, the first thing they mean, by saying that prayer doesn't work that well is, I’m simply not getting what I want. I just, you know, I'm praying and I'm just not getting what I want. And I'm asking God for another comma in my salary, and I'm not getting that. Or I'm asking God to send me a new guy, or a new girl with plenty of commas in their salary, and you know, well, it's just not happening. Or I'm asking God to make my wife or my husband or my teenager to just not be so hard to relate to or to get along with. Or I'm asking God for, you know, a new car, a new house, a new job, a new set of friends, a new life. And it's just not happening. In other words, I'm just praying for the stuff I want in the moment, that I think would make me feel better about my life. And I'm kind of upset that God's not coming through for me. That's the number one criticism of why people don’t think that prayer works. Why would I say that? The criticism is prayer doesn't work is because all that I'm the praying for stuff and I'm not getting what I want. But then secondly, they may mean this; that nothing really radical happens when I pray. I think this is a little more sincere and a little more real. It's that, when I pray, I think prayer doesn't work all that well because when I pray, nothing really all that radical ever happens. I've been praying the prayer of Jabez, and my territory isn't getting larger. Or I've been praying to move mountains by faith, and I'm barely getting a shovel full. Maybe this is relatable: I'm asking God to do far more abundantly beyond what I could ask or imagine. But right now, I'm imagining far more abundantly beyond what's actually happening. In other words, prayer isn't having the radical effect for me that the Bible seems to promise. Why is that? I want to speak into that. Here's the bottom line: God can and will do extraordinary things, when you pray. We know it, we see it, we experience it. But you know, there are prayers that must come before other prayers. The insight you need about God doing something radical with your prayers is that there are prayers have got to be prayed before other prayers. And those before other prayers, those prayers need to be prayed first. Those are the radical ones. Not many actually have the courage to pray them and follow them all the way through to the completion of what they could do in you. And that's what this series is about. It's those first prayers to pray, if you have the courage for God to do something radical with you, you’ve got to let him do something radical in you. And not many find the courage, or go through the process, or allow the process to happen to them. For God to do something radical in you, until you find the courage to pray, with sincerity and meaning and purpose, the four radical prayers that we're going to walk through in this series over the next few weeks and let them let them have their effect in you, nothing you pray for out there is going to have a really significant effect. Here's the burden I have for all of us - for the moment that we're living in. And my burden is that there's just such a sense of spiritual deadness in the Christianity of our generation, of our moment. And it just has very, very little spiritual power. that we see around us. And it's producing very little power or desire for living a deeply devoted life to Christ as the leader of our life. I want to punch through that powerlessness, I want to punch through that deadness. And I think the punch comes from being willing to fully embrace these prayers before other prayers. If we just had the courage, if we just knew what it meant to pray, search me, O God. or break me, oh God. Or not me, oh God; meaning not my agenda, not my plan God, and then use me, God. Here's what I think: if just one fellowship, one church, one gathering of Christ followers sold out to these four, praying these four things into our lives, that would be the place the starting point, the flashpoint, the igniting point. That would be a movement, I think if God could move to radically reshape you and me and reshape us and begin to reshape the world around us. And, and it comes with the courage with the radicalness, to pray these four prayers, and we're going to start with the first one today.

And the first one comes from Psalm 139. those last two verses, and that prayer goes this way. Listen closely to it. The Bible says there, “Search me, O God and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me into the everlasting way.” It's the first prayer; Search me. This is the word of God, and it speaks supernaturally. Let's open our hearts to it and watch this big idea. Let this big idea flow into our lives. And here it is: You must find in you the radicalness to pray, “Search me, O God.” Yeah, I'm using a clumsy and a distinct word - radicalness. So that when you walk out of here later, and somebody says, what was that sermon about? Well, I'm not 100% sure, but I do know he used the word radicalness. You need to find the radicalness in you to pray, for all of it means to pray, Search me O God. It means praying radical, you know, the most radical thing you can pray for is not the prayer of Jabez, God bless me, enlarge my territory. The most radical prayer that you can pray is not the prayer of, of Psalm 81: 10, “Open wide your mouth and God says I will fill it.” Now that's not the most radical prayer you can pray, nor the mountain moving faith prayers, as well. Actually, the most radical prayer you could pray on this earth is God search me and know my heart. When you pray that genuinely and thoroughly and know what it means, you are inviting the radicalness of God into yourself, you're inviting God into the places where you really are blind to yourself. You're inviting God into the dark places that you've tried to desperately keep covered up. When you pray, Lord search me, you aren't really inviting God to fully know you. Psalm is already going to tell us; he already knows you way more thoroughly than you believe. You're inviting him to make you aware of how fully He already knows you. That's the impact. And so, when you walk through this Psalm, Psalm 139, one of the most beautiful writings in all of the Bible, but often we don't catch every nuance of it, because it's so beautifully written. And so, for David, he goes through a five-step process, a five-step progression, to get to that fifth and final step of search me. O God, and honestly, the process starts with don't search me, O God. And it culminates with, search me and know me. And I want you to walk through that process with him.

And so, watch the five steps that David goes through and, and just attach yourself to them; put yourself into the process. Do you want to get to the place to have the radicalness inside of you to genuinely pray, search me, O God, and know my heart, then follow the process. And for David, the process starts number one with those first six verses; the first step is that you feel the scrutiny of God. So, listen to it. “Oh, Lord, you have searched me and known me, you know, when I sit down and when I rise up, you understand my thoughts from afar.” You scrutinize my path and my lying down, that's every aspect of my life. And you're intimately acquainted with all my ways, even before there's a word on my tongue, you know it, verse five, you have enclosed me behind and before and laid your hand upon me. And so, do you see that the spirit of the Psalmist here is that I'm realizing how intimately God scrutinizes every aspect of my life? And it's kind of freaking me out. And it's making me really uncomfortable here to fully realize and you know that it is a part of the first step for you. If you don't get that about God, if you think you can hide from God, if you think that you know that he knows some of the stuff he's not like fully aware, then you don't know God, and you need to feel the scrutiny of God in every aspect of your inner life. Look, verse one, you have searched me and known known me. That word for you have searched me means you've taken great pain and care to examine me. Early Jewish writers use that word to describe digging deep into a mine. There is God digging deep into the mine, a mine of my heart. Verse three, this word describes it all; verse three tells us all that we need to know. Do you see that word there: you scrutinize me; you know the meaning of the word scrutinize it means it means to evaluate critically. That word “out” literally is the word winnow, the word winnow. You know what that means? It's a word used in the wheat harvest. The ancient farmer cuts the wheat down with the scythe and then bundles them into the sheaves. Then the sheaves are taken to a threshing floor, and there they cut the heads off of the stalks, and then they beat those heads on the threshing floor until the wheat grains begin to come loose. They're loosened up and then the last step is he winnows it. To winnow the wheat is to pick up everything thrashed on the floor is picked up and thrown into the air, they let it fall back down to the ground, throw it in the air and let it fall, throw it in the air, let it fall, and every time he throws it into the air, the chaff; the debris, the trash is blown away. And he's saying that's what you do with my entire being you know me that thoroughly. The Psalmist sees God filtering through every little aspect of his inner life, like a farmer cutting, thrashing, and winnowing every aspect of his being. If you don't know that God has that ability and that God is conscious of it and that God is doing that in your life, then you don't know God.

But then there's this second step, this sort of progression that David is going through. Number two, then this scrutiny makes him feel claustrophobic; spiritually claustrophobic. You have enclosed me behind and before. This word for “you have enclosed me” is used of a battle siege where an army comes in, encircles a place, and lays siege and so they are behind and before you, they have encircled. And the bottom line is, God, you have done that, you’re all around me, you know it all. He sees what I don't even see about myself, it makes me feel like I'm in an MRI tube, where you are scanning every part of my being.

He's stepping through this progression, there is this third step in the progression. And that is, it seems it seems that he wants to hide from God. Or is at least asking, how do I hide from him? Verses seven through 12; I mean, he's essentially asking, how do I get away from this scrutiny? How do I get away from it? Verse seven, where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee? Where can I flee from your presence? Where can I go to get away, and then he starts naming aspects of all of creation, to heaven. I think it means outer space; I know you were there. He knows it, too. Sheol: it's sort of the word that describes the mysterious, the mysteriousness, of dying of death, the place of the death. And he says, no, no, you were there. If I take the wings of the dawn, that's a reference to the little clouds that you see around the sun as it rises in the east, and the ancient world thought of those as wings that the sun flies on. And so, if I flew with the sun, would I get away from you? And he says, No. And then he says, maybe to the remotest part of the sea, to the ancient world, the bottom of the sea was as if something ceases to exist. If I drop off, if I drop some ship implements into the Mediterranean ocean, in the ancient world, it is gone forever. It is as if it disappears and doesn't exist anymore. But he says, no, you were there. What if he says, I go to a place of total darkness, where it is so dark, nothing can be seen? He says, Yeah, well, that's like light to God. And so, the Psalmist seems to want to hide from God because he knows there are some dark places inside himself. And so, knowing the scrutiny of God, he's getting really uncomfortable, because of the darkness that is in him. There's selfishness, the self-centeredness is in him that could hurt others. There's enough envy in him to trample others. There's enough lust in him to destroy a relationship. There's enough anger in him to harm those closest by. He's entertained some thoughts and desires that if they were known, would mean total rejection.

And so, there are those first three steps, but then suddenly, suddenly, unexpectedly, and amazingly, the psalmist suddenly makes this turn, and it goes from sort of backpedaling. It goes from resisting; it goes from three to number four. The fourth step is that you begin to treasure, God's thoughts. You begin to treasure what God thinks. Here is God scanning me, scrutinizing me, and encircling me. And yet there's this moment that I begin to treasure what God thinks of you. And it's really because he has these two realizations that happen next in verses 13 through 18, he begins to have these realizations, and suddenly all of that scrutiny turns to something really, really good. Verses 13 through 16: “You've formed my inward parts. You wove me in my mother's womb…” And suddenly he's beginning to realize, wait, wait, wait a minute, God, you're the one who formed me. It's not that you just put this process into place, and it sort of works itself out actually. You are personally involved in forming me, you wove me in my mother's room; that word literally means ‘embroidered, hand stitched’. You hand stitched me in my mother's womb. You've seen my unformed substance. He says in verse 16: “In other words, you see God, you see the nucleotides, that build up the chromosomes and form the genes that make the proteins that that build the cells, that create the tissue, that make my body. You know, me so intimately. And you've formed me; the realization that God, you know me, because you formed me, actually does something transformational in him, it makes a huge difference to him. You know what I am, because your hands, created me.

But there's a second realization, he treasures these thoughts of God, about God because, suddenly he realizes, this is actually what God actually thinks of me. He scrutinizes all of this darkness in me, but here is what he actually thinks of me. Verse 17, “How precious also are your thoughts to me.” This verse changes everything. How precious are your thoughts to me, oh God. That word precious means valuable. It means valuable, like a precious stone, a precious stone is precious. Because it is it is beautiful, and it is valuable. And so, your thoughts toward me are precious. They're valuable. They're like a precious stone, like diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. The thoughts you have toward me, are that precious and valuable. The Spirit of God begins to help him realize something. It is David, the same psalmist that says in Psalm 103, follow this closely. Because this is the beginning of the thoughts of God toward him. He remembers Psalm 103, that He knows our frame. God knows our frame, he's mindful that we are dust. Do you know that just prior to that, this is what God says, here's how I think about you? Psalm 103: 11, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his loving kindness toward us. It's the Old Testament word, lovingkindness is the equivalent of the New Testament word grace. What is grace? Grace is the love and the mercy that God has for you, though you cannot deserve it. Grace is the response to God when he scrutinizes your life and he sees all of the darkness that you know, and see and hide, and he sees all the darkness that you don't even know that you have, and he sees all the darkness of what you might be capable of. And yet he chooses, he chooses because of Christ. He chooses grace, to think grace over you. Verse 12, continues: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” He's describing an infinite distance; he's describing here's my thoughts about you. Here's a valuable thought I have about you. I am willing to release you and forgive you of all of your sin. Verse 13: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him, who turn to him who look to him and so he fills our lives with compassion.

Look, I'm just getting started. Here are the thoughts God has for you. Verse 12, I'll remove the guilt of your sin as far as the east is from the west. Verse 13: I'll have compassion on you like a tender father does on a child. Verse 11, I said his loving kindness, His grace is poured out on you. Ezekiel 36, I'll give you a new heart. Ezekiel 36: 26 not only give you a new heart, but I'll put a new spirit in you, and I'll remove the old heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Verse 27, I'll put my spirit in you and cause you to walk in my spirit and in my statues. I'll give you have the ability to walk with me, I'll give you the ability to walk after me. Those are just the starting thoughts he's describing. What's David doing here? He's describing the gospel. All of those thoughts God has about you, Christ has accomplished. Christ made them true by what he did on the cross. All of these thoughts, these precious thoughts, they become true by what Christ has done on the cross. He took all the scrutiny of God for how messed up your life is, and he took that on himself, he became sin for us. He was abandoned to Sheol for you, he took death on for you. His death paid the price for all that you owe God for your rebellion, all your darkness. His death on the cross brings God's total forgiveness into your life. And it brings God's grace into your life, a forgiveness that never ends, and it brings his power to change you over time, so that suddenly, suddenly it is no longer step one. I'm really so nervous for you to search me, verse one, you have searched me to verse 23, Step five, you begin to ask for it. You begin to ask for it. Step five, you begin to ask, search me, O God. I don't know if you'll understand this but follow this if you can. To only want to be affirmed for who you are, is to live unknown and distant, to have to live with the kind of distance from others, that they only know what you can present, what you can positively present about yourself is to live unknown and distant and actually fragmented. If you only ever want to be known well enough, just so that it garners somebodies’ affirmation, you'll, you'll never know if you are worthy to be loved. Or that if you could be loved, in spite of your weaknesses. There's an incredible freedom in being known. All the good things in me, all the positive things, and everything dark thing, every weakness and flaw, and bad tendency and undesirable quality and yet, to be fully loved. That's how precious his thoughts are toward him. Because he comes to realize God knows all of this mess about me. And yet he says, I love you. And suddenly that changes everything for the psalmist: “Scan me, search me, O God, and know my heart.” That's the gospel. The radicalness of search me is exactly that. God, I want you to know me fully and thoroughly and show me that you can love me. It's the gospel.

I'm going to take search me into the next message and we're going to turn it into a spiritual practice. But I want to come to this moment now. And I want us to respond, and then we're going to pray together. here's the last word. Why would I ever want to invite God to search me and know my heart? Here's one reason. Richard Halverson, who was served as the chaplain for the U.S. Senate for many years. Many years ago, he was known for this little thing that he would say, that he would talk about he was like really known for it. It went it would go something like this: You are inevitably going to meet an old man or woman 10, 30, or 50 years from now and they have been waiting on you. You will have caught up with him or her. He or she will either be gracious, soft, and wise, and surrounded by people who love him because of who he is, or she has been to them or that person that you catch up with. He or she will be additional disillusioned, bitter, soured person about everything and more alone than anything else. You're already guessing it - that old man, that old woman will be you. He will be the outcome of everything you say and do today, tomorrow, and the next day. You're molding him right now. You can't stop the process. You're becoming him or her right now. You're becoming more like yourself with every day that passes. But do you get that you have the chance to make him or her something exquisite? And how does it start? It starts this way, by having the courage to ask God to search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, know my anxious thoughts. And see if there was a hurtful way in me and lead me into the everlasting way.

I'm going to ask us to bow together, in prayer. This is an important moment. I mean, this is an important moment. I want to ask you to bow in prayer and maybe for the first time or the first time in a long time. Say to God, I don't want to hide anymore. Yeah, I know I don't hide from you. But I don't want that to be my reality that I'm hiding. I want to be known by you. And I want to know how much you love me and how willing you are to transform me by the grace and gospel of Jesus.


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