I didn't know, at that moment, how powerful those two words would prove to be. Those two simple words were my prayer a few years ago.
I was at a life changing event called Catalyst, and miles from home in Atlanta Georgia. The challenge to pray this simple (but difficult) prayer came from a pastor that I look up to and is recognized all over the world - Rick Warren.
Maybe a little bit of me was caught up in the fact that I was hearing all these wonderful servants of God preach. People I look up to. People like; Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Dave Ramsey, Francis Chan and as was already mentioned, Rick Warren.
Or maybe (and this is what I really believe it was) I was just REALLY in tune with the Holy Spirit.
Rick Warren was preaching a great message and then BAM! Out of nowhere he challenges us to pray with him. Just all of a sudden like that. And as we bowed our heads to pray I found myself really wanting to tune everyone else out (tens of thousands of people) and just speak to God. One-on-one.
As pastor Warren was leading the prayer the only thing I knew were the words he was praying. Everything else faded away. Not long into the prayer he got down to business and said, (and I'm paraphrasing here to the best of my memory) "God, we come before you right now in this moment and want to pray a simple prayer. This prayer is so simple that it only consists of two words. But God, if we really mean this with all our hearts this prayer will be the most life-changing and "dangerous" prayer we could ever pray. But only if we really mean it. God, that prayer is "use me". Use me Lord to do your will whatever that may be. Use me Lord to be your hands and feet. USE ME!"
And almost as soon as the two words were spoken in that prayer I felt overwhelmed with desire. I meant for that to be my prayer in that moment. I really meant it to be my own. Not only that, but those two words would become my mantra many times after that day too and even now I find I'm praying it from time to time.
In the moment I said that prayer I thought I understood how a prayer like that could be simple and yet difficult at the same time. At least then I thought I did. BUT I told myself if I really mean for that to be my prayer I would have to be willing to go WHEREVER and DO WHATEVER God would lead me to. Still, I was determined. "Use me" was my new prayer and I wasn't going to let go of it.
Now, as I'm typing this and looking back at what's happened in my life between then and now, I can see just how "dangerous" that prayer really was. You see, not long after Catalyst was over a prayer was answered. A prayer that my wife and I had been praying over and over. We finally conceived the child that infertility kept us from having for so long. We were so excited! With that prayer answered still I prayed, "use me".
The day came for Emily to be born and with a few complications Erica gave birth to a dream we'd been holding on to for so long. Through a miscarriage and infertility God delivered us an angel. We fought those battles with God's help, and Emily finally in our arms, we realized how faithful our God is.
Still I prayed, "use me".
A few months after her birth we found out that Emily had Infantile Spasms. (You can read more about our journey with I.S. at my wife's blog here.)
Devastated and depressed the next few months was a true testing of my faith. There were many weeks spent in the hospital and many nights I questioned my beliefs. I fought with God, tried to bargain with God and almost gave up on God. If God wasn't going to "fix" Emily then I didn't need him anymore.
I went a while in this funk until one night (when praying of all things) I heard God gently remind me of something I had seemed to forget about. In a still, small voice, God said, "use me". Only it was me hearing myself when I prayed that prayer years before! God reminded me of what I MEANT with all my heart. And almost instantly the fog cleared and I realized that God had answered yet ANOTHER prayer and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime - the chance to be the daddy and hero of an amazing little girl who requires a little more attention, time and patience than most kids do. A child who struggles with I.S.
Now don't misunderstand. I was still hurt that Emily would have to battle I.S. but I did feel a little bit better about it. I wasn't as depressed as I was before but it was still a hard thing to deal with.
You see, when I went to Catalyst I knew there was a calling on my life to go into ministry. I knew that I would have a ministry of some sort. But I didn't realize that the kind of ministry God had in mind would be mostly to one individual. I didn't realize that God would "use me" to be a minister who was also a daddy.
Looking back on things now I'm so thankful that I was at Catalyst that day and prayed that life-changing, "dangerous" prayer. I still pray for God to "use me".
And every time I hold my precious girl in my arms I'm reminded of two simple, life-changing words - "USE ME!"
Thank you Jesus!