When Texas pastor Zac Allen and his wife, author Jennie Allen, known for her Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free DVD series for women, stumbled across the blog of an American girl named Katie, they had no idea their lives would be changed forever. Katie had given up everything to follow God’s call in Uganda.
Inspired by her example, they prayed a prayer that would change their lives, pledging to do “anything” that God desired of them.
They surrendered all that they had, and all that they were ... and asked Him to do with them as He wished.
"Safe. Comfortable. Happy. These are words we all love," recalls Jennie. "Feelings we want. Even crave. We may love God, but being that He's invisible, words like 'comfortable' seem to feel better faster.
"We are all chasing something. Our hearts were made to run hard and fast after things that move us. But as a generation we are all beginning to stir and wake up, identifying that these words don't satisfy for long, especially when compared to God. If God is real, and we are going to live with Him forever, shouldn't He be everything?"
Deciding that they had been caught up in a pointless haze of worldly happiness and empty pursuits, Jennie and Zac's prayer was simple: "God, we will do anything. Anything,"
Jennie explains what happened:
Zac and I climbed into bed on a completely average night two years ago. We were pretty tired. We just laid there looking at the ceiling, with only small firework fantasies of what God might say. Zac took my hand and spoke the simple words we had been processing for the past few months but not yet been ready to say.
God had been opening our eyes to how precious our temporary lives were and how numbly we were moving through them.
We were over it. We were over building our lives. We were over houses and cars and cute Christmas cards. We wanted something; we couldn’t put our finger on it. It was burning in us. We had loved so many other things more than God.
We were ready to do anything.
So what happened? Although they already had three kids, they followed God's guidance and adopted an African orphan. Suddenly, everything was different.
"Our family had grown with the light of a busy, passionate toddler," writes Jennie. "I had thought we were laying down our lives for him, and instead he breathed life and joy into us.
"I had a job — a pretty demanding one where I poured out words almost daily, telling about my Jesus." Her days were spent torn between training the child how to speak English and use a fork, while meeting her own professional deadlines "and trying to explain invisible, important things in writing. I never would have dreamed any of this two years ago.
"Our church had changed. As Zac prayed about his future and the church he had poured into and dreamed of for years, God began leading him and the elders to consider partnering with another church to more fully reach the city. Zac let go of directional leadership of the church. It was a little death for the sake of forever.
"Our priorities changed too. We were praying about moving to a less expensive house and doing things like canceling cable so we could spend less" because they wanted to keep taking their children to the Third World to see life there. Jennie remembers: "I wanted to sponsor every child I could rather than have our lives be perfectly comfortable.
"My days, Zac’s days, my family, and Christmas cards changed forever, all because of a prayer:"
Surrender in spite of fear!
"There are a few things I have learned so far on this journey of surrender," she recalls. "The first obstacle I had to overcome was my fear and feelings of inadequacy.
"I had prayed the prayer of anything as though I were about to launch on the Superman ride at Six Flags, my eyes closed tight and fingernails digging in.
I was so afraid. I can just imagine God thinking something like, Thanks a lot, Jennie. Great. You’ ll be used by me, but no one else will want to ever be, because you are making it look so terrifying!
But on the other hand, maybe He was thinking, 'I love that she realizes she is going to need Me for this.'
I have; I do need Him. That has been the theme of the last two years of my life, and I see no relief in the future. He has stretched me to the places where fear should be paralyzing me, and yet I am OK.
As I look at Mary, who was asked to carry the Son of God, I see a girl who surely did not feel worthy or able to bear and raise the son of God, but she did not focus on that. She submitted and focused on the eternal plans of God. The cost and her inadequacy paled in light of God’s plan for humanity. She just was in awe that God would have plans for her simple, short life here.
Surrender in spite of the war!
We were pouring ourselves out to God and getting attacked from every side. It should not surprise us if life is hard, especially if we love Jesus. We are at war — not in heaven. And yet it always does surprise us. When you are truly about the things of God, there is always attack. So Jesus prayed for us, not that we would be kept from hardship or suffering but that we would be kept from the evil one who desires to take us out.
How many times have I kicked and pouted to God because life was not going how I wanted? How many times have I thought to myself, That is not fair! While I may have read in my Bible that we are in a spiritual war, that truth had not fully adjusted my expectations of this life. To accept that life is supposed to be hard is the beginning of joy.
There is freedom in understanding that heaven is coming and we are not there yet. We’re called to live, instead, aware that we are at war with a ruthless enemy who is trying to destroy us if we are living surrendered to Jesus.
It reminds me of Gone with the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara is a little diva before the war. Her food is brought in to her extravagant bedroom on silver trays. But when she gets home to Tara after the war, she gets her hoe in the dirt and tries to coax corn to grow, telling everyone around her to quit complaining. Because of the war, her reality was different, and therefore she lived differently. She went from pouty and spoiled to an intense workhorse.
Surrender because He is trustworthy
Living your anything, is simply an expression of what is true about my God: He is trustworthy. I adore my God, and so He has me . . . all of me. I don’t choose my own path anymore. It is set for me, laid before the foundations of time. God prepared in advance the good works I would do (Eph. 2:10). That is the beautiful call on my life, on our lives.
God’s priorities are beautiful, and they trickle down into invisible spaces . . . into neighborhoods and families and friends and strangers. He will call us to pour our lives into the cracks around us, and sometimes into cracks far from our doorsteps. But wherever he calls us, we pour, not wishing for a larger crack or a more noticeable one, or even the one we were expecting.
Our friends, who were surrendering every part of their lives to God, weren’t just recklessly saying yes to God’s Spirit. They were also being set free from sin they had struggled with for years. As God got bigger, their thousand problems were shrinking. God was setting everyone free. Our affections, our goals, our futures had shifted. We were on a mission. Life was getting really fun because we were running with friends toward heaven.
Surrender to God's spirit
All this “anything” living has to be empowered by God. Back in Acts 1, Christ had returned to God and promised to give the Holy Spirit. He said essentially, “Don’t go anywhere. Don’t do anything until he comes.”
So they waited, knowing better than to try to change the world in their own little human strength. And then he came; he blew in and everything woke up. Everyone knew what to do and how to do it, where before they were fickle, confused, half hearted followers.
This was the key to sustained power and impact in average men with mundane lives. Eternity was changed by a few disciples? The entire church age started by fishermen? God was in them—the Holy Spirit. He’s given to every person at the moment they put their faith in Christ, but rarely accessed. The Spirit helps us, affirms we are God’s, teaches us, even prays for us, leads us in what to do, and equips us with what we need to do it.
Without the Spirit of God to lead our anythings, we will only be do-gooders with our own agendas. And they will fizzle. It will be a phase, some dramatic spiritual experiment we look back on fondly, wishing it had been real life. But sometimes the real thing takes time. We prayed anything, but it was over the course of months and years that our anythings have been revealed. I imagine this will continue for the rest of our lives; if we remain willing, more anythings are in store.
Surrender to find the life you really want
“God, we will do anything. Anything.”
That had been their prayer. "I looked into God’s eyes and asked Him, What do you want me to do while I’m here?" Jennie recalls. "We weren’t as scared as we should have been. We were just so tired of normal. We loved our simple, sane life, yet we wanted the kind of life you only find if you lose normal, simple, and sane.
"God was ready to have his way with us. Actually, he sits around waiting for that sort of thing. 'For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him' (2 Chronicles 16:9). God is ready to have his way with you, too. I hope you’ll invite God into your “anything.”
Excerpted from Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul