Three Levels of Prayer, the Shadow of Death, and Being an Ambassador for Christ
Three Levels of Prayer, the Shadow of Death, and Being an Ambassador for Christ

O.S. Hawkins, author of The Joshua Code, is the president and chief executive officer of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was on a recent episode of Hank Unplugged. The following is a snapshot of Hank and O. S.’s conversation on the three levels of prayer, the shadow of death, and being an ambassador for Christ.

Hank Hanegraaff: There is so much in The Joshua Code. You talk about three levels of prayer. This caught my eye when I read the book — the presenting of a petition, the pressing of a petition, and the persisting in a petition. Cash that out.

O.S. Hawkins: Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).* These are three levels of prayer. When you know the will of God, you ask, and you receive. You know that God is not willing that we perish (1 Timothy 2:4). We ask Christ to save us, and we come in faith to Him. He will answer that prayer. If we know the will of God, we ask and we receive.

The second level of prayer is “seek and you will find.” If you do not know the will of God, you keep seeking in His Word, and you will find it. He does not want to veil His will to you.

Thirdly, if you do know the will of God but the door is closed, the verb tense says to keep on knocking; do not stop, just be persistent, keep on knocking and it will be open unto you. Most of us never get past that first level of just presenting a petition, but we need to move on to pressing it, and persisting in it.

Hank: Talk to me like you would talk to someone you are pastoring. I have an incurable disease from the human standpoint — it is mantel cell lymphoma. You can go into remission for long periods of time, but it is an incurable disease. There are lots of breakthroughs with the disease and so forth, so maybe that will change in the future, but right now, it is an incurable disease. Every single day, I do that, I persist in the petition. I ask the Lord to heal me in accordance with His will. Not my will but Thy will be done. But, every single day, I ask the Lord to heal me. It is as though I can picture myself touching the hem of His garment, and feel the healing virtue of Christ flow into my body. It is not as though, Pastor, — and I will call you Pastor because that is what you are in many ways to me and so many others — it is not that I fear death, or I feel like I have to grasp at life but I feel that there is so much more that I could be doing, and that urgency is continually pressed upon me. I pray this every single day. Give me some guidance.

O.S.: OK, Hank. I would pray exactly the same thing, understanding that even Paul prayed that. He talks about that physical infirmity that he had. Whether it was epilepsy or eye problems, what it was we do not know, but he had a thorn in his flesh. I believe it was a physical infirmity. He asked the Lord three times to take it from him, he kept persisting, asking God to heal him, but God did not do it. God came out on the other end and said that His grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:1–10). It always is.

The Bible uses a word, as you know, Hank, mysterion; it is a mystery. It is a sacred secret. Paul left Trophimus at Meletus sick, the Bible says (2 Timothy 4:20). Why did not Paul heal him? This is all wrapped up in the mystery of God.

As it relates to death, I have a devotional in The Believer’s Code: 365 Devotions to Unlock the Blessings of God’s Word (Thomas Nelson, 2017). The unique thing about The Believer’s Code, a 365-day devotional, is that every day has a code word that we live by. For example, in one of the devotions on Psalm 23, the code word is shadow. We all know what a shadow is. We have all seen them. Well, this Psalmist said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v. 4). No believer ever walks through the valley of death. Christ did, three days and three nights, and He came out victorious on the other end of the grave. He resurrected, and He held up some keys, John the Revelator says, and Jesus said, “I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). The believer does not walk through the valley of death; rather, he only walks through the valley of the shadow of death.

A shadow might frighten you. You come home at night, put your key in the front door, the porch light casts a shadow, and you jump back. The shadow might frighten you, but it cannot hurt you. You can walk right through it. That is what the psalmist says we do with the shadow of death. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Death is just a shadow. We use that code word shadow to think about during the day, to be reminded that the believer has no fear of death, that death has lost its sting, as Paul says for the believer in 1 Corinthians 15:55–57 because death is only a shadow.

Hank: Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

O.S.: Amen!

Hank: Talk about being an ambassador for Jesus Christ. This is something that has really been pressing on my heart as well, because we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, though most of us are secret agents who have never blown our cover before the unregenerate world. We are called to be ambassadors. If we are not ambassadors, the culture is continually going to corrupt and corrode. I oftentimes think that people put the focus on the pagan world and say, “Look what the pagan world’s doing!” And I think there is a place for that, but oftentimes I think they fail to recognize that pagans are going to do what pagans do. The real problem is Christians are not doing what they are supposed to do, and as a result of that, the salt has lost its savor.

O.S.: Exactly. You know Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (v. 20). We hear a lot about ambassadors being appointed today to Israel. We just appointed another one to Germany. To begin with the ambassadors, you have to look at their citizenship. It is obvious that an ambassador for the United States to a foreign nation has to be a citizen of America. No alien can ever represent our nation. A true ambassador of Christ is one, as Paul says in Philippians, whose “citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

An ambassador has to be someone with character. Should an ambassador of the King of kings and Lord of lords be anyone else? A representative of Christ ought to have the highest moral standards, qualities, and values. A reputation that is spotless. Good conduct. Consistency. You know a good ambassador has to communicate. What good would it be to have an ambassador to another country that could not communicate and speak their language. The effective ambassadors for Christ need to have constant daily contact with headquarters — the Lord Jesus Christ. There is so much that is wrapped up in this, so many analogies and parallels to what Paul talked about being ambassadors for Christ.

To listen to the full interview, click here.

To order a copy of The Joshua Code, click here.

* New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) used throughout.

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