Praying Backwards

July 5, 2020

David Sorn

At the root of our forward-looking prayers we often find selfishness. But what if we began to focus more of our prayers backwards?

Praying Backwards

July 5, 2020

David Sorn

At the root of our forward-looking prayers we often find selfishness. But what if we began to focus more of our prayers backwards?



Where is your passion level for Jesus right now?

How would you rate it?

If 10 is you’re just overflowing with excitement for God, where are you on a scale of 1 to 10?

If you’re feeling lower than usual, I hope that today’s passage in Luke will be helpful to you in unlocking how to restore your passion for Jesus Christ.

If you would…open up to the Book of Luke in your Bibles, or in our church app

Tap Outdoor Services, Weekly Verses

We are continuing in Luke 17…and even though today’s passage will feel quite different from last week’s (today’s is a story of something that happened, last week was a parable)

Their theme is quite similar

(Luke 17:11-19) – NIV

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”


So, Jesus heals 10 people of leprosy…a debilitating skin disease…

…so much so, that it was basically a death sentence.

You had to stay outside the city because it was so contagious, so you were cut off from your family, society, basically everything.

It was one of THE worst things that could ever happen to you.

But Jesus heals all 10 lepers.

And YET, only ONE comes back to say thank you.

So let’s take a look at these other 9 lepers.

They obviously have some understanding of Jesus’ power.

They call Him, “Jesus, MASTER”

They know what He can do.

They even seem to have a measure of faith.

If you read the story carefully, Jesus doesn’t heal them on the spot.

He tells them to go show themselves to the priests.

Because, according to OT Law, people with skin disease had to be examined by a priest, and the priest would determine if they were actually healed and could reenter normal society.

And notice that the lepers aren’t actually healed until they step out in faith and start making the journey to town to see the priest.

It says, “AS THEY WENT, they were healed”

Their faith is proven by their actions.

We don’t say that Noah had faith because he wrote a paper on the topic of faith or because he blogged about what God was going to do

No, Noah had faith because he went out and built an ark…in the middle of the desert.

His faith was proven by his actions.

So there are clearly some good things about the 9 other lepers.

And yet, when the miraculous healing happens, they don’t go back to Jesus

Sure they believe.

Sure they are glad they are healed.

But their priorities are proven by the way in which they run.

And where do they run?

Toward town

Toward their families

Toward their old careers

Toward, even religious life, to the priest, and synagogue

They got what they wanted from Jesus, and basically said, “Thanks Lord, I can take it from here”

What they really wanted was to improve their life.

They wanted to not have leprosy anymore…

They wanted that even more than they wanted to know the Son of God.

…who was right in their midst.

Their priorities are proven by the way in which they run.

And so are ours.

Let me ask you a very difficult question:

What is it that you really want?

Jesus or a good life?

What if you HAD to pick between the two (and sometimes we do!)

Would you rather:

Option A: Know Jesus deeply but live a life that no one envied? Say a life filled with health problems and poverty for example?

OR Option B: Almost all of your prayers for worldly success and happiness answered, but never know Jesus that well…just kind of on the surface.

Be honest with yourself.

Because for the 9 lepers, it was obvious.

They wanted worldly happiness more than they wanted Jesus.

They ran right toward town and never looked back.

After they got healed, they didn’t see much more of a need for being with Jesus.

Is that you?

Is that perhaps how you see your salvation?


But the leper who came back is different.

He’s walking back to town, in faith, to go see the priest, and he notices his body starting to change…

…his skin is being made new…his step is getting stronger.

And as the others begin to pick up speed and run toward the town, toward their families, and the priest…

This man, recognizes that the real presence of God isn’t with the priest in town, it’s with Jesus… that’s the HIGH priest!

He becomes so overwhelmed with what Jesus has done for Him, that He realizes that His first priority is Jesus.

And, it’s not like he sits down and writes out his priorities on a pro’s & con’s chart.

No, his heart is so overflowing with gratitude, and it’s his gratitude that pushes him to turn around and run back to Jesus.

And the imagery of the passage is so vivid here.

This is not your typical, Minnesota Baptist here.

It’s not like he walks back to Jesus and says, “Excuse me, Jesus, ope, sorry to bother you, just wanted to shake your hand and let you know I appreciate what you did. Again, sorry to bother you, have a great day!”

No, what does it say?

Look at verses 15 & 16:

He came back praising God in a loud voice

He’s shouting on his way back

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! God is good!”

And then, he reaches Jesus, and he doesn’t just extend his hand for a handshake.

It says that he THREW himself at the feet of Jesus

This man is so full of gratitude, that the weight of the gratitude has caused him to fall over at the feet of Jesus.

Are you that full of gratitude for Jesus?

Gratitude, real gratitude, is heavy.

It’ll always drop you to your knees.

So why is it that this one man is able to be so thankful?

I’ll tell you why:

This man understood his complete inability to save himself.

He understood just how utterly hopeless his situation was.

There was no curing leprosy…no treatments even.

He was just living out his days in sickness and isolation, until he died.

And there was nothing, literally NOTHING, he could do about it!

And yet, Jesus, the Son of God, in His mercy, changed everything for Him.

And the man is so overwhelmed by gratitude, that it causes him to worship.

Can you imagine being him?

Having leprosy.

Your career ruined.

Being told you’ll never hug your children again or kiss your spouse.

In fact, you’ll only see them from a far…as you’ve been forced to leave town and head out to the leper colony.

How hopeless of a situation! Or utterly hopeless.

But here is what you CAN NOT MISS today.

Your situation was worse than his.

You don’t have the disease of leprosy of course, but the disease of sin.

And the Bible says that you are “dead in your sins,” it’s a condition you’ve had since birth

And sin will not only ruin your life…

The effects of it are worse than fatal.

They are eternal.

Sin will cause some to be separated from their families, cast off in isolation and torment, not in a leper colony away from their families…

But in hell while their family is in heaven…for all of eternity.

Your situation was hopeless.

You could try every remedy, but nothing would work…

No amount of good works or knowledge could cleanse you from your sin sickness and save you from an eternity in hell apart from God.

And then along came Jesus in your life.

And as you saw Him, and understood what He did for you on the cross, you called out to Him, “Jesus, Master, save me!”

And he did!

Adopting you into His family, washing away the penalty of your sin, and preparing a place for you in heaven”

But far too many of us, once we got past our initial delight with being saved, ran instead to town…to our families, our careers, our friends, and our worldly pleasures.

Sure, we still do some religious things.

We go and see the priest…I mean pastor.

Come to church, we “say” we’re thankful

Read the Bible…but often more so from guilt than pleasure

And we lack that passion for Jesus that many of us had at the beginning, and we certainly don’t feel a weight of gratitude that would drop us to our knees

We’re like children who eat their fill of food at dinner, and then run outside to play without ever saying thanks.

And why is that?

It’s because we haven’t thought hard enough about our past condition and what Jesus really saved us from.

And we each gloss over this amazing truth of God’s love in different ways.

Some of us don’t want to think very hard about what our eternal destiny might have been, and so the sheer scope of just how much Jesus has saved you from has never hit home.

It’s like you were about to fall off of a 1,000 foot cliff, but someone grabbed you at the last second, but then you looked at them and said, “Oh, it’s nothing, I’m sure I would have been fine”

“If you’re not thankful for them saving you from falling off that cliff it’s because you didn’t accurately perceive just how much you were really saved from.

And that is true of many Christians I know.

Others of us presume that, well, we at least deserve some of the credit.

I suspect this was part of the problem with the other 9 lepers.

As they ran back to town, they must have congratulated themselves on what a good plan it was to be in the right place to find Jesus

Another must have said, “And it was good that we yelled out so he heard us!”

Another would have said, “It was good that we used the word ‘Master.’ That was really smart! It really worked! We are so wise!”

And there was no need to turn around and run back to Jesus, for it was THEY who deserve the credit, right? ☺

And we do the same thing.

This is a challenge for many who grow up in Christian homes.

Often without a defining moment of salvation, coupled together with what often ends up being an upbringing more focused on morals than a relationship with Jesus…

It becomes easy for those who grow up in the church to think more about how they are better than the rest of society instead of about how they were just as hopeless to be saved as anyone else, yet Jesus had mercy on them.

And the more that you give yourself the credit for your spiritual life, the less gratitude you will have.

You’ll never have passion for Jesus when you’re patting yourself on the back for finding & following Him.

So who are you?

Are you more like the leper who came back to Jesus or more like the other 9?

And what do truly want?

Do you want Jesus or do you want a good life?

If you’re unsure, think about the content of your prayers.

If you trace the vast majority of your prayers back to their roots…you will find self-interest.

Ultimately, we want better circumstances…less fear…more happiness…less anxiety.

Now, God tells you to pray about absolutely everything, so you keep praying those prayers.

But think about this.

Even though our forward looking prayers (our prayers about the future) are often mixed with selfishness, our backward looking prayers rarely ever are mixed with selfishness.

When you stop yourself to pray, and begin to look backward (to the past)….

…and you start with “Thank you Lord for saving me, for delivering me… “

There is no selfishness in that prayer

And so if you’re not used to praying backwards, begin this week.

Think back to what God has done…and praise him for it.

If you’re always praying forward, your mind will just run into town, to all of the worldly things you want to improve in your life…

Just like the 9 lepers.

But if you begin to train yourself to pray backwards more often…

You’ll find your heart running to Jesus again…with passion.

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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