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This line from the 1994 movie Angels in the Outfield is one of my absolute favorites from any movie I have ever seen.

It means a lot to me because it describes how I have learned to have conversations with God over the last 20 years.

Twenty-two years ago, one of my now-best friends prayed a very specific prayer. She prayed that God would help her meet a student at her alma mater, UC Berkeley, who needed help and was searching for a relationship with God. Additionally, she asked God that this student would one day work in the full-time ministry to help other young women.

God answered that prayer. She did meet a UC Berkeley student who needed help and was searching for God and who would eventually go into full-time ministry to help other women. Twenty-two years later, here I sit, writing this article because that UC Berkeley student was me. 

When I found out that my friend had prayed a very specific prayer that literally changed the course of my entire life, I realized that with prayer, “it could happen.”

Jesus teaches his disciples this lesson about bold, faithful prayer in Mark 11:

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. [23] I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. [24] I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.

Mark 11:22-24 NLT

It amazes me that God listens so closely to my voice and that my personal faith can change the course of someone else’s life, just because I believe those 3 small words: “It could happen.”

Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen that praying bold prayers gives God the opportunity to show me how much he cares about my thoughts, feelings, and desires. For that reason, I believe that praying specific, faithful prayers are essential to our relationship with God, but I’ve also learned that it isn’t always easy. 

To do it, we need to believe God wants to know what we truly desire. We also have to trust him, be vulnerable, and overcome our fear of disappointment. 

In this study, I want to share with you three of my favorite scriptures that always help me to have the faith, trust, and vulnerability to pray bold, believing, and life-changing prayers. 

Boldness comes from trusting God

So trust in the LORD and do good. Live on your land and be dependable. [4] Enjoy serving the LORD, and he will give you whatever you ask for. [5] Depend on the LORD. Trust in him, and he will help you. [7] Trust in the LORD and wait quietly for his help. Don’t be angry when people make evil plans and succeed.

Psalm 37:3-5,7 ERV

Prayer takes trust. Trusting someone else with our innermost thoughts, desires, wants, or fears puts us in a vulnerable place. 

I actually hate vulnerability. Growing up, I moved every two weeks between my mom’s house and my dad’s house. I felt like I was in flux all the time, and I longed for a safe place with someone.

I rarely shared what I thought, felt, or wanted because I was afraid no one would have time to listen. I was afraid of disappointment and rejection, so I held my feelings inside.

When I learned to pray, this became one of the safest places I had ever known. I learned to trust God. I learned that he was always listening. I learned that, like Psalm 37:7 says, if I could slow down long enough to “wait quietly for his help,” he would hear me; he would answer. 

One of the life experiences that taught me this lesson most clearly happened 9 years ago. My husband Sam and I had been serving in the ministry in Santa Clara county (part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area) for several years. 

When I learned to pray, this became one of the safest places I had ever known.

Unexpectedly, a need arose in a different area of the church and it became clear that we would need to move and serve in the ministry in the East Bay — about as far away from Santa Clara as you could get without leaving the area altogether.

The friends and people I had met in Santa Clara had become my family; we loved them deeply. The idea of moving away was hard.

I prayed and asked God, “Why? Why are you doing this now?” Then it hit me. Sam’s family lived in the area we were about to move to. His mother was dear to my heart, but she had been very clear she didn’t want anything to do with church or the Bible. I deeply desired for her to get to know God for herself, but at times it seemed impossible.  

So I had a heart-to-heart with God. I told him, “If you want us to move, help us to help Sam’s mom have a relationship with God.”

We ended up moving, and two years later Sam’s mom was diagnosed with ALS. The next several years were long and hard as we learned to take care of her physical needs. 

But all along the way God was moving and answering my prayer. The decline in Sam’s mom’s health and her fears for the future prompted her to open her heart to the Bible. Because we lived close by, we were able to facilitate introducing her to other women in the church who lived near her. She built unforgettable friendships with these women, and they helped her study the Bible to learn how to build her relationship with God. 

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She decided to become a Christian at the age of 73. The day she got baptized, I came home and broke down crying as I prayed. I couldn’t even talk, but I knew God understood. He had heard my prayer many years before. 

There were times over those several years when she was sick when it seemed impossible that she would be well enough to even read Scriptures or think about her faith. But when she passed away two years later, I was so grateful she had decided to get her relationship with God right at the time she did.

Over the last 20+ years of developing my relationship with God, I have seen him listen and answer so many specific prayers. Sometimes I have had to wait quietly to see his answer, but each of these experiences has taught me to trust him more and understand how deeply he cares about me.

Pause and reflect

  • How easy is it for you to trust God?
  • What makes it hard for you to wait quietly for God’s answers? Do you tend to be someone who will quietly wait or do you try to take matters into your own hands? 
  • What are a few things you are hesitant to pray about either because you just don’t believe “it could happen”, or you DO believe it could happen? 

Take action

  • Take time to write down 1-3 things you are afraid, excited, hesitant or apprehensive to pray about, but you have not yet. 
  • Find a spot where you can be alone- water, mountain, trail, your favorite spot at home, and tell God one of them (or all of them). Be as specific as you can, because that is where the vulnerability comes in, in the details of your heart! Knowing that God is listening is one of the ways we get to know God better. 

Bold prayers are “real” prayers, not “right” prayers

Being bold with God means you tell him what you really need, not what you think he wants to hear:

Please, Lord! Come quickly and rescue me! Take pleasure in showing me your favor and restore me. [17] Lord, in my place of weakness and need, I ask again: Will you come and help me? I know I’m always in your thoughts. You are my true Savior and hero, so don’t delay to deliver me now, for you are my God.

Psalm 40:13, 17 TPT

I love this example of “real” prayer. David, the psalmist, gives us an example of praying boldly for help while he is weak and needy. He doesn’t try to pretend he’s good by saying the “right” things; he’s real about where he’s at.

Asking for help and expressing weaknesses is very hard for me. From the time my parents divorced when I was four, I saw my mom handle life as a strong single parent. It seemed to me that she could fix anything, build anything, and come up with something out of nothing. 

And my dad was just as tough – he was a firefighter and a fifth degree blackbelt. He was strict. He was like Superman to me, strong enough to do anything.

I admired and valued my parents’ strength and I strove to be tough enough to handle anything that came my way. Unfortunately — and my parents didn’t teach me this part — I thought I had to hold in and hide my weaknesses in order to be strong. 

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Being “in need” or weak can make me feel not good enough. I often think something is wrong with me if I can’t figure things out on my own. This has led me to overextend myself on many occasions, hide my needs from God and others, and burn out. Close friends who know me also have certainly heard my fatal catchphrase, “I got it!” (which actually means, I really don’t have it).

I’ve learned through Scriptures like Psalm 40 (above) that being strong doesn’t mean being without needs. Strength comes when we are willing to be real with God about what we need and ask humbly for his help. 

God has helped me grow a lot in this area. I still have a long way to go, but now when my friends hear me say “I got it,” they at least know it’s code for “She doesn’t have it, she needs help.” 

Sometimes, the longer we’ve been around church, we start trying to pray “right” prayers. Prayer becomes a performance; we say everything we think we are supposed to say, but we’re not real with God about our needs and weaknesses.

My bold prayers don’t come from a place of strength; they come from a place of need and vulnerability. 

God wants to help us with our needs. Praying “real” prayers helps our relationship with him get closer. Our humility and vulnerability move his heart on our behalf, reassuring us that he cares about our needs.

Pause and reflect

  • How easy or hard is it for you to admit you need help? Why?
  • What are some things in your life that you need help with or haven’t been able to figure out on your own? Talk to God about those things today and ask him for the specific things you need.

Boldly believe in what God is able to do

Blessed [with spiritual security] is the man who believes and trusts in and relies on the LORD And whose hope and confident expectation is the LORD. [8] “For he will be [nourished] like a tree planted by the waters, That spreads out its roots by the river; And will not fear the heat when it comes; But its leaves will be green and moist. And it will not be anxious and concerned in a year of drought Nor stop bearing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 AMP

Bold prayers take belief in what God is able to do, not in what we can do ourselves. That’s what it means to make God our “hope and confident expectation.” We pray to a God who can nourish us, help us grow, and give us a fruitful life. 

When the Bible talks about “bearing fruit,” it’s referring to many things, but one thing is the fruit of influencing people around us to believe in God.

Since I was little I have always wanted to help people. My dad was a firefighter and my mom was a teacher — both incredible careers of service.

I grew up singing and I wanted that to be something I used to help people. I didn’t know how exactly, but I figured if I got famous, I’d have millions of dollars and I could use that to help people.

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So I poured my heart and soul into developing my career. On the outside, everything in my life seemed to be going well; I was engaged, and I was planning to move to Italy for a year to sing while I studied abroad.

But I knew something was missing. I consistently felt empty, and my fiancé and I weren’t doing well. One day, when I was on winter break from school down in Los Angeles, I finally told God I would go back up to school at Berkeley and study the Bible.

I broke off my engagement and went back up to the Bay Area, searching for God but not knowing where to find him.

And at just the right time, I met that friend I mentioned earlier. She was my neighbor, a Berkeley alum who had just moved back to the area, and unbeknownst to me she was praying for me. She helped me study the Bible and learn how to build a relationship with God. The emptiness was gone, and I found an incredible new purpose as I learned how to counsel and mentor other young women.

God’s plans for my own life reminds me that he is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think. His plans for me were so much greater than anything I could have imagined for myself. 

And, as an extra bonus, now I get to use all my musical training to create spiritual music that helps me and other people have faith. I had no idea (and no plan) to one day lead a church, be married, and have two kids. I often share my childhood dreams with my kids about wanting to be famous and help people. And both my sons have said this to me numerous times… “Mom, hello – your videos are on YouTube.” To them, I’ve made it!

Which brings me to my last scripture:

“Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us —  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 CSB

God is able to do anything … beyond what I can see in front of me. This has always been one of my favorite scriptures and is one that I quote and think about often as I pray to God.

I can’t count how many times this has come true in my life but also in the lives of people I’ve had the privilege to help. I’ve seen so many women’s lives make a full 180-degree turnaround because of God. It’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done – to ask God, wait, and see his answer unfold in front of me. 

Pause and reflect

  • How would your prayer life change if you decided to believe God is able to do anything?

Take action

  • Decide to pray a bold prayer for yourself, someone in your family, and a friend. Write down your prayer requests and pray daily for them.
  • Also make sure to write down every time you see God answer one of your prayers. Take time to thank him for what he’s done and remember each of these answered prayers when you get tempted to doubt.

Further study

I hope this study has encouraged you to trust, believe, and pray “real” prayers. To keep taking your prayer life to the next level, check out these resources:

  • Study the book of Acts to see a group of ordinary people whose bold prayers changed the world
  • Study the life of David in 1 Samuel to learn from his vulnerable and powerful prayer life.
  • Deep Spirituality devotional: “Ya Gotta See Him Move” 
Explore more:
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Tenea Manuel leads a large women’s ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has more than two decades of experience in spiritual counseling and leadership training. She is a wife, a mother of two boys, a musician, and a fan of all things Berkeley, her alma mater (go Bears!)

It Could Happen: Finding the Faith, Vulnerability, and Trust to Pray Bold Prayers 10

Tenea Manuel leads a large women’s ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has more than two decades of experience in spiritual counseling and leadership training. She is a wife, a mother of two boys, a musician, and a fan of all things Berkeley, her alma mater (go Bears!)

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