How much do we REALLY believe in prayer?

My challenge in prayer the past few days has been a question from the Spirit: “Do I REALLY believe God can change the course of nations? Do I fully understand what I am asking, and WHO I am addressing, in prayer?”

Today in our church service we are praying for the nations. For the persecuted. For the enemies of the Church. For the enemies of humanity.

Not because “all we have left to do is pray,” but because what we SHOULD be doing is PRAY.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps. 46:9-10)

 

 

Training our hands for war

Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
    my fingers for battle. (Ps. 144:1)

We don’t like talk of “war,” but war is what we get when we come into true Kingdom allegiance. When we make the declaration in our lives that Jesus IS Lord, that means all other things are NOT our rulers. Our declaration of allegiance to Jesus doesn’t make other allegiances happy. And we get war in some way.

We need our lives trained for war. We need our spirits readied for spiritual strength conditioning. We need our hearts set on fully worshiping our Lord. With our spiritual vision full of Jesus, we gain new perspective and new strength.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Cor. 10:4)

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:12-17)

We need our spirits alert. Our flabby spiritual state needs a workout like none other. It is time for training.

Prayers of the Day

Prayer for Mission

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

A Psalm 

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps. 103:1-5)

This is my specific prayer when I come to Psalm 103:

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel

I don’t want to sit back seeing what God did. I want to see what God IS doing. I want to know his ways, not just his actions.

What God IS doing is calling his Church to prayer. The question is this: will we respond? 

These past few weeks we have prayed for a missionary friend, a pastor friend, some teens in our church and attached to our church… and now another minister in our District who was in a serious motorcycle accident last night.

There is also the deeply urgent prayers needed for Nigeria. You’ve probably heard about the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. 300 girls stolen out of a town in Nigeria and promised to be sold by Boko Haram. Now, more bombings in towns and almost 150 dead in just the past two days.

These are days for prayer. The Lord IS calling his Church back to prayer. May we heed that call.

Maturing in Prayer… a Basketball Analogy

I love NCAA basketball. I live and die with the Kansas Jayhawks. I died early this year.

There is a marker I use in watching games (if I can) early in the NCAA tournament: If a high seed team rolls through their first two games, taking care of business and not letting a much lower ranked team hang around in the game, it bodes well for how that highly ranked team will do the next weekend.

Thus far, that formula has not failed when I gauge my Jayhawks. And this year I got to watch the first round game so I KNEW I was in trouble. The Jayhawks had a decent final score in their first round, but they toyed around with the other team far too long. And then, when KU was pulling away, the camera focused on the KU bench. They were jumping around like they had just won the state high school tournament. That’s when I knew KU would lose the next game… and they did. (I knew it before that and filled all my brackets out accordingly. I have proof.)

Here’s why I use that gauge: solid, mature teams don’t jump around like they won the whole thing in the first game of the tournament. Not when you’re supposed to win that game. You go out, you stomp the opponent, you shake hands, and you get back to the hotel to get ready for the next game. Take care of business.

Immature teams (which is what KU had this year) don’t know how to take care of business yet. They might get lucky and “come together” at the right time. If they do, they don’t jump around on the sideline when they win a game they’re supposed to win. They get business done, they shake hands, and they head out to prepare for the next thing.

So, what in the world does this have to do with prayer?

Attitude. Taking care of business. Maturity.

We’ve been interceding for a missionary friend, Steve, who is literally battling for his life. The past four weeks have been intense in prayer. The first week of this battle it was awful. Steve was in a coma for seven days… and then he woke up. Then, he just kept improving like crazy. Everyone rejoiced. We knew to keep praying… but in some sense there was some jumping around on the sidelines. Not by everyone. I can never speak for everyone. But, there was a sense that… WOW. And no kidding… it was WOW. Jumping around was called for.

Then, a couple of days ago, after battling another serious setback… Steve went home. He was doing great!

More jumping around on the sidelines. WOW… and who wouldn’t jump a little bit? Come on!

But the very next day… Steve was back in the hospital and is now battling AGAIN. New problems. Huge problems. This time it’s a pulmonary embolism (I believe it’s called). HUGE obstacles.

Back to prayer we go!

Then, tonight… Steve woke up again! No pain. Ready to eat. Joking around.

More jumping on the sidelines.

This is where I need to coach myself better. Quit jumping around on the sidelines. This isn’t the final game. This isn’t the “Sweet 16” or the “Final Four.”

I need to pray like it’s business. I can absolutely rejoice when Steve makes a recovery, but I need to do so with a bit more gravitas in mind. This game isn’t over.

I am on the superior team. My “coach” wins championships. He knows what he is doing.

What I need to do is this: pound the enemy in prayer until he’s pulverized. Just keep praying.

When Steve gets to the mission field… great. But stop praying? Are you kidding me?

I need to quit acting like a freshman basketball player and start acting like I’ve been to the tournament a few times. Pray hard. Pound the enemy. Win. Go home and get ready for the next round.

I can rejoice. Absolutely. I just need to realize… it’s only one round.

Pray on.

 

Even the enemy makes tactical errors

We have spent the past week in a new level of intercessory prayer, and it is a call to an ongoing battle. A missionary friend was struck down by an illness last Monday and was in a coma most of the week. Doctors scrambled to diagnose the issue, but an ever widening circle of friends and acquaintances began lifting up the missionary and his family through Facebook and other means.

Yesterday I am sure churches around the world prayed for our friend, as our church did at the end of our service. As we prayed for healing, other prayers began to be lifted up. Prayers for the closed country they are going to, because we know this isn’t just a physical attack. It is the enemy firing a warning shot to any missionaries with any thought of going to that country. We prayed for new missionaries to be raised up that would sense a call to closed countries. Then a prophetic word came saying this was a time the Church needed to hear the call of Jesus at Lazarus’s tomb: “Come forth! Wake up!”

That afternoon, the missionary woke up. His wife posted the rest of the day about a progression that has been simply miraculous. What we know is that this is far from over and we simply can NOT give up in prayer. He is still needing major miracles as his body is fighting paralysis and he is in obvious pain as the physical attack continues to rage through his body. We can NOT give up in prayer.

Last night in our prayer group another prayer brought us to a new realization: the enemy made a tactical error. The enemy overreached. Thinking he could take down this one missionary and fire a warning shot to anyone thinking they could come into that closed country, something else happened. A Church that has been lazy in prayer has been activated in the last week. Along with that will come a sense of calling. There will be people who will become more aware of closed countries and ask the Spirit for the same boldness this couple has in their lives. More people could be called to closed countries as a result of this one attack. 

We need to wake up and stay awake in prayer. We have a fresh wave of missionaries from all over the world going into the hardest places on the planet and it’s not a cake walk. Physical and spiritual attacks are intense.

We need to ask the Lord how he wants us activated. We can be activated in prayer, in giving, in going. It is simply a call to awareness. Not everyone goes. But we need our lethargy shaken off and we need to be more active in prayer and more aware in the Spirit.

What was intended for harm will be used by God for good.

Do not let this battle be wasted.

The place of battle: taking on the enemy

I am working my way through the work of Evagrius called Praktikos. It’s been too long since I’ve read this marvelous work on the contemplative life.

Evagrius is intense when it comes to spiritual warfare.

When you are tempted do not fall immediately to prayer. First utter some angry words against against the one who afflicts you. The reason for this is found in the fact that your soul cannot pray purely when it is under the influence of various thoughts. By first speaking out in anger against them you confound and bring to nothing the devices of the enemy. To be sure this is the usual effect of anger even upon more worthy thoughts.

Bold.

 

The hope of breakthrough

Last night our church held a night of worship and prayer. Having a time of prayer doesn’t “draw” a lot of people, but the time is still incredible.

Through prayer and song there were some bold steps in spiritual warfare that took place.

There is a sense that this is a time of truly asking the Lord for incredible things. Our church is at a place where we are seeing God do some great things. And it is a time when he is giving us an invitation to ask for more.

Giving the Lord an evening of worship and prayer is an opportunity for breakthrough. It is also an opportunity for refreshing. I think both happened last night. It was a great night. I am so thankful for leaders who came to lead us in praise and leaders in prayer who came to pray. It gives us an opportunity for God to do something special!

The Way of Peace is Found in Following the Prince of Peace

One of our Advent readings today is Eph. 6:10-20. It’s one we, as Pentecostals, love. Spiritual warfare.

Here is the ironic thing I find in this passage and our current attitude in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting. On the one hand I’m fairly sure I could get almost 100 percent agreement from my fellow Pentecostals that we need to be people of prayer. The real enemy is Satan. We fight a spiritual battle. Blah, blah, blah.

But when it comes to living it out, and the question comes up concerning how to respond to something evil like the school shooting, I find posting after posting from Pentecostals who say things like, “If a teacher had been ‘packin’…”, or “Don’t take away my right to own a gun,” or some other response that is opposite of what we would talk about in Ephesians 6.

Of course, one could argue that when a physical attack confronts you, what are you going to do? Pray?

How silly!

“Get yer gun out and shoot that boy!” (To which you could almost hear someone add, “Bless God!”)

In the moment, it’s incredibly difficult to know exactly what to do UNLESS you have trained in some way for that moment without even knowing it. We train ourselves all the time. We just don’t realize it.

As an athlete would train to make sure their body responds in certain ways to situations without even thinking, we do these kinds of things in just about any situation in our lives. It’s called “muscle memory.”

We can have it in athletics, we have it when we drive, and we have it when we respond to life situations.

We can train.

There certainly diverse responses to the Connecticut shooting. As the Body of Christ, I still think we can do better.

One response we are seeing is an increase in gun sales.

Well, that is certainly one way to respond.

What I propose is that we have two basic ways to respond. We can respond in fear, which is seen in the action to buy more guns. We “fear” gun control laws. So, we stock up. Again, this goes against the Sermon on the Mount in this way: It is not trusting the One who says he will supply all our needs. It is living in anxiety and, if you are a Christian, your king says that’s not necessary.

I’m NOT saying, “Throw away your guns,” or, “I will take your guns away.”

I AM asking you this, “Are you able to TRUST your king? Do you NEED yet another gun?”

Let’s start with that.

Another option is to walk in faith. That still has some anxiety. But the Prince of Peace is the One who takes care of things. Do we trust him?

The way of peace is found in following the Prince of Peace. It is to let HIM lead the way and show us how to live powerfully.

We don’t need anxiety. We need the Prince of Peace.

We need not live in fear. We know the real enemy (if we are truly following Christ), and that enemy already knows his end.

 

The Difference Between Knowing God and Knowing ABOUT God

I am preparing for my Acts class this week and find myself in Acts 19, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.

The sons of Sceva always intrigue me. They are the picture of spiritual formulas. This is the picture we get when we are so caught up in the design of a program rather than the power of the gospel. We have a hammer, so everything is a nail.

Their formulas had worked to that point. They saw Paul as another magician, so they try to get some clues as to how his power seems to be a bit greater. When they hear him use the name of Jesus, they figure they have another key in their arsenal. Another password to pull out and use.

They found out there is a difference between knowing about the Jesus Paul preached, and knowing Jesus.

We need to understand this in our own lives, and we need to understand it sooner rather than later. We can get by on formulas for awhile, but there will be a time when we have to go beyond praying a prayer we heard someone else pray, or saying a part of a Scripture we heard someone else say.

Here is the scary thing I meditated on today as I read this story: There will be a time when we hit a spiritual brick wall and we need to know God rather than know ABOUT him. And in that day, we need to truly know him, or it might be too late. The sons of Sceva found that out.

Don’t settle for formulas in your life. Do NOT settle for formulas in your ministry. We need to know the living God, not just know about him.

Intimidation

Malala Yousafzai is 14 years old. At age 11 she stood up to the Taliban in her part of Pakistan. How? By going to school. The Taliban forbid girls to be educated. She has spoken out for girls to be educated, she has written about it, and she has gone to school. This week she was shot by Taliban terrorists after school.

It is the intimidation of the enemy. When one will stand up and say, “This is not right. I stand for what IS right,” the enemy will take the shot. Why? In hopes of making everyone else sit back down. If shooting Malala keeps other Pakistani girls from getting educated, the Taliban wins.

Christians have an enemy. And when sleepy American Christians wake up to prayer and the study of the Word, the enemy takes shots. He causes disruptions.

Why? Because if he can take a shot and we sit back down and go back to sleep, he wins. 

When you make an effort to simply do what is right in the Kingdom, the enemy will try to intimidate you back into silence. And let’s face it: in America, it is easy to sit back down and be quiet. We have so little at stake that we can see.

But there is MORE at stake. We just can’t see it yet.

We are being called to prayer. The enemy isn’t going to just let that happen. He will take shots. He does not play “fair.” Get used to it.

But we serve one who came to destroy the works of this enemy. Stand strong. You may take a shot or two… or three…

But it is time to stand strong. It is time for US to be angry. I am angry at cancer. I am angry at an enemy that is trying to pick off some of my friends with cancer. I can’t stay silent. I can’t stay asleep. There is too much at stake.

Do not be intimidated. Do not back down. This is our time to wake up in the Kingdom.