Archive for January, 2013

Fighting Spiritual Battles

“Praying always with all (kinds of) prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:18)

Prayer is a major weapon in fighting the spiritual battles we face as Christ’s followers. The Apostle Paul reminds us that ultimately our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but against demonic fortresses in heavenly places (Eph. 6:10-20). The picture he paints for us is that of a war. Life as a Christian must not be seen as a playground - it’s a battlefield. We must stop being satisfied with the present condition of our casual spiritual lifestyle. We must pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17) and with fervent passion for more (Jms. 5:16).

The #4 Reason to Pray: Spiritual Warfare!

We are instructed by an experienced spiritual soldier, the Apostle Paul. Like a Roman Centurion, he speaks of putting on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness and having our loins gird about with truth. He expects the feet of every soldier under Christ’s command to be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, to be equipped with a shield of faith and a sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. In the Apostle’s view there is no retreat, no failure and no plan “B”. Our mission is to advance the Kingdom of God on planet Earth and should we accept our assignment, we will be fighting for our spiritual lives and those of our neighbors, friends and the nations.

Prayer is the Heavy Artillery!

If I were writing this passage, I would say, “Now get out there and fight the battle!” But the Apostle Paul does not say that. In fact, he waits until all the armor is fully understood and in place to communicate the real assignment in spiritual warfare – Prayer! Its the heavy artillery of battle. Notice what he says: “With all kinds of prayer… pray, being watchful… pray, with all perseverance… pray, and for all the saints… pray”. In two verses, we are commanded to pray five different times. Do you think God is trying to make a point? He is attempting to seize our attention concerning prayer’s power to defeat the devil and his tactics. 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” (2 Cor. 10:3-4)

The weapon of prayer softens and pulls down Satanic fortresses. It is the cannon, reducing the wall to rubble… so that the troops can break through, take gound and possess the promises of God. Too often, the Kingdom advancement moves slowly because the softening-up process of prayer has been neglected. When practiced, however, prayer exposes the lies and deception the enemy hides behind and destroys the works that make the Christian vulnerable to defeat. Prayer is the place where revelation, discernment and spiritual victories are achieved. When the Church prays… the battles are won!

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 Jn. 4:4)

Partner With God

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (Jms. 5:16)

It is said that “seven days without prayer makes one weak”. We all smile when we hear that, yet how true it is. Prayer changes things, prayer makes things happen. In the above verse we read that prayer done in the right way and with the right heart “availeth much” or consistently makes an impact.

Prayer can be a wonderful stroll to streams of refreshing or a season of spiritual training in the wilderness, but no matter when or where the journey goes, prayer will make a difference in how it turns out. Just ask the wife who is praying for the salvation of her husband or the father who has a son away at war, prayer can become a journey of purpose.

The #3 Reason to Pray: Partnership with God!

Jesus taught us to pray in partnership with the purposes of God. He said, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Mt. 6:9-10). The Will of God is simple “on Earth as it is in Heaven”. Its not complicated at all; if its happening in Heaven, then God seems to suggest, it is designed to be happening on Earth. How much of Heaven can we realistically expect? Well, I don’t know for sure, but certainly more than we have now. I think the more fitting question is how much do we want?

Praying with Purpose:

The Apostle James tells us to resist the devil and he will flee from you, draw near to God and He will draw near to you (Jms. 4:7-8). Praying with purpose to me is all about being God’s partner in the work of His heart. I find that every decision in my life effects others and God is the only one with a “big picture” view of reality. I pray for revelation, wisdom and closeness to God, because the more I gain His mind, the more I understand and feel equipped to do what is right. The Apostle Paul called this process co-laboring with Christ… I call it partnership. I am always in training for reigning. The “Christ’ inside of me is leading me toward victory and triumph, because He is advancing His Kingdom through me. Demons flee, sickness is healed, broken-ness restored, all by the power that works in me.

Seeking God’s Heart:

When Jesus was here on earth He was our perfect role model for the right way to pray. He said; “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (Jn. 5:19). Jesus consulted his Father in prayer and He only did what the Father said to do. We cannot go wrong if we use His example and find God’s heart in prayer. Once we have God’s heart about our issue, there is another Scripture that promises our success. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 Jn. 5:14-15).

The true power of prayer is coming into agreement with God’s will and purpose… Partnership!

Experiencing Grace

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore, come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:13-16)

Prayer is the process of drawing near the Throne of Grace. It energizes our spirit like nothing else can, it releases blessing into our circumstances and transforms the way we see. It opens our spiritual perception to the mind of Christ and to the possibilities of God’s influence. When we pray, we are pulling on the promise of “daily bread” (Mt. 6:11), the provision of God for the season of need. Notice, the writer of Hebrews sets the Throne of God into a context of grace and mercy, rather than judgement and condemnation. This is how God wants us to see in prayer… with boldness and confidence that our High Priest understands our weaknesses. We have access by the Blood of Jesus and we should come boldly to the Throne.

The #2 Reason to Pray: To Experience Grace!

Prayer is the practice of experiencing grace. It’s difficult to understand grace without understanding the law. We see God’s perfect law as how He wants us to live and frankly we often don’t measure up (Rom. 3:23). The law is like a mirror for us. When you look into a mirror you may see a big smudge of dirt on your face that you didn’t know was there. The mirror is not to blame and it can’t get rid of the dirt, but you’re probably glad you looked at that mirror before you walked out the door. In the same way, God’s law reveals our shortcomings, our sins, and we are thankful to see them, so that we can bring them to God and deal with them through His grace. When we come to Christ we know we need a Savior. The fact is, for the rest of our lives, we need a Savior. We need Jesus, Our Great High Priest who understands and has an answer for our weakness!

“The law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24)

Coming in Truth and Humility:

We can experience grace when we come to the Throne of Grace in truth and humility. The Apostle James said, “you do not have, because you do not ask and when you ask you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your own pleasures” (Jms. 4:2-3). “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (Jms. 4:6). When we humbly come to God in prayer there is a waiting Father full of mercy and grace, to help in time of need. ”If any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to Him, but let him ask in faith without doubting…” (Jms. 1:5-6). You see, God sees everything, nothing is hidden from His sight and His care. He is a jealous God, not for perfectionism, but for holiness that allows unhindered access to our relationship with Him.

Holiness is a Reflection:

Holiness is something imputed… something God gives, not something we acheive. Its a reflection of God’s “light” in us and upon us. We are being transformed by the Spirit of the Lord as we look into the law of Christ and begin to reflect His life and glory (2 Cor. 3:17-18). It just makes sense that the more we pray and look into His glory, the more we will reflect His character, love and power.

Prayer enables the grace I need to become like Him, in all of His beauty… I want to”be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Phil. 3:9)

Reasons to Pray

I know prayer is important and in this article I want to begin a short series of thoughts that focus on the reasons to pray. It can seem like the primary motivation for prayer is simply to get answers. Prayer can feel like a grocery list: “Our Father, who art in heaven – Gimme, gimme, gimme!” This is sort of a “shop in heaven” way of praying. But I would propose that just filling the shopping list is not the best reason to pray, and more than that – I have found it to be the least satisfying!

The #1 Reason to Pray - Relationship!

I am first and foremost called to pray, because it is the most valuable practice to build and steward my love relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the practice of my faith. Hear me now -this is important. Christianity is not primarily rules. Its a relationship and relationships need to have activity and practices that keep them alive.

Certainly God has standards, but we don’t become Christians because we receive standards. We become Christians because we receive God’s greatest gift, the forgiveness and salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. God loved us and sent His only Son to take away any and all hindrances to relationship. Jesus died for us and lives in us to reveal the Father’s heart and offer us the privilege of abundant life… relational life.

Learning to Live in Love:

What I need, then, is to build my love relationship with Him. I have to learn to allow Him to embrace me, to care for me, to point out my needs and how He meets them (Phil. 4:19). I need to listen to Him and I desperately need to talk with Him. That is the definition of prayer… listening and talking with God.

The Apostle Paul prays, “that you may be able to comprehend… what is the breadth and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge…” (Eph. 3:1-19)

I need to comprehend and “know” His love in all of its facets. The word “know” in this passage is the same word used for the intimate closeness of a husband and wife in sexual embrace. The Apostle Paul is praying that you and I will experience that kind of love with Christ - not sexual, but intimate, deep, close, without distraction. It is so deep that Paul later says it “passes knowledge”.

One place we can experience this is in prayer. When we get honest before God, we have access to His love in a unique way. The Bible calls this experience “fellowship” and seldom do we ever find ourselves closer to Him than in prayer. When we pray, we can experience His love, be bathed in it, clothed in it and overflowing with it… to let it soak into the dry cracks and crevices of our lives and to learn how to give it back. It goes beyond, just being in God’s Presence, we can experience His Glory and Splendor (the essence of who He is) and find His deep affections for us.

A Supernatural Environment:

I could share personal testimony of the wonderful power of prayer. It serves as the environment where our wounds are healed and our broken-ness is restored. As we learn to receive and give love in genuine relationship with the Holy Spirit, God’s power is revealed. Prayer is one place God can get at us and speak to us like He did Moses, ”face to face” as a man speaks to his friend. Prayer is one of the most effective ways for God to minister to us. Think about that for a moment - God wants to minister to you and I. His hope is to walk with us, father us and instruct us in His ways… revealing His thoughts toward us (Jer. 29:11). You and I can taste and see that the Lord is good. We can come to understand that His love is better than life. And when we are captured by love we will reflect that reality to those we come into contact with. Its an amazing relational reality!

Hidden Root System

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ- to know this love that surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”   (Eph. 3:17-19)

The concept of living in Christ is so much about abiding in His love (Jn. 15:9). Its allowing our hidden root systems to go down deep into the spiritual soil of God’s affection for us. To know and understand the width, length, height and depth of His affection toward us is to be rooted and established in love.

This rooted-ness must be the basis of our courage, the motivation for our character and the strength of our confidence! 

Understanding A Root System:

We often only see the surface parts of trees, because the really effective roots stretch far beneath the earth. Deep underground there are streams of water that bring an endless supply of nourishment and strength to the tree. This hidden root system is the life and stability of the tree, it’s branches and its future growth and production. Amazingly a tree can live for hundreds of years, because their root systems are constantly tapping into sources of “living water”. The constant and abiding nourishment is hidden, yet essential to everything we see above ground.

Healthy & Strong:

I want to be like a tree, planted by streams of living water (Ps. 1). I want to be established in His love, allowing my roots to go down deep into the richness of His love, bringing health and nourishment to my spirit man. I have seen trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. They are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit (Jer. 17:8).

Abiding in His Love:

When we abide in Christ and allow His love to nourish our souls, we will live abundant and thriving lives and bear much fruit. This is what we should become passionate about, living in the overflow of God’s abundance, bearing good fruit and bringing others into the nourishing love of God. This is what my soul thirsts for!

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