Encouragement and inspiration for everyone who prays
Fan the Flames!
Fan the Flames!
Whether you’re a prayer slogger or a prayer slacker, a powerful intercessor
or a very average pray-er, this should challenge, uplift and motivate you.
We all need to get fired up at times. Rekindle the fire!
Let that haunt you for a moment and join me in 1 Timothy.
I used to be perplexed by Paul’s guidelines for the selection of widows financially supported by the church. (1 Timothy 5:3-16) In general, Paul favored widows remarrying. (1 Timothy 5:14) So why, for these widows, was remarriage regarded as a broken vow? (1 Timothy 5:11-12) Why was as much scrutiny given to their character and past service as to their material need? (1 Timothy 5:7,9) The requirements read like the selection criteria for deaconesses, not welfare cases. And why were the ‘real’ widows those who pray night and day? (1 Timothy 5:5-7) After years of bewilderment, the pieces suddenly fitted: these elderly ladies were more than charity recipients, they were the church’s paid staff, devoted - like Anna in the temple (Luke 2:36-38) - to the ministry of prayer, with perhaps other duties as well. That’s why such high standards were expected. That’s why marriage would interfere.
Intercession is no frolic through the daisies. In parts of the globe wars rage to determine whether multitudes will be dominated by Islam. I shudder. I would rather be killed than kill. Yet, as I contemplate the horrors soldiers endure in order to kill, I wonder what I should be willing to suffer, battling in prayer for the liberation of souls. That’s the gutsy ministry entrusted to women we might have thought had passed their usefulness. The very class who today are perhaps most tempted to view themselves as worthless, formed the early church’s prized power-house.
The Most Powerful Ministry?
Put bluntly, the main reason we undervalue many important ministries is worldliness. The world looks for human recognition. (Compare Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18; 23:2-12, 27-18; Luke 6:22-26) We do lip service, for example, to the power of prayer, yet view an evangelist basking in the limelight more favorably than the prayer-wrestler hidden in the back room. We exalt the virile missionary and sneer at the withered old lady whose paltry dollars God multiplied to carry that missionary to the field. If we’re blinded by carnality, heaven isn’t. To measure success in terms of human acclaim is to serve man, not God.
The most powerful ministry is probably intercession. And the world’s greatest intercessor could be the ‘no-body’ sitting next to you in church last Sunday. Only the spirit-realm comprehends what Christ’s sacred service agents accomplish behind closed doors and behind enemy lines.
Of necessity, singers perform in public; sound mixers and prayer fighters serve off- stage. Everyone sees your eyebrow. No one sees your liver. But which is more important?
Your average evangelist steals glory for soul-winning from those who prayed, witnessed and worked the miracle of enticing non-Christians to a Christian meeting. Many of the evangelist’s ‘converts’ either found Christ before he arrived or through counseling after he left. Though few preachers are deliberate glory thieves, there will be many reversals in the next life.
It was hardly a contest: two elderly ladies on their knees, versus a confident evangelist in the prime of manhood. They wanted Dwight Moody to have the Spirit’s power. He thought he already had it. But for him to resist was to pit his power of positive thinking against their prayers to the invincible Lord of every universe. A worn-out pop- gun versus a nuclear arsenal might have been less one-sided.
The One who hears the prayers of the frail gave power to the ‘strong’. The impact shook the planet. Moody preached the same sermons but suddenly hundreds were being converted. He declared he wouldn’t return to his earlier days if offered the entire world.
With Satan lusting after our ministries like a crazed beast, we either pray or are preyed upon.
The presence of obvious physical reasons for our problems does not reduce the likelihood that they are shots fired from the spirit world. Paul faced enough natural dangers to seize anyone’s attention - wild seas, infected wounds, bandits - yet he focused on spiritual battle.
Humanists imagine they have suddenly become incredibly smart, being able to discern physical and psychological reasons for phenomena. They have actually become incredibly thick, being able to see nothing but the blatantly obvious. Paul’s words stick with appalling accuracy: ‘Professing to be wise, they became fools.’ (Romans 1:22) Don’t catch their blindness.
Though Paul regularly bled at the hands of human opponents, he insisted that our fight is not with people but with spiritual powers. (Ephesians 6:12) His gospel threatened the livelihood, pride and traditions of thousands. Wherever he looked, human reasons for his struggle glared at him. Yet he saw the human component of his conflict as inconsequential. Either Paul was a fruitloop or we clash with the non-physical realm more than most of us suppose.
Foot-sloggers are no match for the prince of the power of the air. If we neglect prayer, dark forces will forever sabotage our labors; our attempts to attack their kingdom will never get off the ground. Join the prayer force. A defiant fist amuses Satan. An uplifted hand terrifies him. Prayer will shoot him down.
Prayer is Not Enough
Prayer is fearsome ammunition. Without a canon, however, even the deadliest ammunition cannot pound the enemy. For faith-packed prayer to reach its full ferocity it must be used in conjunction with two other aspects of spiritual warfare. One aspect - legality - is automatic for the born again warrior. It is the other - authoritative aggression - where many of us falter. Add this to prayer and you have an arsenal against which the combined forces of hell are reduced to a cringing rabble of terrified wimps.
If undesirables have moved into our house, it is insufficient to establish that their action is unlawful. Nor is it enough to complete an assertiveness training course. Confirming our legal standing and strengthening our resolve to enforce our rights are both vital steps, but it is futile to stop here. We must actually evict the squatters.
Our spiritual union establishes the illegality of Satan’s move against us. Without this, as the sons of Sceva discovered, good intentions and pious or aggressive ranting achieves nothing. (Acts 19:13-17)
In addition, we need prayer to build us up, empowering us for spiritual confrontation. We often so focus on Paul’s itemization of the armor in his classic on spiritual combat that we forget it culminates in ‘praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit’. (Ephesians 6:18) The disciples, bewildered by their inability to expel a demon, needed Jesus’ revelation that there is no alternative to prayer. (Mark 9:17-18,28-29) No matter how intimately they knew Jesus, prayerlessness still meant powerlessness.
Yet with our union with Christ resolving the legal issue and prayer girding us with divine strength, insidious trespassers will continue until we enforce our blood-bought rights. Jesus, ‘who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil,’ (Acts 10:38) not only spent entire nights in prayer, he authoritatively confronted anti-God forces. Time and again he rebuked opponents to God’s will, be they fevers, storms, demons or whatever. We must follow his lead.
The Bible opens by affirming that God created humanity to rule. From the onset, the Lord of hosts delegated authority to man and woman. (Genesis 1:26-28) Humanity lost much when it lost its innocence, but with the breaking of sin’s curse by the shed blood of the innocent Son of God, we are again expected to rule, acting like Jesus in ousting evil hordes.
If you were granted police powers, would you tolerate a law breaker vandalizing a sacred place, or assaulting someone, or molesting a child? Well aren’t you the Spirit’s holy sanctuary, part of Christ’s body and God’s own child? Is it proper for you to passively endure an evil assault upon your person? Shouldn’t you be incensed that defeated low-life, whose surrender cost the very life of the Son of God, would have the audacity to trespass onto God’s turf, insult a work of God and violate a part of Christ’s very body? When opposed by vile spirits, rise with indignation and enforce your Christ-won authority by ousting those frauds.
When buffeted by malicious powers we are likely to feel as green and as limp as wilted spinach. We must understand that authority has nothing to do with how vibrant we feel. A police officer has as much authority when he is tired as when he is fresh. A bed-ridden king has more authority than a nobleman in the prime of manhood. The issue is not how strong we feel, but whether we are bound to the One granted all authority in heaven and earth.
In the game of life, how long you stay on the bench often depends on how you pray in the trials.
Israel prayed and God called Moses. (Exodus 2:23; 3:9-10) Israel prayed and God called Othniel. (Judges 3:9) Israel prayed and God called Gideon. Israel prayed and God called Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and Saul and ... (1 Samuel 8:22; 12:10-11) You get the picture. (See also Judges 3:15; 4:3 ff; 6:7-8,11,14; 10:10-16; 11:1 ff; Nehemiah 9:27)
Individual prayers are also spectacularly potent. Moses prayed and God ordained seventy elders. (Numbers 11:10-25) Jesus prayed all night and twelve disciples were chosen. (Luke 6:12-13)
As thunder follows lightning, ministry followed the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus. His disciples’ experience was similar. On both occasions, prayer predominated, as it did when Paul and Barnabas received their missionary call. (Luke 3:21-22; Acts 1:14; 2:1 ff; Acts 13:2-3) And I sense the air was heavy with prayer when elders imparted to Timothy his ministerial gift. (1 Timothy 4:13-14, compared with Acts 13:3; 28:8)
‘Pray the Lord of the harvest,’ instructed Jesus, ‘that he will thrust laborers into his harvest.’ (Matthew 9:38) Prayer and the emergence of ministries march arm in arm. Heaven is a bit old-fashioned. The ‘buy now, pray later’ philosophy has never caught on up there.
I was threatened with a change that would have robbed me of so much time that continuing this book seemed impossible. While writing, I can convince myself that this time will be different; this time God will choose to use me. The possibility of having even that straw snatched from me swamped me with near-panic. I was agitated, worried, almost angry. The anguish of life in deep freeze is indelibly chiseled into the cortex of my mind. Who could forget month after month of coveting death? I dreaded even the briefest return to that dank hole.
I was ashamed of my feelings. They hardly seemed Christian. Why not add a dash of condemnation to the devil’s brew bubbling through my brain?
Looking back, I’m grateful for my ‘unchristian’ emotions. They drove me to fervent prayer. Pain is infinitely preferable to prayerlessly drifting from the will of God.
Grab God’s Ear
If we cannot glibly assume things will work out, there is a solution:
‘I wish I had it so good!’ retorted N.V.
‘My ministry attempts are just one disaster after another,’ said Miss Hap.
‘I can’t get experience,’ complained Stayz Green.
‘I know what you mean,’ said Mrs. Often.
‘You’re just not good enough,’ declared Eymer Payne.
‘They say I’m too old,’ groaned Mr. Boat.
‘I’m fed up with waiting,’ said Patience Small.
‘Well if it’s that bad why waste time moaning when you could be praying?’ asked Ben Ya-knees.
For the enthralling solution for the above nine puns please write, enclosing a fifty dollar check. (Well I thought it was worth a try!)
Too often we speak piously of ‘closed doors’ as if Christ had never uttered those potent words, ‘Knock and it shall be opened.’
Power resides in persistent prayer; never in prayerless passivity. And it is faith, not fate, that releases us into ministry.
We all wish we had better prayer lives and we would pray more, if only it sapped our powers of concentration less. Yet for most of us an easier way of praying actually exists. There are innumerable possibilities. You can pray on a hill, in a garden, in bed; kneeling, jogging, driving; out loud (a great help to concentration), in a whisper, in song, in your mind, in inarticulate longings or groans; by yourself, with a friend, in a group; at night, in the morning, at lunchtime; and there are too many other variations for me to list or even think of. Experiment. You will discover methods that boost your prayer life remarkably, either by making prayer easier or by giving you more hours in the day by letting you pray in circumstances where you would normally be prayerless. I especially urge you to find a prayer partner. It may be quite a search. Many people will have a manner of praying or prayer burdens quite different from your own. And praying together often creates such a bond that it is usually inadvisable to choose a prayer partner of the opposite sex unless you are both willing to risk romantic involvement. Find the right person, however, and you will be amazed at how fast an hour of concentrated prayer can whiz by.
Life is too short to skimp on prayer.
An American army chaplain served in Germany with little success. When he transferred to Korea, he unpacked his old sermons and preached them to the American soldiers there. Suddenly, he was winning souls at a phenomenal rate. He was preaching the same sermons in the same manner to the same type of audience. There seemed just one difference: Koreans were interceding for their country, launching prayer assaults against the powers of darkness, at a level beyond anything known in Germany.
Prayer and ministry are hammer and nail. But don’t bother praying for anything that you consider too unimportant to work sacrificially for.
The great mystery of Christian life is not unanswered prayer, it’s unfinished prayer. Prayer that quits before the answer arrives is like a mansion carefully constructed, almost furnished, and then abandoned.
As days snake by with no apparent change, our prayers become less passionate, less hopeful. We must fight this tendency with all we’ve got, employing to the full the irresistible force of prevailing prayer.
It was persistence in prayer that made George Muller great. In the last year of his life he revealed that every day for over sixty years he had prayed for the salvation of two people, resolutely refusing to imagine they were beyond the touch of believing prayer. Though sixty years had passed without an answer, he publicly affirmed that he expected to see them in heaven. One of the two was converted just before Muller’s death and the other some years later. Such determined persistence - far more than any instantaneous, dramatic answer to prayer - reveals one’s faith.
Sluggards keep their faults;
Loafers end in shame.
Pray-ers get results;
Kneelers always gain.
Pain raged through his body, muscles pleading with him to ease up. Ron Boehme kept running. His heart thumped. His lungs burned. On and on he pushed himself until finally completing his run. ‘Very good,’ the Lord seemed to say, ‘Now do the same in prayer.’
Prayer can be a battle we must slog out in the face of bitter opposition. We must fight on when everything within us seems to scream out ‘S-t-o-p!’ Even so, we must not turn prayer into a works program, hoping we can earn divine answers by the length of our prayers or the sweat on our brow. Prayer is casting ourselves upon the Lord. It’s declaring, ‘I can’t; you can.’ It’s delighting in him. It’s resting in him. It’s loving him. It’s yielding to him.
Even misdirected prayers throb with power. Adoniram Judson, yearning for the privilege of evangelizing Jews, prayed to be sent to Jerusalem. When divine orders finally arrived they said ‘Burma’. There he suffered in prison. News of his torment spread as far as Turkey, where it moved Jews to yield their lives to Christ. When Adoniram learned of it, he was awed. That prayer for Jews was decades old.
The spent prayers of yester-year still echo in the heavenlies. Don’t waste them; amplify them.
Is God asking for a fight?
‘The Lord gives almost everyone a personal word to cling to while waiting,’ I mused. Abraham may have languished for years, but God had promised him descendants. Young Joseph had a dream. David was anointed with oil. And the names kept coming.
‘Lord,’ I complained, ‘you’ve never given me a promise!’
‘Except the million in God’s Word,’ came the thought.
I went to bed, still agitated. As I lay there next morning my mind floated to Ruth, who found God’s blessing by stubbornly resisting the pleas of the most godly woman she knew. (Ruth 1:4-17) My thoughts flashed through the centuries to the Canaanite who won her daughter’s healing and Jesus’ praise by persisting, despite being ignored, called a dog, and told her request was improper. (Matthew 15:22-28)
My heart leapt. Maybe God is doing the same to me! Surely, despite heaven’s silence, God’s heart is still open to my cry. I recalled something I placed in an early draft of this book:
It’s true, and I hate it. Not only does it sound like a grueling endurance test, I loathe arguments. I cringe at the thought of pestering the One I love, or grieving him by not instantly yielding to the slightest indication of his wish. Further, I’m awed by the realization that God’s wisdom is infinite. That makes mine infinitesimal. Who am I to haggle with the greatest Mind in the universe?
Jacob was blessed because he wrestled with God - and won. (Genesis 32:24-30) I thought we scored by letting God win! This side of prayer seems to tear up everything Scripture teaches about love, submission and respect.
After years of confusion a gleam penetrated in the guise of a startling thought: ‘God is a tease’. I slammed shut my mind. It couldn’t be. God’s not like that! Yet as I dared peek at that mysterious ray, light flooded my understanding. It’s true! God is a beautiful, loving tease! He declares he is the giving God (James 1:5, literal translation) and then lets everything suggest he is a tightwad. ‘You can’t have it! It’s not worth having. You’re not good enough!’ heaven and hell seem to howl. All the while he is hoping we will see through the jest to the heart of God.
Play-fights with God make us strong. They are not to be taken lightly, however. Eternity holds its breath. Ruth’s sister-in-law surrendered to Naomi’s repeated pleas and returned to her people, turning her back on God’s blessing.
Elisha wanted a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. The hide of the man! Time and again God’s oracle tried to shrug off that bald-headed upstart, yet Elisha clung to him with the obstinacy of a blood-sucker. (2 Kings 2:1-15) That’s what made him grate - er - great.
Heaven’s strong room is plundered by everyone with the audacity to ask and the tenacity to receive. And God is tickled pink! Look above the stern ‘No’ on God’s lips to the sparkle in his eyes.
Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1985-1996.
For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net
No part of these writings may be sold, and no part may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.
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