There are many statements in the Bible that inspire, comfort or challenge me, but there are two which startle me, one in the Old Testament and one in the New.
The first one is Isaiah 59:16. It says God was astonished. That’s incredible! It’s not that He was surprised, He’s omniscient, all-knowing. He was astonished, because there was no one, no one at all, who would intercede in prayer for the nation of Israel.
In the Gospels, Jesus wondered at the unbelief of the people of Nazareth. He was limited in what He could do there, no miracles except healing a few people, because they did not believe in Him.
When we’re in Heaven, how many of us will be astonished and wonder that we did not take and use one of the greatest gifts we have been given? Prayer is that gift. Prayer is taking the truth God has told us and responding to it in faith.
John records Jesus’ talk to His disciples, and to us, on the night before He died. Some of the sweetest promises and teachings in Scripture are found there. Have you ever read His last teaching before Calvary? Jesus invites His disciples to pray seven times. Seven times!
If you peruse those chapters, you will see how eager Jesus is that we take this treasure, how He yearns to bless us through it, to give us joy, to give us “according to the riches of His glory.”
When Scripture says something once, it’s important. If it’s repeated two or three times, pay attention. But seven times? Surely that’s something we need to take to heart! Prayer is important. It’s how we communicate with our heavenly Father. It’s how we thank Him, how we confess our sin and unburden ourselves, how we praise God and worship Him, and how we ask Him for the things we need and want.
If you read the Bible, you cannot help but see that we live in a world embroiled in a spiritual war. While prayer is a spiritual weapon, it’s also the one thing that girds together and empowers all of the other spiritual weapons.
Prayer is essential for us to live victorious lives.
I’ve heard this analogy made about those who have put their hope in Jesus Christ:
It’s like a man who’s inherited land. He goes out to claim his inheritance, and moves onto the land, builds a home there and enjoys it greatly. But there is a neighbor nearby who is an enemy. He knows that there is incredible wealth in that land, just under the surface and he doesn’t want the man he hates to have anything more than he already enjoys. So the evil neighbor does whatever it takes to keep the man from exploring or digging about and finding the treasure just under the surface of his inheritance.
I’ve been with Jesus in the “school of prayer” for decades. There’ve been times when I lived in defeat and depression. I didn’t realize that while I received my salvation by faith, that I was to live out my salvation the same way. I’d fallen into thinking legalistic thinking, and my prayers were weak cries for forgiveness for all the ways I failed to measure up. Although I knew a lot about the Bible, I had stumbled away from grace and was living in my own power. I was effectively sidelined.
Praying is fighting and we need to know two things:
what weapons are ours and who the enemy is.
Jesus said that when we pray, we are to ask in His name and we’ll receive. We ask on the basis of His merit, because of the perfect life He lived. That perfect life has been applied to our account. We have the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, not because of our success in living, but because of His. That means we’re always acceptable to the Father. We can enter into His presence at any time because of Jesus.
We have authority in this world, and in prayer, because we are united by faith with Jesus Christ. That authority is your inheritance, your portion. You don’t have to do anything to earn or deserve it, you received it when you trusted Christ for your salvation. Listen, “you’ve died with Christ and have been buried and raised with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and ever name that can be named.”
Every believer is positionally seated at the right hand of God on that throne with Jesus, no matter how poor, how rich, how attractive or old you are. Each of us is meant to be more than conquerors in this life-yet how few take up this gift, this blessing, this weapon!
Picture a Roman soldier dressed in the full armor of God. Imagine some huge, muscled man with all of that armor being buzzed by a fly. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see him swat at it and begin to cry? What would you think if he collapsed in tears because a fly was harassing him?
That’s where too many of us are in our lives, freaking out over things that God is ready to take care of for us, if we’ll just turn to Him in prayer and give it to Him.
Others of us aren’t freaking out, but we’re asleep. We do life, we have fun and we don’t think much about God, except on Sundays. Why do we allow ourselves to be lulled into spiritual slumber? There is a spiritual war going on and the follower of Jesus is to be like a soldier, alert and at the command of the leader.
Why do we allow ourselves to live defeated lives, when Jesus offers us an abundant life here and now? Not a life of riches, but of richness; not a life of high position, but of honor before the only One who really matters. Why do we allow ourselves to drift through life, asleep at the wheel, when we can be living a life of great excitement and joy with our Savior?
Praying is fighting. We give up too easily. We fall into the “once and done” mentality. We don’t just pray about something one time, intercede for that loved one once, or twice, or for a year even. We continue on in prayer, believing, with faith.
When someone is fighting an infection, the doctor doesn’t give one dose of antibiotic and leave the patient to heal on his own. He continues on with the treatment. The reason why we don’t see more answers to prayer, is that when we meet with obstacles or we don’t see answers right away, we become discouraged and quit praying.
Expect to meet obstacles. The Bible says that our struggle, our wrestling, is with the rulers and powers, the world forces of this darkness, of the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Do you think you will go unchallenged when you pick up the great weapon God gave us? You will feel too tired to pray. You will have things crowd in on your thoughts as you pray, you will be tempted to doubt. You may even experience direct attacks from the enemy.
It’s not just you. Many believers over the centuries have faced the same obstacles to prayer. Continuing on with prayer despite those obstacles is called “praying through.” Praise God in your prayers, thank Him for what He has done, sing even, and you will find the obstacles will not keep you from praying and taking what God has for you.
Philip Brooks said this about the Christian and prayer:
“Don’t pray for an easy life! Pray to be stronger men! Don’t pray for tasks equal to your power; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.
Take up prayer. Pray in Jesus’ name. The devil will yield only to whom he must-and he must yield to Jesus. Pray along with what’s in God’s will; what’s in His word is the place to start. Take what Jesus offers with thanks and humbleness-all that we have in Him was bought at great cost. Take up prayer with the authority you have as a child of the living God.
Jesus said that we would be able to do the things He did, and greater!
Do we believe Him-or will He wonder at our lack of faith?