Prayer is probably the single most important thing we are called to do as Christians. For all the lip service Christians give prayer you’d think there is a whole lot of it going on. “I’ll pray for you on that,” “I’d covet your prayers about such and such,” “I’ll be praying for you sister!” But the reality of prayer is that it is more often talked about than practiced.
Why? Because, if I’m going to be honest with you about it, prayer is often hard. Many times it is boring. And here is another secret: prayer is a mystery. We don’t understand completely “how” it works. Oh yes, prayer works! It’s something like electricity: I believe in electricity totally and when I hit the light switch it comes on but I don’t really understand what has happened behind the scene.
Of course ultimately prayer works because we are connecting to the God of the whole universe. He holds all the power and all the answers. He wants us to seek him in prayer because he delights in connecting with us and he delights in answering us. It is my personal opinion that he makes prayer just mysterious enough to cause us to press a little harder and a little deeper into our relationship with him.
This drawer of the cupboard is the School of Prayer, and we are going to explore everything from the prayer of agreement to spiritual warfare; from personal prayer time to intercession,. We are going to try to take some of the mystery out of it and put some of the joy into it. Step inside. God is waiting for us to begin.
Drafted for War
We are in a great battle. None of us wants to be drafted into this lifelong war but it doesn’t matter because we were born “drafted in.” We have moments of furlough and we have moments of sweet victory but then we get new marching orders and there is yet another battle looming ahead of us. Why are we in a battle? We can trace it back to the Garden of Eden which God planted with perfection for fellowship with Adam and Eve. Satan entered the garden and tempted our first parents and they fell for his lie. They sinned. A breach occurred in their fellowship with God and a curse came upon the earth.
From the very first moment that the sin occurred, God had a plan to restore the fellowship and reverse the curse. So in the fullness of time he sent his son, Jesus Christ (the Messiah) to do what Adam could not-live a sinless life and then die on the cross to pay for the sin of the whole world and repair the breach between God and man. That happened 2000 years ago and you might therefore be asking; well then, why are we still in a battle?
God gives each one of us the same gift he gave Adam and Eve: free will. Adam and Eve got to choose whether or not to sin and we get to choose too. Satan continues to prompt us to sin so we still have a battle. There is also the matter of appropriating God’s provision for us. Suppose you were left an enormous inheritance from a relative. The money is legitimately yours but someone contested the will and went to a great deal of time and effort to prevent you from actually taking possession of your inheritance. The money IS yours but you now have to battle for it.
Victory over Sin: The Battle is Won
Yes, Jesus paid the complete price for your freedom and for your victory over sin and for restoration of fellowship with your heavenly Father. But you have to appropriate or assign everything he did for you. Throughout your life Satan will be fighting tooth and nail to prevent you from taking possession of your spiritual inheritance. Don’t worry; you win. It’s a lifelong battle but don’t be discouraged by that; be excited and be prepared.
What happens when well prepared soldiers actually get into battle? They get good at it! They become proficient and wizened to the enemy’s tactics. They become heroes and they get promoted and they win medals and they teach the new troops coming in. They get the satisfaction of seeing the enemy’s defeat and then participating in the victory march when it’s all over. Remember that Jesus already won; we are in a mop up operation. If you want to get pumped up, read how history ultimately turns out in Revelation, the last book of the Bible.
We Can Be God’s Great Warriors
God means the battle for our good and simply uses Satan in his plan to make us great warriors. Through the various conflicts he makes us strong and spiritually mature. He uses the battle to promote us to higher positions in his kingdom and to press us into intimacy and dependence on him alone. He wants us to win every single skirmish and he has provided all the equipment we need to do so.
Can you accept that battle is inevitable and lifelong? Then if you have been whining and complaining and having a pity party over the hard places in your life, stop right now and do something constructive instead. By the way, I confess I can’t even count the number of times I’ve done those things; that’s why I can tell you plainly it is a waste of time as far as strategy for winning any battle you are in.
Prayer is Your Assault Weapon in Spiritual Warfare
One of your greatest assault weapons for the battle is PRAYER and that’s the one we are going to be talking about here. You know that a soldier would never enter a battle without proper clothes and equipment but must be fully suited in appropriate battle attire. So let’s head over to the biblical outfitting room which is located in Ephesians 6:10-18 and see about putting on the full armour of God.
God is Your Strength
In this passage, the apostle Paul uses the common and familiar example of a first century Roman soldier. Before describing the armour, he begins with the admonition to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (vs. 10) Nothing can correct your battle attitude better than remembering this critical truth. You are to fight in God’s strength and power, not your own. Your weakness is actually to your advantage. Elsewhere in scripture God says; “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (I Corinthians 12:9) Many people unnecessarily give up because they see that the attack is too much for them. Come to the conclusion sooner rather than later that it is too much for you so that God’s strength can take over.
Who Is The Enemy in Spiritual Warfare?
The next step in suiting up is to understand who the enemy is. Verse 12 says; “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” There is a very well organized and structured demonic hoard operating invisibly all around us. When you fight, you will not be fighting against people whom God loves but against the evil spirits who are using, manipulating and prodding them to join in their wicked schemes. Pornography, abortion, corruption, addictions, terrorism – all of these need to be seen with spiritual eyes and fought in the spiritual realm. When you see evil, always ask the question: who is instigating this? Incidentally, the stronghold of Communism fell first in the spirit realm long before one brick of the physical wall came down.
The Armour of God
Now to your battle attire which will not only enable you to withstand the enemy’s attack against you but will equip you to launch attacks against him. In spiritual battle you must operate with both a good defence AND a good offence. As we go along, please have Ephesians 6 with you so you can read the scripture directly. First, truth will be your belt. It’s what holds you up and comes from deep down in your belly. Let truth encircle everything in your life.
Next is the breastplate of righteousness. It covers your heart which should be clean from any sin. If you have received Jesus into your heart you have his righteousness to rely on. Just make sure all sin is confessed and dealt with before entering into spiritual warfare. On your feet you will wear shoes of peace so that everywhere you walk you can spread the good news of God’s peace and of his kingdom. Satan’s kingdom is chaotic, warlike, treacherous and menacing and the peace you carry will be a great contrast, easy for people to see and feel.
Now pick up in your hand the shield of faith; be ready to turn it in any direction to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Some of those fiery darts might be doubt, unbelief, discouragement, and hopelessness. With your shield of faith you can prevent them from reaching the innermost parts of your soul. Next is the helmet of salvation. A helmet is covering for your head where all the mind games are going on. When your mind is covered in salvation winning the battle is all but inevitable.
Much of this armour is protecting you from assault but the last item is your offensive weapon: it is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”(The picture at the top of the article is of a first century Roman sword like the one Paul would have been using for his example.) Remember that Jesus used the word of God to counter the temptations of Satan before he started his public ministry. He kept saying to Satan; “It is written…” and then resisted the devil’s invitation to sin with scripture. (See Matthew Chapter 4) The better you know the word of God the better equipped you are to wield it like a sword. Therefore you should be reading and studying scripture every day. When Satan comes with a lie, you counter with the truth.
Do not be surprised or shaken by the intensity of the battle that will present itself at times in your life. You and I were destined to be great warriors in God’s kingdom. Every war has an objective; each side is fighting over something. The greater the value of the prize to each side; the harder they fight. In spiritual warfare, we are battling over eternal things. The devil is trying desperately to hold on to every inch of ground, both in your life and on the earth. It is our job as God’s warriors to make him give up everything he is holding illegally and establish the kingdom of God everywhere in our life and all over the earth. Join the battle. Pray smart.
Great Prayers of the Bible: David’s Prayer of Repentance
How is it that David is called a man after God’s own heart? How is it that when God is talking to David’s son, Solomon, he says; “Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness…then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever as I promised David your father.” (I Kings 9:4-5) Then again, when God was reprimanding King Jeroboam, he said; “…and yet you have not been as My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart; to do only what was right in My eyes.” (I Kings 14:8)
David is the man who used his power to seduce a woman named Bathsheba while her husband was at war on King David’s behalf. When she was found to be with his child, David arranged for her husband Uriah to be killed in battle to cover up the matter. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Is this a man after God’s own heart?
God Looks at the Heart
Yes, God says that he is. When God was directing Samuel the prophet to anoint a new king over Israel after he had rejected Saul, he told Samuel; “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) So despite his sin, God loved David’s heart. I believe that we have a glimpse into that heart which God so treasured when we read Psalm 51, which is a prayer of repentance. That psalm is truly one of the great prayers of the Bible.
After David’s sin, the Lord sent him Nathan the prophet to confront him. (See II Samuel 12). Instead of denial or excuses, David comes clean; “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13) But if that was all we were told about the incident we would have no idea about the depth of the repentance that David felt. Fortunately we have Psalm 51 which is a soul poured out before the Lord with great transparency and brokenness of spirit.
Psalm 51 is marked by true characteristics of repentance such as:
Appeal to the mercy of God
Understanding of the severity of sinning against God
No excuses or justification
Desire to reform
Recognition that forgiveness is not deserved but by grace alone
In verse 2 David asks God to do three things. First he asks that his sin be blotted out which speaks of human records which can be erased. Then he asks to be washed thoroughly which compares forgiveness to the washing of clothes and clothes were often seen as an extension of the person. Finally he asks to be cleansed from his sin and this refers to liturgical ceremonial law. David wished to be separated from his sin in every way possible. He is not clinging to it with secret affection for it. No, he is rejecting his sin to the uttermost.
In his prayer, David acknowledges his sin “nature” and he holds out no hope that on his own he will be able to avoid sin in the future. He doesn’t do this as an excuse, “Gee, I’m only human” but as an expression of his brokenness and his need for God’s help and delivering power. David puts the burden of redemption on God: “purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (verse 7) He is willing and desirous to submit to this deep cleansing of his innermost being.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. And especially my arrogance
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightiest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judges.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Beyond being forgiven and cleansed, David wants restoration. This is something we should all seek. He does not want to be stuck in the guilt of his sin as he moves into the future. David says; “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” (Verse 12) David wants to repent and be done with it. Knowing God has removed his sin from him, David wants to experience joy again.
This is a wonderful hallmark of forgiveness from the Lord. If we truly repent, he removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. (See Psalm 103:12) We are free to move forward as if the sin never existed at all. What joy and freedom!
That release from guilt is what makes David able to promise something back to the Lord. After the joy of God’s salvation is restored, David says; “then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” (Verse 13) This is very interesting. How is it that this restoration of joy will enable David to communicate God’s ways to sinners so that they will be converted?-
Freedom to be honest about sin
Have you ever noticed that those who have truly repented and received complete forgiveness are usually open and forthright about their past sin? I have heard such men and woman stand up and publicly tell the stories of their lives as alcoholics, adulterers, thieves, drug traffickers and more. I have heard the remarkable testimony of David Berkowitz, the notorious “Son of Sam” serial killer who terrorized New York in the 1970s. The transforming power and grace of Jesus Christ touched his life and he tells his story without hesitation.
When people listen to stories of God’s great grace they often feel that their own case is not hopeless and their own sin not unforgivable. They see joy on the face of the former sinner and they want that same joy. God is there to offer it.
As you read and re-read Psalm 51, what do you find you identify with the most? Is there a hidden sin that you need to repent of with the same heart David had? Do you find you haven’t been completely honest with God? Are you willing to accept the deep cleansing David desired? Do you need to have the joy of God’s salvation restored to you? Do you desire to have your testimony of God’s grace touch the lives of others?
David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 is one of the great prayers of the Bible. After you read it, it isn’t so hard anymore to understand why David was a man after God’s own heart. You and I can hold that same title; we can be men and women after God’s own heart. Repentance is the entryway. Come, enter in.
Great Prayers of the Bible – Job
“Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:6
There are some who would not see it as a prayer. Job was not asking God for anything when he said it. Still, it is a great prayer; maybe one of the greatest of all. The prayer ends with these profound words: “‘Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.'” (Job 42:6)
How did Job come to such a confession? Back at the beginning of the book, Job was a man of much blessing and extravagant means. He served God unreservedly which Satan chalked up to the fancy way God treated him. “‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side?'” (Job 1:9-10)
But things were about to change. God agreed to – even suggested, a severe testing of Job in which blessing by blessing was stripped away from his life. Would he still serve God? When the worst of it hit, his wife’s advice to him was; “‘Curse God and die!'” (Job 2:9)
Job did not listen to her and neither did he buy into the advice of the friends who came, first to comfort him and then to point their fingers of blame for what they figured must be his fault. Job insisted upon his own innocence. Though he didn’t understand “why” it was happening he clung to God anyhow. He told his friends; “‘Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.'” (Job 13:15)
Eloquently Job did argue his ways with the friends who tended him in his misery. All they wanted was for him to admit that he must have sinned in some way to bring these consequences. All he wanted was for them to trust in his innocence and his right standing before God.
In the end God took over the argument. Listen to the sarcasm dripping from the Lord’s voice. “I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8) Really now – what brought that on? Had Job been guilty after all? Were the friends right? No! It was God himself who said that Job was “‘a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.'” (Job 18) What then?
Job reached the place where he discontinued justifying himself in favour of acknowledging the superior greatness of God. There is a place spiritually beyond why something happened – a place beyond who’s right and who’s wrong. As human beings we want all our ducks in a row. We want to say that if “A” happens, “B” will result. We don’t want to feel that we are pawns on a chess board with no control over where our life is sent next.
Most of us will not have tests and trials like Job – especially not within such a short time span. All of us though, will have unexpected downturns in our life. There are times when the big WHY looms over us. Many times our “friends” are right there to tell us why it all happened to us. Maybe they are right and maybe they are wrong (like they were with Job) but that’s not the final say on the matter.
If we are smart we will eventually get past it all to the place Job came to. Here is his prayer – his final say on the matter.
“I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Here, now, and I will speak; I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me.’ I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)
Are you in a place of great questioning because God does not appear to be faithful in your circumstances? Instead, is he silent as you go on and on in suffering? Go ahead and argue your case and work through everything you must to reach some semblance of understanding. But beyond all that there is another prayer: Job’s prayer. When all is said and done, will you be ready to pray it?
When the light goes on, you will see in what was the darkness.