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Posts tagged ‘prevailing prayer’

Praying for a Breakthrough

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

A breakthrough is a military concept. When one army is able to weaken its enemy’s forces to the point of collapse, a breakthrough occurs allowing that army to invade and take its enemy’s territory.

But in war a breakthrough only really matters if it occurs at a strategic location. And the evidence that a location is strategic is almost always revealed by the amount of enemy forces amassed to protect it. An enemy led by skilled generals plans to ferociously protect what it prizes highly.

This means that an invading army can expect its attempt to achieve a breakthrough to be met by a barrier of fierce enemy opposition. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily.

Our Breakthroughs Are Opposed by Powerful Forces

This is as true for spiritual warfare as it is for terrestrial warfare. In the spiritual realm, as opposed to the terrestrial, the church is an invading force. Though we can easily slip into a defensive, circle-the-wagons mindset, Jesus clearly intends for us to be aggressors, not merely defenders. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In a world that “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that’s militant language. Our mission: to liberate those the devil has taken captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).

But we must keep in mind that strategic ground is not yielded easily. Whether we’re battling for breakthroughs against our own stubborn sin or the unbelief of a loved one or breakthroughs in the missional advance of our local church, reaching unreached peoples, rescuing persecuted believers, orphans, sex slaves, or the unborn, we are up against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We don’t know exactly what that means except that these forces are very strong.

Daniel’s Example

Daniel 10:12–14 gives us a brief glimpse of what’s happening. Daniel had been praying and partially fasting for 21 days to gain greater insight into the revelations he had received (Daniel 10:3) when an angelic being finally showed up with an answer to his prayers. This messenger said that he had been trying to get to Daniel for those 21 days, but had been detained by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” The chief angel Michael had to come and free him.

This experience of Daniel is an example to us. It’s not a formula that can simply be boiled down to pray and fast for 21 days and Michael will come help you overcome cosmic forces. But it is an example of what is taking place outside of our sight. God does not want us to know more about the angelic realm than what he has revealed in Scripture, otherwise Scripture would have revealed more. But he clearly wants us to know that there is more going on than we see so that we will pray to him and fast until he gives us an answer.

When God Moves, Satan Responds

The consistent pattern throughout the Bible is that every significant move of God is preceded by a season of increasingly difficult, discouraging opposition. And if we take Ephesians 6, Daniel 10, and other warfare texts seriously, we can understand why: God is invading what Satan considers his territory. God’s kingdom is breaking through the lines of the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).

If we are not encountering opposition, it’s likely we are not attacking a strategic location. But if we are, we are on to something. Where the enemy is fortifying his forces is where we must focus our assault.

And where the enemy is fortified, there is going to be a fierce fight if we are going to achieve a breakthrough. We are going to receive volleys of flaming darts (Ephesians 6:16). We are going to be attacked on the rear. There will be spies in the camp. There will be jeering and intimidation and accusations. There will be efforts to destroy our morale and determination.

A Call for Breakthrough Determination

So this is a call for holy determination. Keep praying and don’t lose heart (Luke 18:1). Just like in any large-scale war, there are many battles. Some breakthroughs are achieved relatively quickly; others require long, persevering endurance. But either way, breakthroughs require a determination to keep up the assault.

Usually breakthroughs are not achieved by prayer alone — there are works to be done and courage to be exercised. But real spiritual breakthroughs are not achieved at all without prayer. Concentrated, specific, persistent, prevailing prayer, often engaged in by two or more (Matthew 18:19), is needed to weaken our spiritual opposition. And fasting is a wonderful help. “Fasting tests where the heart is. And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan” (A Hunger for God).

So if you’re praying for a breakthrough and not seeing it, and in fact experiencing more temptations to discouragement, frustration, weariness, doubt, and cynicism than before, do not give up. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily. You’re up against more than you know. But “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He has overcome the world (John 16:33) and he will give you justice (Luke 18:8).

Don’t lose heart. Grow determined. There’s a breakthrough ahead.


Learning To Wait: Why God Desires Perseverance in Prayer

Source:  Pray Magazine/Jeanne Zornes

Some of the pages in my prayer notebook were so old they were tattered. Many of the requests had notations in the “God’s answer” column, but some did not. One man was still gripped by alcoholism, a young woman was persisting in a relationship with a non-Christian man, and a couple was still in serious debt and spurning Christian financial counsel.

Why pray anymore? I wondered.

And almost before the question came out I recalled the answer: because God has commanded persevering prayer. His answer may not come within our timetable; but when the free will of people is involved, prayer is needed for them as well as for our own attitude toward the situation.

Biblical Examples of Perseverance

A dramatic illustration of persevering prayer comes from the story of Elijah’s conflict on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. The lesson I’m referring to doesn’t come from Elijah’s prayer for heaven’s fire to consume his waterlogged sacrifice, as you might expect. It comes after that, in the guise of an unnamed, weary servant who stayed by Elijah after the crowds had disappeared.

Kneeling, his face between his knees, Elijah began praying for rain. Suddenly he called out to the servant to go up the trail and look toward the sea. Again and again—six times—he ordered the servant up the parched, rocky path.

The seventh request came. His patience stretched to the quitting point, the servant once more plodded up the path, expecting to see nothing new. But this time a cloud as small as a man’s hand appeared in a section of sky. Rain was coming—a fast, furious rain to end the years of drought. It took seven trips before the servant got a glimpse of answered prayer. So often in our own prayer lives we’re like that servant. Our natural tendency is to go up the path once and demand that the answer be delivered. We resist going back again.Luke 11:5–8 records Jesus’ parable of the man caught off guard late at night by surprise guests and with nothing to feed them. Going to his neighbor for bread, he knocked on the door until the exasperated neighbor opened it and gave him what he needed.

Immediately, Jesus eased into the spiritual application of persistence: ask, seek, knock (Lk. 11:9–10). The Greek grammar of these words translates as keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Persistent requests will reach the ears of the Father.

Another parable, at the beginning of Luke 18, concerns a widow who kept showing up in court to plead her case. The godless judge, tired of her continual pleas, finally decided her case and restored justice to her.

Delayed Responses to Prayer

Although God the Father is an obvious contrast to the godless judge, they have something in common: the choice to delay a response. The judge delayed settling the widow’s case out of selfish indifference. God often delays His response out of love, as He works all things together for good.

One of those “things” that needs to be worked out is the attitude of the one praying. God doesn’t want whiny, demanding prayers. He wants humble and earnest asking, seeking, knocking. The very act of persisting in prayer can make us more worthy of His answer. We’ll learn to praise Him as sovereign Lord, not regard Him as a divine vending machine.

Reasons to Wait

Delayed answers to prayer may also open our eyes to the reasons we’re waiting.  Here are some of them:

We may need to deal with parts of our lives that are displeasing to the Lord.   The Bible records more than 30 times that God didn’t answer someone’s prayer; most were due to sin.

Saul’s prayers were blocked by disobedience. He wrongfully took charge of the battle offering (1 Samuel 15) and sought counsel from a medium(1 Samuel 28). His successor, King David, declared: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18).

Jesus said you shouldn’t pray if you have an unresolved conflict with someone (Mk. 11:25).James 4:3 names self-indulgence as a barrier: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Husbands who dishonor their wives (and conversely, wives who dishonor their husbands) will be hindered in prayer (1 Pet. 3:7).

God may want to see growth in us before He answers.   The prophet Habakkuk couldn’t understand why God was punishing His people by allowing a pagan nation to conquer them. But after listening to God declare His holiness and justice, Habakkuk would admit growth in his spiritual perspective. He said, essentially, “You’re in control, Lord. Even though the world is falling apart, I will still rejoice in You” (see Habakkuk 3).

I have several “30-ish” friends who long for a life’s mate. Because I didn’t marry until age 34, I can understand their feelings. But I know from my own experience that more growth will make them more worthy of the mate they desire. My friends want godly mates, but some of them have spiritual walks that are like a baby’s toddling. They come to church to meet people, not to meet Jesus. God may be waiting until they’ve focused on their relationship with Him before He allows a relationship with another person.

God may delay or say “no” in order to engineer a total answer.   For hundreds of years the Israelites prayed for their Messiah, but He came only when it was in the “fullness of time.”

Corrie ten Boom prayed that her sister would be healed at Ravensbruck, but her sister died instead. When Corrie was later released, she learned that her sister, had she lived, would have had to remain in the concentration camp without her. “I have praised and thanked my Lord for that unanswered prayer,” she said. “Just imagine how it would have been if she had been healed and would have had to stay in the hell of Ravensbruck without me. I would have returned to my homeland tormented night and day by the consciousness of her suffering. I saw God’s side of the embroidery.” In this case, God’s “no” answer about Corrie’s sister was a “yes” answer to Corrie’s resulting ministry of grace and forgiveness worldwide.

God may delay His answer to teach us the wisdom of His silence.   Isaiah 55:8 says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” God’s middle name is “mystery” and His nature is wisdom. Sometimes we may not know the outcome of an unanswered prayer until we set foot in heaven. Then we’ll know that it was answered, but in ways we didn’t understand.Martin Luther is credited with saying, “I have held many things in my hands, and lost them all. But whatever I put in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

This is the picture of prevailing prayer. By putting our desires in His hands, we’ll possess His blessings. And while the path up Prayer Mountain may be steep and tiring, it’s often God’s way of strengthening us to receive His answer.

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