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The Language of Prayer (Part Three)

Praying through…Victory

Pentecostal people have long used the term of “praying through.” While this idiomatic phrase is often misunderstood, it expresses the idea that prayer can have a satisfying conclusion. You can pray until you receive an inner assurance that you have been heard and that the answer is on the way. Many of our prayers, like those for daily needs of sustenance or divine support, do not fall in this category, probably because they are ongoing. Certain needs, however, require us to intensify our prayers until we see our way clear, or at least until we feel that God’s power has been mobilized on our behalf. This kind of praying calls for definite breakthroughs that give us a release from feelings of distress or worry.

Jesus illustrated this dimension of prayer by telling a parable about a man who needed loaves of bread at midnight . He persisted to knock on his neighbor’s door until his reluctant friend finally gave him what he wanted. In Luke 11:8, Jesus said, “I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” There could be no other message of this parable than to strongly encourage his disciples to press on in prayer. Sometimes, as shown in this man’s friendship with his neighbor, our relationship with God alone is not sufficient to expect an answer. Many immature believers have a false impression about God’s providence. God does not jump to meet our every whim as though he were a foolish, doting parent. In his larger plan for our spiritual development, he nurtures us to become responsible, industrious and patient.

Weariness or frustration causes us to abort many of our prayers. We often stop much too soon after we start. Perhaps our technological age has so conditioned us to expect instantaneous results that we are left with little patience to persevere. We faint in doing the primary job of the church---praying. Again, Jesus charged us, “…that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Luke 18:1. If you want victory, if you want completion to your prayers, if you would rather die than live without the answer to a particular prayer, then pray on! The early church saw powerful results at the conclusion of their prayers. “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Acts 16:31 .

Many reasons compel us to pray through. Satan greatly opposes the advance of God’s kingdom and we must wage spiritual warfare through prayer in order to defeat him. Also, God constantly monitors the intensity of desire and the level of faith in our hearts. God responds---not to the mere existence of the need---but to the faith and importunity that seize our hearts. Abraham’s experiences in prayer offer valuable insight to us in this regard. Even further, we must remember that there may be many steps or increments along the way to ultimate victory. God engages our services in prayer to supply the spiritual impetus for the campaign, much like a military maneuver. This calls for many elements to function together, and each element presents a challenge to us. One word of caution: don’t’ expect to pray through if your prayers contradict the word of God or if you have purely selfish motives in mind. First, you need to immerse your will in the will of God and make sure your prayers reflect his divine purposes and mission.

Pray through doubt and fear. Pray through sadness and loss. Pray through hurt and disappointment. Pray through spiritual dryness and apathy.  Pray through confusion. Pray through the feeling that you don’t want to pray through! Pray until you experience a breakthrough!

Praying against…Combative

The church has formidable enemies. These opponents employ every strategy---from frontal assault to under cover operations, from mass destruction to personal sniping, from to lies to demonic attacks. If we fail to recognize and understand this treacherous reality, we will find ourselves in deep trouble. Paul warned the Ephesians, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12.

The word wrestle begs explanation. The ancient Greeks practiced wrestling as a sporting event that tested the strength and skill between two comparable athletes who were weight and size classed. But this scripture implies more than a simple grappling contest with another individual. Paul undoubtedly speaks of a larger conflict involving enormous superpowers and eternal stakes. God outfits us with weaponry and armor, yet we cannot dismiss the enemy with a feint, an argument or a threatening word. We must be prepared to do actual battle with him on a spiritual level.

Failure to seriously engage our enemy will result in tragic and unnecessary loss. While we should not see a “devil behind every bush”, neither should we naively skip our way though this world as though we travel an unimpeded, rose-strewn path. We face a vicious, fallen angel and his minions who have zero chance of redemption. With nothing to lose, Satan has declared war on the church of Jesus Christ . He conducts his warfare through an amalgamation of evil spirits, through forming alliances with worldly powers and through drafting people as unwitting pawns to do his destructive bidding.

Jesus recognized the personage of Satan throughout his ministry and addressed him on many occasions. He contradicted Satan at the time of his temptations, he cast demons out of Legion in a herd of two thousand swine and he bade the demons to go from those who were possessed. While Jesus never exhibited a fearful attitude toward evil spirits, neither did he sink into mindless oblivion about them. He alerted his disciples to the whole specter of the “principalities and powers” arrayed against them. The devil, he taught, robbed people of the word of God. “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” Luke 8:12. He informed Peter that he was a target of Satan. Later, the Apostle Peter said, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.

What can the church do about Satan and his forces? We can pray against them! We take our cue from 2 Kings 19:20. “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel , That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.” As a representative of evil, Sennacherib was targeted by the prayers of Hezekiah. God heard those prayers and sent his angel to decimate the Assyrian army. Sennacherib retreated to Nineveh and abandoned his quest to conquer Israel . The Assyrians were defeated---not by Israel ’s military might---but by the effectual prayer of the King.

Long before Hezekiah, the Psalmist David had already learned to pray against his enemies as we see in Psalm 64:

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy.  2 Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity:  3 Who whet their tongue like a sword,  and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:  4 That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.  5 They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them?   6 They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.   7 But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.   8 So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away.   9 And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God;  for they shall wisely consider of his doing.    10 The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him;  and all the upright in heart shall glory.  

Pray against the devil. Pray against evil forces and evil people.  Pray against the dominance of the flesh.  Pray against roadblocks to revival.  Pray against the enemies of the Cross. 

Praying over…Protective

Most of us who were raised in Christian homes began our prayer life as toddlers praying over things. We prayed over our food. We prayed over our night of rest. We prayed over a trip we were about to take. As we grew older, we prayed over an exam before we took it; we prayed over the music piece we had to play for the recital; we prayed over our car that it would make it home. Now, I find myself praying over my children, my Christian witness and my doctor’s appointments.

We have scriptural precedent for this kind of praying. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:4-5. Many unseen and unknown dangers lurk out there, hidden among everyday activities and vicious microbes or nasty chemicals threaten us constantly. We cannot presume that all is well as we travel through a world that “lieth in wickedness.” Prayer throws a protective covering over our endeavors and confers a divine blessing on our necessary activities.

When sickness does attack our bodies, we possess a Biblical authority to have our spiritual leaders pray over us. “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:14. This verse does not specify how the elders are to pray, but it strongly implies that the blessing and power of God will be conferred upon the sick person.

Believers need to exercise this right to pray over their lives and loved ones. We should not simply chalk events up to fate, or think that we have to gamble with our lives as though we have no covenantal relationship with God. Through a prayer covering, we can place ourselves in God’s protective custody.

Pray over your food. Pray over your day’s activities. Pray over your children. Pray over your business decisions. Pray over people afflicted with sickness and disease.

Pray to, pray for, pray through, pray against, pray over…these are the prepositions of prayer. Understand how they are used and how they enhance your prayer life. You will profoundly affect your prayer experience.

Corrie Ten Boom asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” If it is your spare tire, it doesn’t matter where you go or how you get there. When it becomes your steering wheel, you need you know how to turn the wheel and how to head in the right direction. Wherever you need to go in God, prayer will take you there.

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