Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts

Friday

Sometimes we fire blanks.

Sometimes we fire blanks.

Oh, we don't mean to. We think we are firing powerful weapons of war, kicking ass and taking names.

But sometimes, sometimes we're actually firing blanks.

Jesus modeled for us a way to pray that was more about telling the situation how it needs to be, rather than about us whining at God to pleeeeease make it be that way. We are learning to command, to declare, rather than to ask politely. Or impolitely.

That much is good.

The problem is, so often we just fire blanks.

We read the Gospels oh, and we observe how Jesus did it. He said, Lazarus come forth! And Lazarus came forth. He said, I am willing, be cleansed. And the leper was instantly healed.

We look at the model of Jesus, and we make it our model. But we are only looking at part of the model that Jesus gave us. We're looking at his Harvest, not his labor.

I am a member of a few prayer groups. I am embarrassed to tell you how many times, in response to a really dire need, somebody pipes up, blithely commanding all demons to go to hell, smugly decreeing bones and skin and organs to line up, happily commanding this and that, and wrapping it all up with a grin of self-congratulation.

And of course very little actually changes. Nobody really expected it would. I think even that the enthusiastic intercessor himself didn't expect it. And why would he? We get so that we’re commanding everything nowadays, and nobody points out that it's not really changing much of anything. The emperor has no clothes on, but everyone is afraid to mention it.

Yeah, I know. I’ve overstated it in order to make a point. You know this goes on, at least some of the time.

I have been reflecting on how much of Jesus’ life is hidden from the casual reader of his biographies in the Gospels. I suspect that this is on purpose. If we really want to know the secrets, he wants to go find them for ourselves, to do the work of learning, to make the knowledge our own.

The gospels are quick to tell his hero testimonies, how he healed this person, raised that guy from the dead, all before lunch, and without raising a sweat.

That's the part that big, flashy, and easily captures our attention. But it's only the end of the story. We miss the beginning and the middle. And I think that if we don't follow all of Jesus’ example, the beginning, the middle, and the end, we will probably not have the results that Jesus had.

I have been involved in a lot of spiritual war. I have friends who have been in so much more than I have. Some of it has been successful; some has been less successful. Ultimately, I think that Winston Churchill may have had it right. War involves blood, sweat, toil, tears. And healing the sick, raising the dead, these are acts of War. It’s not a quick declaration of victory and move on.

I've been thinking about the topic of rest recently. God is constantly inviting his people to a place of rest. Not a place of doing nothing, a place of doing much, but doing it from the place of resting in him. Kind of a foreign concept to most of us, I think. But it wasn't foreign to Jesus. Jesus seemed pretty big on working from a place of rest. I’m beginning to learn the value of this.

And Jesus was always getting away with Father. Sure, we have our “quiet times,” and that’s a great starting point, but it seemed that Jesus spent all night in prayer sometimes. All night, getting to know what Father was doing and thinking.

In fact, there was one time he spent much of the night in prayer, and it was hard work. He sweat blood. We talk about that in the context of the Easter story, but as he said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Paul kept up the theme. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.”

I’m not saying that blood is the signifier of a solid prayer life. I’m saying there’s work involved, hard work, if we’re aspiring to declare with the kind of power that Jesus’ declarations had.

There is one more secret, I think, that we need to lay hold of. In John 5, Jesus revealed this secret: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

The last secret (for this moment) of Jesus’ amazing record was that he was only doing what he saw Father doing.

A whole lot of our failing comes from our making our declarations about things that are in our heart and mind that are not actually things that Father is doing. They may be things that we wish he was doing, things that we think he might want to do, or things that we ourselves want, and we’re maybe just putting God’s name on them.

That’s a whole lot different than seeing what God is doing, or seeing the situation - really seeing it! - in its completed state, and then telling reality to line up with that vision.

This is a hard one to ‘fess up to. But we kind of have to separate our desires from his, separate soul from spirit, as it were, in order to walk how Jesus walked.

I’m so thankful that we’re growing up into Him. We’re going to change the world. In him.

Thursday

Learning to Pray Wisely


The church is learning a lot about declarative prayer in recent years, prayer that issues decrees and declares what shall be, (as differentiated from prayer that begs and sometimes whines).

Like anything that we are just beginning to learn, we’re not terribly good at it yet.

 We have (many of us) figured out that Jesus didn’t generally ask God for stuff when he prayed. He generally commanded something to happen (John 11:43) or decreed the result that he wanted (Matthew 9:29). Even at his most extreme circumstances, his prayers were declarative sentences, not interrogative ones (Matthew. 26:36–46). 

 As a community, we’ve begun declaring and commanding pretty much all the time. It’s baby steps, and it’s really cute. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m part of this community of baby steps, too!)

 I’ve been reflecting on this transition recently. It’s being a good thing, for a bunch of reasons that I’ve discerned:

 • We’re beginning to take responsibility ourselves for the things that he’s given us responsibility for (see Genesis 1:26). Much of what we pray about is actually our responsibility, not his.

•Slaves ask or plead. Sons, heirs, might ask, but they surely expect  (consider Romans 15:13 or 16:20); or they may not ask, they just take what they need and go.

You and I, we’re not slaves, not servants.

• It appears that while God respects servants who ask, more seems to get done by sons who declare.

 On the other hand, when sons are young, they require more parenting than they do when they mature. Dirty diapers are no more fun in the Spirit than they are in the natural. They’re normal, even healthy for a while. They’re still a mess, and no more than a starting place. But they’re a normal, healthy mess for an infant.

For example, I’m part of some prayer groups (side note: please do NOT add me to more groups!), where folks post their prayer requests, and the community prays for them. You learn a lot from groups like this. Here are some things I've learned.

There are a bunch of folks whose prayer requests are more a list of what all is wrong in their lives than a description of what we’re actually praying for. Some of those diapers need changing desperately.

Some responses are in the “Oh Jesus, please help ‘em!” category.

A growing number of responses are attempts to command all the bad things become good.

Far too many declarations are not much more than self-centered, wishful thinking. “I want this, and therefore I’m going to declare it as if it were God’s will.” And then they get disheartened when the world doesn’t conform to their empty but optimistic words.

 Honestly, it’s a beautiful thing. Just like when my little granddaughter takes her first, wobbly steps. That’s a wonderful thing, too. It’s growth! But it surely isn’t maturity yet. And it’s cute when she takes a couple of steps and then plops down on her wet diaper, making that interesting sploogy sound.

 I was reflecting on our wobbly growth recently, and I was reminded that when we watch Jesus commanding sickness or demons to flee, we’re only seeing half of the story. We’re only seeing the half that happens in that moment, the part that’s visible to the gospel authors.

 But Jesus did tell us the other half of the story himself:

John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.”

 So apparently, if we’re going to (If I’m going to) be successful at commanding sickness and demons and death away, I need to speak what Father commands me to say and to speak. Declarations out of my own wishful thinking are a wasted effort. At best.

 Since the gospels never show the story of heaven opening and the Almighty shouting from heaven, it makes me wonder, “When and how did Jesus hear Father tell him what to say?”

 I think there were at least three answers to that, and neither one was a mystery.

The first is that I’m pretty sure the still small voice of the Holy Spirit gave him instructions from time to time (in John 2, compare verse 4 with verse 7, for example).

Second, verses like Mark 6:46 and Luke 6:12 tell us that he spent extended time away, just him and Father alone. I’ll bet that’s a clue. There’s a reason he encourages us to search out matters, maybe.

I think the third is more rare than we wish it was. When you’ve walked with God a long time, you begin to think like he thinks. You do that long enough and the line between “my thoughts” and “his thoughts,” between “my words” and “his words” gets thin.

 I’m thinking that it’s good that we, the saints and heirs of our Almighty Lover, are learning to hear from Heaven, and declare those words. Declaring what Father-who-sends us gives us to declare, those are going to be the more world-changing declarations.

Listen first. Then speak.

How The Walks In The Woods Actually Worked


It was an interesting several years for me. I had an hour every day to walk in the woods. I chose to spend the time sauntering, decompressing, and especially talking with God.

My habit – what seemed good to me – was to spend the first part of these prayer times in getting connected with the Guy I was talking to. So rather than start with the business of prayer (“I need this; Suzie needs that, please heal Johnnie…”), I began with attention to the relationship and to my sensitivity to the relationship.

Often enough, I’d begin with something like, “So what’s on your mind today, Father?” Unfortunately, these times with him were in the middle of a pretty intense day, and so my mind, my soul, was still kind of racing. That didn’t always connect so well, though I think he liked being asked.

I got into the habit of praying in tongues for a while. If you’ve been around the Internet from the early days, if you’ve ever had to deal with dial-up internet access, you remember the strange noises your modem made while it was hooking up to what passed for the internet in those days. I kind of figured these times praying in tongues were like those noises: getting my spirit connected with his Spirit so we would be able to actually communicate.

But I’d pray in tongues until I felt like we had connected. Sometimes I’d pray in tongues for just a few hundred yards of walking. Occasionally, I’d spend my whole hour in tongues, working to connect to his “mainframe.” Sometimes it took a lot longer to settle my soul down!

There were days when I felt the need to pray a particular Bible verse during our introduction time; I’d look it up (first in the pocket Bible I carried; later on my phone), and pray through it, and go back to praying in tongues until I’d connected my heart with his.

That sense was pretty subtle; I was just waiting for that feeling on my inside that said my attention wasn’t on my busy day, but was on him. It’s rather like that “done” sense that tells me that I’ve covered what I needed in prayer and it’s time to move on now.

So I’d pray in tongues until I sensed that we’d connected, and then I’d move on. Because of my good, evangelical upbringing that was so attentive to sin, I’d often spend some time asking him to search my heart for sin.

Again, this wasn’t perfunctory. I wanted to have all of my insides, all of my secrets open before him. If you’d asked me why I thought that was a good thing, I’m not sure I could have given you a reason, but I was convinced (and still am) that if I want God to be open with me, then I need to be as open as I am able to be with him.

Fairly often, as I was searching my heart, he’d bring my attention to some attitude or action that needed attention. I’d talk with him about it. I never heard him speaking words to me in these times, but often enough, I’d ask him questions about this thing in my heart, and then a new thought would drift into my heart: I always assumed that it was his reply and this assumption never once led me astray.

Pretty often, the root issue boiled down to me trusting me more than me trusting him in this area. For a while, my response (again, from my evangelical history) would be to feel bad and make promises (aka vows) to do better. I’d try to “fix” it. He never seemed impressed with this.

Over time, I came to the place where I’d stop trusting in myself to fix it, and I’d just agree with him about it. “Yeah, I agree: I’ve trusted me more than I’ve trusted you. And yeah, that’s not a very smart thing to do, is it? You know, you’ve actually been trustworthy in my life, haven’t you. I really can trust you, even with this, can’t I? Help me to stay in touch with that truth, please? You really are that good, aren’t you?” That brought far more change in my life.

All of that – and sometimes it was the whole walk and the next day, too, but mostly it was several minutes – all that was just the introduction. Computer networks call it the “error-checking” part of “negotiating the handshake.”

And then I’d bring up the issues on my heart. I had tried prayer lists, and there weren’t disastrous, but I discovered that there were advantages to praying about the issues on my heart instead of a list.

First, I don’t see prayer as a business transaction (though that model is not without some benefit); instead, I approach prayer as a relationship. That works better for me. Shopping lists have there place. My relationship with my Dad is not one of them.

Second, it seemed to me that God was far more interested in what was on my heart than in the items that needed checking off on the list.

And really, the issues on my heart were very often things that I’d put on that list anyway. But I’d bring it as a thing that I cared about, not as a duty. That was important to me. That made a difference to me in these times.

I prayed about my marriage, my family, my relationships, my missionary friends, concerns local and global. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right. Let me say it this way: the more I related with Father, the more I found myself caring about the issues that he cared about, and the more often I’d bring those issues back to him and we’d discuss them.

Again, I’d talk (always out loud: frankly, it kept my mind from wandering), and I’d interpret the stray thoughts that crossed my mind in those times as his side of the conversation, and it always seemed right. (Luke 11:13: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” I could trust him that these responses were from the Holy Spirit.)

Occasionally, the thoughts would be specific, often including new information that I hadn’t known before (and that proved to be true “back in the real world”). That wasn’t the big deal. The big deal was that I was hanging out with my Father.

I grew to really love these conversations. Rarely, we’d actually converse, where we’d both use words, me out loud, him in my mind.

One time I’d been praying energetically about something that bothered me. No, actually I’d been whining. He seemed to wait until I paused to take a breath, and he interrupted me. “Are you done yet?” I literally stopped in the middle of the trail and laughed. He went on to teach me about one of Jesus’s parables. I tried not to whine too much after that day. Besides, it was a good lesson!

There was a while (more than a year) that he required me to pray 1Corinthians 14:1: “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” That went on so long that it got tiring. “Teach me love, and I’m asking for spiritual gifts, especially prophecy. OK, can we go on now?” In those days, I’m not sure I believed in prophecy in any practical sense, but I prayed it anyway. He seemed to think that was enough.

After a year of that daily prayer, a prophet called me out in a meeting. “God says you’ve been asking him for prophetic gifts….” And he went on to talk about that. Yeah, I felt set up, but in a really good way, a cared-for way.

These days, I no longer have that hour in the woods every day, but I try to maintain the same “conversing with God” throughout the day. Frankly, talking with God on a peaceful, wooded trail is easier than staying actually connected throughout the day.

I’m still working out the details of this season, so I can’t talk about it much. The past season is in clearer focus. I thought I’d share it in case it might be helpful to some folks who are interested in having that kind of season with God. It’s probably worth asking him about.


Watch and Pray


“Watch out!” “Keeping watch” “Watchman”

The idea is consistent: pay attention; notice what’s going on. See what there is to see; hear what there is to hear.

The dictionary talks about “observing attentively,” and “following closely, maintaining an interest in,” and even “being careful.”

Pay attention. Notice.

Now here’s an interesting thing: Four times, Jesus tells us that watching and praying go together.*

It was a long time before I learned how those worked together. When I was growing up, “praying” was about “Say these words; that’s prayer.”

Later, prayer was about a shopping list, and praying was a lot like writing to Santa. “I want this; please do that, and bless everybody in the whole world.”

As I got more religious, my vocabulary became more about “Bringing needs before the throne,” but it was still functionally a Santa letter, a shopping list. At least I was adding other people’s needs to the list. “Watching” was seeing what was needed. “Praying” was bringing those needs to God’s attention.

Now I’m not saying this is bad. Some of those prayers got answered, including some whose answers would qualify as miracles. And I (mostly) don’t regret the time spent bringing real issues to God’s attention (though I really do not love prayer meetings that are more about whining and complaining about what’s wrong, than about God).

“Watch and pray.” Pay attention; notice.

I’m growing more and more committed to the idea that prayer is more than me reciting my wish list, more than me bringing issues to God’s attention. Prayer is relational, and it’s conversation. It’s dialogue.

And that, I think, is what the “watch and pray” thing is about. And it happens in relationship, in close relationship, in intimate relationship.

It’s about God and me talking. Maybe we use words, maybe we don’t, but it’s about us talking.

I’ve observed that sometimes when God talks, he uses words, sometimes he uses pictures or visions, sometimes he uses emotions or thoughts. He’s very versatile. (It wouldn’t surprise me if he gave us all these senses so we’d have more ways to engage with him.)

I’m coming to the conclusion that “watch and pray” is about us hearing what he’s saying (whether words or pictures or whatever) and talking to him about it.

That’s why words of knowledge are so often associated with people actually getting healed. God shows us what to pray for, and we pray for the thing God’s saying to pray for, and what do you know? He answers those sorts of prayers pretty often.

That’s the basic design of “watch and pray.” Pay attention to what’s on God’s heart. Talk with him about that thing until you know how to pray for it. Then pray for that thing that’s on God’s heart, in the way that God is showing you how to pray for it. Rinse and repeat. Spend time in that conversation, conversing about things that are on his heart. (You’ll be surprised how many of the things that are on your heart are on his heart, too.)

That will result in more answered prayers, of course. But it will also result in me knowing God’s heart better. It will result in me becoming more like him, knowing him more. And that is the very essence of the prayer he taught us to pray so long ago: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Watch and pray.

Pay attention. Notice. Talk about that. Pray that. Discuss that.

It’s all about relationship.

----
* Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33 & 14:38, and Luke 21:36



Jesus and Intercessors


I woke up thinking this morning about how Jesus interacted with folks.

As I was wandering towards wakefulness, I was praying for some folks in my mind, silently. That’s a little unusual for me; I usually pray out loud (it keeps my mind from wandering) and while I’m walking (it keeps me from drifting off).

But I was still snuggled in my bed, two-thirds asleep, so I wasn’t walking anywhere and I wasn’t yet able to speak out loud. I was just remembering a few folks before God, asking his blessing, very specific blessings, on them.

For some of them, I’m asking for healing. Fairly often when I’m praying for healing, I reflect on how the Great Physician did his healing, cuz I want to be more like him.

And I realized that when Jesus was on Earth, he didn’t real often respond to silent prayers, unspoken requests. In fact, there are only a couple of stories where that could maybe have been what he was responding to, but even then, that’s only a guess: the text doesn’t say that. (Consider Luke 7:13 & John 5:6.)

And even in those situations, he interacted with the folks before wielding power on their behalf. This wasn’t an anonymous, drive-by intercession.

The vast majority of times, Jesus was responding to people face-to-face, to passionate people. Often tears were involved. Most (but significantly, not all) of the time, Jesus responded to people who came to him, who interrupted his day, and even then, he sometimes grilled them on what it was that they really wanted (as in Mark 10:51). Specificity, apparently, is good.

It appears that Jesus wanted folks to come to him; maybe it’s my imagination as I read the stories, but it looks to me like he seemed to enjoy the audacious ones (like Mark 2:4 & 10:48).

I observe that Jesus sometimes went way the heck out of his way with the apparent intent of making himself available to be interrupted by people’s passionate petitions (Mark 7:24 & Luke 19:5).

I also observe that Jesus never turned a single person away who had come to him for healing, even when it resulted in delaying his ministry to someone else (as in Matthew 9:20); he stopped for the one, and then went on about the task after fully responding to the interruption, even though it was now a “bigger” job (Mark 5:36).

And then there’s that time that Jesus heard about the need, and did nothing for a couple of days. (John 11:6. Note that the message said, “Lazarus is sick,” but it had taken several days to get the message to Jesus: by the time word reached Jesus, Lazarus was already dead. Jesus waited to respond so that he could be raised after “four days,” a thing that had not been done before.)

I learn from this story that Jesus doesn’t always answer prayers real quickly, and yeah, sometimes things get worse while I’m waiting for that answer. That’s never comfortable, for me or for him (John 11:35).

The conclusion I came to, as I drifted awake, was that Jesus pretty consistently responded to people getting his attention and asking for something. He didn’t generally just see the need and make it happen, and he didn’t appear to respond to polite, delicate, or hidden prayers from comfy places.



Audacious Prayer




Conversation, even online conversation, is a useful tool for discovering what’s in the heart, discovering what you’ve begun to believe that you didn’t realize you believed. These are some of the best conversations in my world.

Recently, I’ve been conversing about audacious prayers, “crazy prayers” with some good folks, and I realized some things that I have begun to believe.


I’ve been burned badly by “crazy prayers” that I’ve prayed which were not on the heart of my Father, but which he graciously answered anyway. Took the better part of a decade to get over one of them. His grace, his kindness during that decade were overwhelming.

And I’ve prayed some “crazy prayers” (for things I frankly did NOT believe at the time) at his direction, which he then answered, and which revolutionized my life and my family’s life, others that changed the shape of my neighborhood, my city.

As a result, I’m all for “crazy prayers” that are in His heart – whether they were in his heart to begin with and I just figured it out, or whether they started in my heart, and he’s supporting my free will. 

But if I don’t find them in Father’s heart, I’m pretty gun-shy about what I’m asking for, what I’m speaking about.

I believe I’ve come to this: the more audacious the prayer, the more I need to have confidence that it is in my Father’s heart before I speak them out.

But if I hear them from him, if I find even the most audacious, the craziest prayers reflecting his heart, then yeah, let’s do this!



Prophetic Exercise: The Judge's Bench

Since the prophetic gifts are for the real world, think of a real world person that’s going through some trouble, someone you’ve been praying for recently. Write down their name.

Now look in the Spirit, and look behind you. You see there a tall, oak, judge’s bench. Jesus is standing there, smiling, waiting for you.

He takes you around to the far side of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, Jesus sits you in the great chair behind the bench. When you take your seat, you’re find that you’re wearing black robes, and you have a wooden gavel in your right hand. Are you wearing a white wig, too? 

Take a moment, if you need to, to deal with the emotions of being in a place like this. Ask him questions if you need to, but don’t argue with him. This is your assignment today, if you choose to accept it.

Now look out over the judge’s bench. From your new vantage point, see your friend, whose name you wrote down. Observe them for a minute as they go about their day. As you’re watching them, let Jesus show you his love for them, his compassion for the crud they’re going through. Rest there for a moment, feeling his heart for them.

Then Jesus reaches over and touches your eyes. And now you can see more clearly from the bench, and with his help, you begin to see the cloud of miserable, filthy, little spirits that have been harassing your friend. Recognize their crimes, their trespasses, their rebellions against their rightful king and against your friend. 

Jesus leans over and whispers, “Judge them!” Identify them, their names and their crimes. Recognize, by the Spirit who’s in you, the name, the assignment, the work of one of the demons harassing your friend. Speak that name out loud, and bang the gavel as you do name it. Write it down if that helps.

Then watch what happens next. When I did this, as I spoke the name, as I named each spirit, it was as if my gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty as charged” to each of my charges, and with each tap, a beastie was bound. Soon, I got into it, reaching into my spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime. The gavel would bang and the demon was bound.

Look around. Do you see angels in the courtroom? What do you see them doing? Consult with Jesus: what is his counsel on the work you’re doing?

This isn’t a game. This is literally life and death, but don’t interpret that to mean that you can’t enjoy the work you’re doing. Get into the work. Reach deep within your spirit to accurately name each spirit, and as you name it, watch as it’s snatched from the air around your friend and bound. Observe what happens to it next, if that’s revealed.

You may or may not have gotten to each of the demons harassing your friend when you feel that you’re done, when you feel the grace for this work lift, or when you hear Jesus say, “OK. That’s enough for this time.” Don’t stay there beyond the grace for the work. Your friend is destined to be an overcomer; they need something to overcome.

It helps me to go back through the session’s work: declare your friend’s freedom, thank God for your friend’s freedom from each of the spirits that you bound today. And when you’re done, perhaps as an act of worship, burn the list: don’t keep a record of hell’s work in their life.

Now, by my counsel, I’d recommend that you don’t talk to them about this experience, not for a long, long time, and this is for your benefit, not theirs. We tend to think, “Well, I bound up a spirit of self-pity, so they won’t be falling into self-pity any more!” Yeah, that’s not how it works.

If you bound the spirit of self-pity, then that spirit of self-pity isn’t plying its trade in their life any longer. But that doesn’t break years of self-pitying habits, or generations of self-pitying traditions. It means that spirit isn’t working there any more, not that they’re perfect now. 

And of course, don’t stop praying for your friend.  

Tuesday

We Have Room to Grow in Our Prayers

I learned some things recently. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I was.

I’d started a discussion about “What one thing would you pray for Hillary Clinton?” (That conversation is here: http://nwp.link/FB-PFHillary .)

We had a handful of folks ignore the question and rage – sometimes for, mostly against – Hillary-the-Candidate. And we had a pretty substantial number of “prayers” that were political rants in disguise.

I get that: people have been trained to have strong opinions about this election. That always happens. Moving on…

The majority of people didn’t do that; the majority of folks prayed for Hillary, or described a hypothetical prayer. And that’s where my eyes were opened.

I was struck by the nature of those prayers. Out of a hundred or so responses, the vast majority (>90%+) of the responses apart from the political comments roughly fit into one of two religious categories:
Praying for Hillary Clinton
  1. She needs to repent and stop supporting bad things! or    
  2. She needs to have a revelation of God and get saved!
Or some variation of these two. (Full disclosure: my own prayers were in these two categories too.) They were proper religious prayers. They’re the things we’re told we “should” be praying for. 

These all begin with the assumption that “Mrs Clinton is messed up, and she needs me to fix her, and let me tell you how I’d fixer, cuz I’d fix her good!”

I’m not sure any of us would want to have a crowd praying those prayers for us. She doesn’t believe she’s doing bad things (give her the benefit of the doubt); she doesn’t believe she needs to be saved (her testimony of faith was documented in the conversation).

May I be honest? These feel a whole lot like we’ve been praying, “Make her more like us!” 

And that always carries the intrinsic assumption of “You’re not as good as I am. You need to be better, like I am.” 

Ewww. That is, by nature, something of a curse, not a blessing.

Reading through all the prayers (and I have, many, many times) leaves me feeling like I need a bath.

Relatively few responses were addressing actual issues that Mrs. Clinton is facing: health, destiny, goodness, protection, provision.  These were so terribly refreshing! These carried life, hope, faith, and (dare I say it?) love. These were the prayers I found myself feeling proud of (and they weren’t my prayers!).

This draws my attention to at least one reason why political leaders don’t like to listen to Christians: our communication (to them, among ourselves about them) is pretty unambiguous: We think we’re better than you. We’re going to fix you with our talk, with our prayers.

Our interaction with “the world” is so very seldom actually focused on their needs, their wants, their situation. Our interaction is pretty strongly “all about us.”

And in reality, it isn’t even a little bit “all about us.” Not to them. It needs to be an awful lot “about them,” if we’re going to actually connect with them.

Otherwise, we’re wasting their time and ours.

--

The best part of the conversation will be on Facebook. Come join in.


Thursday

Do We Still Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem?

Recently, a friend asked me, “Are we still required to pray for the peace of Jerusalem?” (as Psalm 122:6 says). I stopped to think about that question, and about Zionism in general. Here’s how my thinking went.

When the Old Covenant was in place, it was between one family – the children of Jacob – aka Israel) and God. (In fact, they resisted being called a “nation” until the 20th century.)

When the Old Covenant was in place, that family was the vehicle by which God related to the rest of the world. We’ll overlook the fact that Israel failed miserably in that task: it was their task. (Note that “The Law” was the “terms & conditions” of that Covenant. Note also that Israel failed so completely at that, that God was required by the terms of that covenant [which the people proposed, it was not God’s proposal] that he was required to judge them and punish them for failing to keep their covenant with Him. See http://nwp.link/1Ggenc6.)

And because Israel was the one primary means by which God related to humanity, they were the victim of many attacks, both political and demonic.

In that context, praying for the peace of Jerusalem – Jerusalem being in proxy for the nation/family of Israel – was praying for peace in the conduit between God and man. If Israel was at war, then Israel could not well represent God to the nations.

The Old Covenant is now over. It was “obsolete and growing old [and] ready to disappear,” [Hebrews 8:13] two hundred decades ago. And it was completely obliterated, totally eliminated when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70 (the mortal wound: the destruction of all genealogical records of who’s qualified to be priest or Levite).  

Fortunately, 40 years earlier, the Old Covenant was replaced by a New Covenant. In contrast, the New Covenant is not between God and one family, or between God and one nation, or between God and ANY nation. The New Covenant is between God the Father, and God the Son, and we’re included in the Covenant by being “in Christ,” in the Son.

In the New Covenant, there is only one commandment: John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” That’s it.

Paul, expounding on our covenant, urged Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” This is, in his estimation, part of how we “love one another,” and he’s right.

So the question is: “Is Jerusalem part of “all men”? Are there leaders who qualify as “all those who are in authority”? Do they need prayer? In my perception, the answer is “Yes!” to all three.

So yes, we pray for Jerusalem, for the same reason, and in the same way that we pray for Tehran, or New Orleans, or Milan or Pretoria.

We pray “on behalf of all men,” and we pray “for kings and all those who are in authority.”

But really (and I suspect some people won’t like this), Jerusalem is no more special than your hometown, and Israel is now no more special than Iraq or Dubai. And simultaneously, no less special.



When Darkness Comes Into the Light

For a long time, I’ve been praying that the things that have been hidden in darkness would be revealed in the light. Many of you have been praying similar things.

I’m not stopping those prayers (please, don’t you stop either). But I’m adding to it: I’m praying that those that see the things drawn out into the light would recognize them, would understand them, and would take wise action based on what they recognize and understand.

There’s a lot of dark stuff going on in hidden places in our world. It has to: there’s so very much light increasing all around, that the darkness is not just where dark things are most comfortable, but now, that’s the only place where the dark things can survive.

As I pray these prayers, I expect hidden things in governments to be brought into the light and recognized. I expect people to recognize and condemn atrocities in the Middle East and in Asia. I expect that dark things in the medical community and the business world will be revealed, perhaps most especially where those two worlds overlap. As I pray, I expect that hidden things in the education systems will come to light and surprise many.

Demonic strongholds will be uncovered, and – if we’re attentive – torn down. Demonic plans will evaporate to dust. Sins and influences that have been hidden in darkness will be uncovered; some will scurry away to find more darkness, and others, unable to hide, will find their end when a Saint notices them and wields their sword of the Spirit on them.

But it won’t only happen “over there.” This trend toward disclosure will also happen “over here.” And it’s probably good that it does. There’s darkness in the Christian religious system as well, and if we’re violently honest, there’s probably a measure of darkness in most of our lives that we’ve completely lost track of.

I suppose these will come into the light as well.

But I also expect that we’ll see our hopes and desires come to light, and surprise many, even surprising ourselves. And it won’t just be us, it will be many people, shaking their heads, as if awakening from a dream, and marveling at the dreams and visions that are in their own hearts.

I expect that as we pray, we’ll see the “sons of God” emerge from their hidden place, and take their places in the Kingdom of God, and no, I don’t really know what that will look like.

And best of all, our Magnificent Bridegroom, who has been hidden by the weeds and distractions of the world will no longer be hidden. He will be seen as he really is, and as we see him, we’ll be transformed.

I look forward to walking in the fulfillment of these prayers. Would you care to join me? 

My Times with God

Sometimes it was in the morning, if I was able to drag myself out of bed. Mornings were my preference, and before too long, this confirmed night owl was up before the sunrise. Sometimes it happened before retiring for the night.

More often, I just grabbed an hour or so wherever I could. I remember many times in an abandoned church building near where I lived, at my dining room table, in an empty classroom or lunchroom or conference room or a table at the library. Often times I parked for a while in a rest stop, or some wide spot in the road between here and there.

The first thing after I sat down was usually a sigh, and I’d just sit there for a few minutes. Then I’d open my knapsack or reach to my bookshelf and pull out three things: my Bible, my journal, and a mechanical pencil.

But before I opened any of them, we’d talk. “Hi Dad. Love you! I’m looking forward to what you’re going to show me today. Help me to see, eh? Help me to recognize what you’re showing me, please. Thanks. You’re awesome!” And I’d open both books at the ribbon.

In my Bible, I was working my way through one of the books, section by section. Most translations have headings dividing up the text: I’d tackle no more than the space from one heading to the next.

In my journal, I listed the date and the passage, and then I pushed that book out of my way, and I devoted my attention to the Bible.

I read the passage through. You know the way you read a text book assignment that you don’t love? Yeah, this was not that. I read it slowly enough that my attention didn’t drift. If I could, I’d read it quietly out loud.

During this time, I turned my imagination loose to walk among these people, hear the sounds, smell the smells of the story I read. If I was in an epistle, I’d listen for the apostle’s tone of voice, and I’d imagine how the people it was addressed to felt as they read it. If I felt like it, I’d look at a few cross references, but I guarded against bunny trails.

But more than anything, I waited for the light to go on. Invariably, one verse would catch my attention, as if my Father were pointing to it, and saying, “Look here, son.” Sometimes it was just a word, or a phrase. Maybe it was a repeated word. Or an idea that never actually made it into words.

If it didn’t happen the first time, I’d go back and read it again. I’d often underline the verbs, using a set of markings I developed for myself after years of this. If there was a list of things or a progression, I’d number the points. Sometimes I circled adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes I’d ask questions, of the text, of Father, about what was going on. But everything was just keeping me involved with the text until my attention was drawn to one part.

That signal was like arriving at the X on a treasure map. It meant “Dig here.” That was the real assignment.

The first part of digging was to write – legibly – the verse that stuck out to me into my journal. And then I go to work to interact with that verse, that passage, to dig for treasure in that spot. I figure that the investment of an hour was just about right, and good success would probably show evidence of at least one full page, more or less, of reaction in my journal.

So I looked closely. My personal Bible always has cross references, but is never a “Study Bible.” I don’t want to hear what other people think. I want to discover what God thinks, and see if I can make my own thinking line up with that.

My first step was pretty often to “center myself” and to dig into that little nudge itself, the nudge that said, “Dig here.” Often, that would give me some direction for my searching or meditation.

I used different tools to dig. Sometimes I would literally outline the sentences, like in English class in high school. Sometimes, I chased down the cross references, both those in the margins and especially the ones in my own heart.

But sometimes, it was just meditating on my one verse, reflecting it, asking questions of it, that brought the reward.

For example, when reading through Mark 8, I was caught by verse 31: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This time, I found myself outlining what I saw in that verse:

1)      What are the “many things” he would suffer? (I listed them, cross referenced to Matthew 20:19 for details.)
2)      Who rejected him? (I listed them.)
3)      He would be killed: he doesn’t say by whom.
4)      He’d rise again after 3 days.

And as I was writing the outline, I realized I was thinking most about the fact that Jesus had never discussed this before. He was only free to talk about it after verse 29: after they realized that he was, in fact, the Messiah they were looking for.

I wrote for a while on what it must have been like, knowing that this terrible stuff was coming, and not having anybody – not a single person on the planet – that he could talk to about it.

I meditated for a while on how he himself learned of it, since he had been born as a normal baby (cf Philippians 2 and Hebrews 4:14,15) and he had to learn all this stuff in his own times with Father. I reflected on what that first conversation might have been like, when Father talked about what was going to happen.

And I realized that Jesus got his direction from – more or less – from the same thing that I was doing just now.

And I was done. Either I was out of time, or “the anointing lifted,” or something else. And that’s the point: I’m not looking to write a pretty article from this (though that came from it once or twice). I’m not looking for some big and powerful conclusion.

The big conclusion isn’t the point of this. The point is that Father and I have time together in his Word. Years later, I realized that he was training me – through these times – to hear his voice, and that it was remarkably effective. But even that training wasn’t the point. The point was our time together, our relationship.

Now, why have I just told you all this? It’s because of something I heard in our time together: I had the sense that some folks are pretty well grounded in hearing Father’s voice, but others are still scratching their heads and wondering how we do that?

Father showed me that during our times together, he was teaching me how to hear him, how to hear his voice and how to recognize his voice. And it seemed to me that he was suggesting that someone might want to follow the trail that he and I cleared together.

If you want to learn how to hear Father’s voice well, this is one way to learn. It has the additional benefit of giving you a solid grounding in the Bible.

If you decide to follow this trail, you have my blessing, and more important, Father’s. May you have as much fun in your time with Father on this trail as I have! I know he’ll enjoy his time with you!




Wielding Authority to Change the World

I have been reflecting on the changes going on in the United States and in the world. Those are both many and substantial.

But my thoughts focus not on what those changes are, but rather how we should respond to them.

Let us assume, for the sake of this conversation, that many of the changes are inappropriate, even evil, and should be opposed or reversed.

The question at hand is this: how shall we oppose the things we need to oppose. More specifically, what kind of power shall we exercise.

The changes are being made by the exercise of political power, the power of manipulation and intimidation, the power of deception, the power of public opinion, and some would argue that spiritual power is involved. Many of the changes have been by the use of a combination of these forces.

The question that appears to be neglected so often is this: what kind of power shall we wield as believers, to oppose the inappropriate or evil works in our land? Shall we exercise political power, or manipulation? Shall we wield the power of public opinion with petitions?

Let’s back up for just a moment, and ask a slightly more foundational question? What power has God given us? Or what kind of authority has he given us to exercise on his behalf?

In this whole conversation, I’d argue for these truths:

·         Some forms of power are simply not appropriate for sons and daughters of the Kingdom to use: deception and intimidation, for example.

·         The primary tool Jesus gave us was authority, which is not the same as power (that’s a topic for another article), and the authority he gave us is in the realm of the Spirit. Let’s acknowledge, however, that authority wielded in the spirit realm will manifest as changes in the physical realm.

·         Having said that, there are some believers (I emphasize: not all believers) who are specifically called by God to represent his Kingdom in the political realm. These brothers & sisters have the right to exercise authority in that realm.

My tentative conclusion, therefore, is this:  we as believers, when we see a political crisis (such as laws against Christians) or the exercise of violence (I think of ISIS or Hamas), we are not called to exercise the same force that is being used for evil. We are, instead, called to exercise authority in the spiritual realm, with the result of change in the natural realm.

This is the model of the New Testament.

When they experienced a political crisis (for example, Peter jailed, in Acts 12), their response was not to petition the government, and it was not a prison break); rather, they exercised spiritual authority in prayer, and angels were released to carry out the results of that authority in the natural realm.

The result was, ironically, a prison break of sorts, which was what the believers had been praying for, but also a testimony of supernatural power, which spread throughout both the church and the government.

And when they experienced violence (in the person of the Pharisee, Saul persecuting believers), they again went to prayer. In this case, Jesus himself appeared to Saul on the Damascus road (Acts 9), knocked Saul off his ass, and confronted his erroneous ways.

The result was a conversion, which stopped Saul’s “threats & murder” (Acts 9:1), which was what they were praying for, but it also resulted in arguably the greatest preacher of the gospel that has ever walked this planet: the apostle Paul.

I know that we have brothers and sisters who are called to exercise authority in the realms of political power, or of public opinion, or other forms of power. I contend that these are few, and are specifically called by God to those positions of authority.

But all of us, the whole Body of Christ, we have all been given authority to wield in the Spirit. We learned long ago how to wield that authority to lead others out of sin and into salvation. We’ve learned more recently how to wield that authority to heal the sick and raise the dead.

It is time to wield the authority that God has given us – and by doing so, to lay down the power and authority of the world – in the spiritual realm on behalf of nations, and people groups and regions.

It’s time for us to walk away from the weapons of the flesh, and to pick up the weapons that God has given us, and with them, to change the world.


--

Come join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/northwestprophetic. 

The Wordless Prayer of Faith

It happened during a gathering in our home. We’d had dinner some time ago, finished the dishes together, and now we were gathered in the living room, with mugs of hot tea, and the warm glow of good friendship.

It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to pray for individuals, for healing. We were all good friends, so there was much laughing and interaction while we prayed. That’s just who we were, and we didn’t feel the need to be different when we were with God.

We’d just finished praying for one person, and they got up from the “hot seat” (really a “hot hassock”: a place for them to sit in the middle of the group, so we could all see and all lay hands on if called for).

One of the women kind of hobbled to the center of the room and sat gently down on the hassock as soon as it was vacant. She announced that she’d hurt her back lifting something incorrectly, and needed it healed, please. We turned our attention to her, and asked God for his prayers for her; if Jesus only said what he heard Father saying, we figured that was a good model for us, so we waited for those prayers.

And we waited.

The silence went on for a while, and it became kind of awkward. The fact that it was silence was unusual: there wasn’t laughing or joking going on; people were listening for God’s prayers for our sister’s back.

And we waited. I asked a couple of the more prophetic people if they had anything, but they didn’t. This was unusual. So we waited.

Then, quietly, a teenager in the back of the room giggled. Yeah, I thought, this is rather odd: all these adult believers can’t even pray for one woman’s back. I can see why she’d laugh.

And her laughter continued. She tried, for a moment, to stifle it, but that never works, and it didn’t work this time. OK, so she’s laughing. What is God saying, for how to pray for this back?

But the laughing teenager was herself funny, and a couple more people glanced at her and chuckled. And they fought it, and they, too, were unsuccessful. And the laughter spread. And nobody knew why.

And soon, nobody was even trying to pray for the woman’s strained back; we were just laughing, loudly, uproariously. We didn’t know why we were laughing, but it was clearly not something we had the capacity to stop!

And after four or five minutes of unrestrained hilarity, the laughter slowly faded back out, ending as it began, with the happy teenager in the corner. Maybe five or ten minutes had passed.

And the woman who had sat down with the hurt back now stood up and stretched. “Aaaah.” she announced. “That’s much better. No more pain. Thanks guys.” And she walked, confidently, completely upright, out to the kitchen for a fresh cup of tea.

We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, chuckled again, and decided that we like hanging out with a sneaky God.



The Cleaning Lady

The Cleaning Lady


I’d like to tell you the story of a friend of mine, whom I’ll call Chantelle.

Chantelle had just found a roommate and a nice apartment, and they were in the early stages of moving in, when she called me. “I’d like your help in praying over our apartment before we move in.” She and I had dealt with some things together before, and she understood that teamwork is valuable.

So we began to pray. We prayed over the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, and declared the destiny we heard Father speaking about for the rooms and their activity. During the prayer time, I slipped away, and tossed a large handful of Dove’s chocolates into her empty room, just so she’s find a nice surprise.

When we finished praying about the public rooms, we headed down the hallway, and we both felt something strange, an unhealthy, unclean presence back there, and we both felt it at the same point, right as the hallway turned the corner.

Cool! A teachable moment! So we discussed it, discussed what it felt like, and I proposed that we check the back rooms individually for more sense of it.

We checked her room first, and there was no sense of that particular darkness, but there were wrapped dark chocolates scattered on the floor. She laughed and picked up a couple of them, and we agreed that this room wasn’t the source for the sense of the unclean that we felt. She offered me a chocolate and we moved on.

We prayed over the bathroom, blessed it, and ruled it out as a source of darkness, and moved on, while she nibbled her chocolate.

The roommate’s room. As Chantelle opened her roommate’s door, we felt the unclean darkness inside. “Aha! I suspect we’ve found a clue!” The roommate wasn’t home, of course; she wasn’t a believer, and wouldn’t understand what we were doing. In fact, there was just a small stack of boxes in the middle of the room.

We discussed the situation. We both sensed that there was uncleanness on the walls, though they appeared a clean white to our eyes. Chantelle stepped into the room, spiritual senses wide open, looking to sense where the unclean stuff was coming from. The closet? Nope. The window? Nope? This place where the bed obviously went? Nope.

That left the boxes in the middle of the room. They were just moving boxes, and only two or three of them; they looked innocuous enough. She popped the last of the chocolate in her mouth and touched the top box. Bingo! This is where the darkness came from! As we talked about the source of the presence, she straightened out the foil that had wrapped her chocolate, and read the quote it contained: “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” We laughed!

We didn’t get into the boxes; they weren’t our property, but we felt the need to address the darkness, particularly, the darkness clinging to the walls. So we prayed that it would be removed. Nothing happened. We commanded it to leave. Nothing. We prophesied blessing on the room and its future. Nada.

I had an idea. “Chantelle, why don’t you ask Father for the right weapon to remove the darkness?” She gave me a funny look, but we’d done stranger things than this together. She prayed, and I could see from the look on her face that she’d seen Him give her something.

“What is it? What did he give you?” She scowled. “A washrag.” We laughed some more.

But she began to wield the washrag that she saw in the Spirit against the darkness. In reality, she began to wash the walls with it, and it was the first time that we saw the darkness give way, though it was a fight.

After a few minutes, we recognized that this was going to take all night, and I couldn’t help her, as I was still standing in the hallway (out of respect for someone else’s room).

Another thought presented itself. “I wonder if that washrag is for you to wield, or if it’s for someone else?” We prayed. “An angel is to wield it.” “OK. Why don’t you invite that angel in?” She did, and she laughed. “What do you see?” “A cleaning lady!” We laughed some more.

So Chantelle handed the washrag to the cleaning lady angel, and invited her to wield the weapon. Immediately, she began washing the walls, and by the time Chantelle had reached the door to the room, the first wall was halfway clean; we could both feel the darkness lifting. That was better! We blessed the cleaning lady, and invited her to stay. It seemed to us that her assignment was the back of the apartment, particularly the hallway and the bedrooms.

We felt the freedom to invite a couple other angles to the house. A big armed one was stationed outside the downstairs entrance, and Chantelle assigned another, whom she named Cheese Grater Guy, to the front door, to remove any “Klingons” from guests to the home.

When we left, we looked back at the bedroom windows, and we both discerned what appeared to be a cleaning lady waving happily to us from the roommate’s window. We laughed and waved back.

The really fun part of the story came weeks later, when the roommate cautiously reported that she “could feel a presence” in the back hallway. Chantelle replied, “Yep, and she’s staying here! We’re not going to get rid of that one!”


And the cleaning lady likes cats. Both Chantelle and the roommate had pet cats, kittens, really, who loved to play with them. But from time to time, both women could see the cats in the hallway, playing with someone they couldn’t see with their natural eyes.