Are You in a Fighting Mood?
by Dale Reeves
Time for true confessions. I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that I have prayed more in the year 2020 than I have in many years in the past. I’m ashamed to admit that I tend to pray more when things aren’t going so well, when things are a little crazy, when life seems out of control. Has that been your experience as well? I have known this Scripture most of my life: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV). As a child I memorized that verse in these words: “Pray without ceasing.” My mom told me that if I was ever called on to pray in public, I should view that as an honor and should always be ready to pray.
Why, then, do we all too often turn to prayer as a last resort, not as an automatic first step in making any kind of decision, or seeking an answer to a dilemma? I believe that many times we use our “busy-ness” as our alibi. We pride ourselves in being people of action, not people of prayer. We have bought the lie our society has fed us that we have to rely on our human ingenuity, not God’s power and work in our lives. The national media gets nervous when athletes talk about their relationship with God, but when we’re in trouble, when there’s a national crisis, or a weather-related national emergency, you see people voicing how much we need to pray to God during the dark times.
Many people only come to God in prayer when they have a serious need and they view him as a butler or a genie whose purpose is to stand at attention and respond to their needs and desires. Rather, we should approach God on his terms, asking him to set the agenda, asking him to bring about his will in our lives—regardless of whether or not he answers prayers in the way we want him to.
This Means War
I believe that many people would approach prayer differently if they only realized the true power that it holds. It’s not about giving God our laundry list of needs, but about going into a battle-ready position, asking God to unleash all the weapons at his disposal to fight the darkness all around us. There are weeks when every day feels like a fight, aren’t there? There are seasons where every day feels like we are in a battle. Can you say 2020?
The apostle Paul directs us in Ephesians 6:18 to “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (NLT). Prayer is one of two offensive spiritual weapons we have in this battle in which we find ourselves. The other is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. God expects us to use these two weapons to take on the spiritual forces we must contend with on a daily basis.
The apostle Paul also tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (NIV). Jesus told his disciples that certain demons could only be dealt with through serious prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). Can I ask you, what kind of demons and strongholds do you need to demolish in your own life? Have you used all the offensive weapons at your disposal to fight the spiritual darkness?
I love the lyrics to this worship song written by Melissa and Jonathan David Helser:
“I raise a hallelujah in the presence of my enemies,
I raise a hallelujah louder than the unbelief.
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody,
I raise a hallelujah, Heaven comes to fight for me.
I raise a hallelujah with everything inside of me,
I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee.
I raise a hallelujah in the middle of the mystery,
I raise a hallelujah, fear, you lost your hold on me.”
I believe that if we viewed prayer through this lens, we would all spend more time praying. Praying is then no longer seen as a passive exercise, but an active experience in which we pour our hearts, bodies, and souls into a full-surrender mode.
Plugging into His Power
How many people do you know who are just “getting by” in their own strength and power? It’s very possible to approach our marriages, raising our children, our career choices, transitions, and difficulties in life all on our own know-how. If we choose to operate that way, we are like the people the apostle Paul warned us about: “They have a form of godliness, but deny its power” (2 Timothy 3:5, NIV). When we choose to roll this way in life, we are simply not tapping into the power of God. You can be content using hand tools, small appliances, and only use 110 volts of power, or you can use power tools and tap into 220 voltage! If you’ve ever been shocked by them both, you know the difference! Prayer connects us to the most powerful and effective force on earth!
Edward McKendree Bounds was a Methodist pastor who lived during the days of the Civil War, best known for his many writings on the subject of prayer. Among his many quotes, two are very pertinent for us today:
“Prayer is a wonderful power placed by Almighty God in the hands of His saints, which may be used to accomplish great purposes and to achieve unusual results.”
“Satan has all the vantage ground when we do not maintain the aggressive.”
Are you readying yourself for whatever spiritual battles come your way each and every day? I’m not sure how you do that without consistent and meaningful time spent in prayer with our Father God. If you don’t have a habit that allows you to do that, I would highly encourage you to find that rhythm.
I love the prayer times I experience with God in nature getting up very early in the morning and seeking him as I look at his beautiful ocean, the seashore, a sunrise, observing wildlife, traversing through a National Park, or simply enjoying rippling brooks and streams. If I am quarantined in my home, my favorite places to seek him include our front porch glider or rocking chair (where I can pray for neighbors as I see them in their yards or walking in the neighborhood), and our oasis in the backyard. I sit on our patio in the morning or late at night and listen to the trickling waterfall in our little pond as I seek to know God’s will.
Following Jesus’ Example
We see in Scripture that Jesus often withdrew from the crowds and prayed early in the morning. He did it before big decisions, in times of stress, and in constant communion with the Father. Sometimes we see longer prayers, and at other times, before healings and miracles, we see some very short prayers. He prayed for unity in his church, and for those who were not yet a part of his followers.
The author of the book of Hebrews tells us: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7, NIV).
Our church desires to follow Jesus’ example in praying through the night and through the day, drawing away from distractions, and seeking God’s will for our nation, our community, our church, and our personal lives. And that is why we will be having a 72-hour prayer vigil (both in our prayer room at the church building, and virtually for people to participate online). The power of a church that prays is the power of a church that can change the world. I would challenge you to sign up for one of our 72-hour time slots. We will provide practical suggestions for you both online and in the prayer room so that you can fill your one-hour time slot with meaningful and powerful prayer.
Then, at the conclusion of the prayer vigil on December 2 we will come together as a church for a Worship Night. I can’t think of a better way to usher in the 2020 Christmas season than by fighting for our nation, community, church, and families in prayer. It’s time to put up your dukes!