Wrestling in Prayer

[Epaphras] is always wrestling in prayer for you… Colossians 4:12a

Paul’s choice of words in Colossians is fitting. Prayer is not easy. Praying consistently for someone is even harder. I think it goes deeper than that. It’s not merely the natural (often supernatural) internal struggle we have about praying for others. Recall the story of Jacob “wrestling with God” in Genesis 32:25-29. God right then and there gave him the name Israel, which means “struggle with God.” In the end, Jacob/Israel got the blessing he so desperately sought. We know that it was an intense struggle but we don’t know the nature of the issues. 

To wrestle with God over someone else requires us to know the person well. That takes time and intention. When we get to know that person is when we’re able to intercede on that person’s behalf. And that person may not even know that we are praying that way.

Can you think of someone you are willing to wrestle with God over? I am sure family members come to mind because we normally know them better but they are possibly the toughest BECAUSE we know them better! There is a person or persons out that that need your prayer, and you may very well be the only person praying on their behalf.

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Make Your Love Increase

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12

I am thinking of the once popular Christian camp tune “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Sadly in many churches and communities that is not the case at all. When I first became a Christian, someone said this about another Believer, ”I know I have to love him but I don’t have to like him.” I stopped short of asking for Chapter and Verse on that one!

I also think of the many denominations we have in the West that just do not get along. Often the theological differences are small and probably insignificant. It’s not that we don’t love the Presbyterians or Baptists or Pentecostals down the street, we just don’t talk to them regularly. I know it can be done because I’ve seen it. Where? Overseas on the foreign field, Southern Baptists and Assembly of God folks worked side by side to build the Kingdom of God (and probably unbeknownst to their superiors Stateside).

My point is this, I think we all benefit by praying this prayer for ourselves as often as we can. Then we can ask God to examine us to see where there might be obstacles in our love towards other Believers..

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Discernment

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. Philippians 1:9-10

This is the second prayer from the New Testament in as many days. It too should be memorized and prayed over people. How desperately we need discernment and purity in the present age. There are just so many moral, financial, social, and ethical decisions we need to make. We need the wisdom that brings discernment. It’s a prayer we can plead with God over our own lives.

I believe we’re entering an extremely difficult time financially as a nation (actually throughout the world) and it may become very very tempting to fudge a bit, to cut corners just to scrimp and save all you can. I suspect that even our moral and ethical foundations will be challenged and tested. People will be watching us. Our lives will be an example for those who are watching. People are hungry for truth, for someone who actually “walks the talk.”

Begin to make a list of prayers in the Bible. I will be discussing them in the days to come. Then one by one, memorize them. Recite them over and over and over again. Then begin praying them over people. They will absolutely love you for it. 

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Using the Bible in Prayer

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-12

If you’re like me, you can get “stuck” when you pray. The words won’t come easily or you don’t know how to pray in a given situation. These few verses are powerful when you have someone in mind and pray for that person by name with these verses. Even if you were to dissect it and pray for the person “from comma to comma”, it would be an incredibly strong blessing on that person.

For instance, how I would have loved to have someone praying that I would “grow in the knowledge of God” as a new Believer. Or how about that I would “bear fruit in every good work?” Being able to “please God in every way” seems like a laudable goal to pray for someone.

So, why is this more powerful than merely praying your own words? First, it helps you to focus. As you’re praying through this, you are picturing in your mind’s eye what it would look like if this person “grew in the knowledge of God” for example. Second, it’s the Word of God. What can be more potent than praying the Word of God over someone?

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Get Wisdom

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers. Proverbs 19:8

The older I get the more I find that wisdom is an extremely valuable thing to have.  When we’re young and impressionable, wisdom is a boring and tedious subject. We do foolish things when we’re young. But we’re also more daring and not afraid to try new and risky things (if you find yourself saying “I’m too old to do that,” you’re not young anymore!). Then as life happens to us, we are more reserved and cautious.

Wisdom in life is different. Making wise choices is difficult when we’re faced with hundreds of choices every day. Some are small and uncomplicated (what to wear in the morning), while others take more thought (what school to go to, what person to marry, etc). You rarely have ALL of the facts but are expected to make an educated choice. It takes wisdom! In fact, if you think about it, where you are today is a result of hundreds of choices you’ve made in your life. Some were great; some were good; others you’d like a “do-over” because they were so poor.

Even if you’ve made a wrong choice, you can correct course and get back on track. Every single time you can do that! One part of wisdom, then, is knowing (and acknowledging) that you’ve made a wrong choice and having the humility to correct it.

So when you’re faced with a difficult decision, “he should ask God, who gives [wisdom] generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

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Foolishness or Power of God

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Is it any wonder “they” don’t believe!

This man:

  • Claimed to be God, the Son of God, and Messiah
  • Was born of a virgin
  • Turned water into wine and walked on water
  • Raised the lame and dead
  • Cast out demons
  • Healed the sick
  • Lived a sinless life for 33 years
  • Preached for three years
  • Foretold of his impending death on a cross
  • Predicted that he would be raised to life and ascend to the Throne of God
  • Taught that if you believed in Him, your sins would be forgiven and you would have eternal life.

Foolishness or power of God? If you get annoyed or disgusted with that list, it’s probably foolishness to you. If, however, you feel energized after reading the list, it’s as the Scripture states, the power of God.

Our task as Believers is to help “them” make the transition from thinking the message of the cross is foolishness to believing it to be the power of God. Impossible task? Not really. The Man described above will show us how.

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Still Seeking

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” John 10:22-24

Throughout Jesus’ ministry we see regular people approach Jesus and talk to him. They saw him preach somewhere and they just want a better vantage point to observe and evaluate. Certainly other teachers had come through before and played a good game, but this Jesus man, he was different.

When He spoke, He spoke with authority.
He cast out demons with authority.
He healed the sick with authority.
He taught with authority.
He chose 12 followers who weren’t teachers or leaders; they were unusual but interesting choices.
And he could converse with everyday Joes and Jills.

Not much has changed in 2000 years. People of all stripes and kinds seek Him, some skeptical, some truly seeking. They follow Him from a distance just to be sure he’s the real deal. They notice His followers and how they act.

Look around some time and observe some of the seemingly irrational behavior of others (e.g., the spiked green hair on the teen or the fling that the middle-aged man is having is considered irrational behavior. They are seekers in the truest sense of the word. They are searching. They may even lie awake at night hoping to find the truth soon, before it’s too late.

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Don’t Worry!

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or about your body what you will wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothes.” Luke 12:22-23

As I write this on the last day of November 2008, it is becoming more and more apparent that the United States (and many parts of the world) is headed into some financial troubles (which may prove to be the understatement of the year). Housing, manufacturing, automobile, insurance and banking industries are all struggling and it’ll probably get worse before it gets better. It will be very easy to panic as the world comes crashing down.

But I think it will also be an opportunity for Christians to display a vibrant and active faith. Others will be panicky about food and clothing and shelter. Others will point fingers at Congress, the President, former Presidents and anyone else they can think of for the mess we will be in.

Know this, though, God is in control. He knew about these troubled years long long ago. He knew about all the anxieties you’d be experiencing during these times. In the midst of calamity (as in the days of calm), He will be calling out to each of us. His desire is for us to draw near to him. In tough times or plentiful times, He is constantly wooing us, trying to show us our utter need for Him.

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Strength and My Song

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the Lord, is my strength and my song: he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

Spread plentifully throughout the Old and New Testaments are songs of praise to God. Often times those songs come at what appears to be very odd times. But God was a way of life for these people. Times were tough; life was tough. Throw in the added disadvantage of being hated for what they believe, it would have been understandable if they had fallen away. Many did.

But those who remained faithful knew the value of worship. Poetry. Loud music. Solemn pronouncements. Dancing. Kneeling. Prostrating themselves before God. Rending their garments.

There was a reverent fear of God. I’m sure the stories were passed down about what happened to people who were disobedient to God. But when it was all said and done, they worshipped. Whatever it took, they did it.

I think we can learn from them. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, when we worship, we merely offer what we have to God, whether it’s through song or poetry or prayer or bowing silently before a Holy, Almighty God. It doesn’t even have to sound pretty or eloquent. It just needs to come from the heart.

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