I write this to you tired. Physically, because we’ve had a taxing week of back-to-back speaking engagements for me, followed by a bout of sickness so severe it took me out for several days and currently has Josh down for the count. I am still struggling with the aftereffects of the illness and Josh is in bed. But on top of the physical exhaustion (as any parent tending small kids while sick can attest) we are a few months engaged with a kind of emotional and spiritual exhaustion I don’t think we’ve faced in years – at least that I can remember.
It took me a while to recognize it. But as I continued to pray and seek the Lord on the multiple areas that have been heavy and hard, I realized that the resistance we face began at the exact time we (Josh and I) and our community began a concentrated effort to pray. We pray with our small group. Josh prays with his friends. I pray with my weekly mom’s group. Josh and I pray together at night. I’ve been intentionally praying over my city, my street, and my home for over a year now. I suppose I assumed I could pray with no real resistance – but how silly! When you invite the power of the only spiritual good – Christ – the spiritual evil will resist you.
So many of us say we want a better prayer life but do absolutely nothing to change it. We prioritize everything except prayer. We worry, and stew, and vent to friends but we never turn these things to prayer… which would be just as easy to do. The reality is that a better prayer life is as simple as praying – and yet the spiritual forces of this world (which exist and are active) will do whatever they can to distract, resist, and stop us from inviting the power of God into our lives and homes.
In Mark 9:29 the disciples come to Jesus disappointed and surprised that they could not cast out a demon. When they ask Jesus why, he tells them: “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” Jesus was saying that the power to overcome spiritual forces of evil only comes by intimacy and connection with God. Theological knowledge is important; I teach it. The bible is important; we should read it. But it is intimacy with God, which only comes by prayer and spiritual discipline, which empowers us to face the evil of this world.
And this world is evil. What a heavy week indeed. But this has only convinced me all the more that God’s people MUST be people of prayer. The Word of God alone is not enough. Yes, I’m a bible teacher and I stand by that statement. The Word of God is meant to drive you to intimacy with God, to union with God, to a life of constant connection to God, and that is accomplished through prayer. And such prayers do not need to be perfect or cleaned up or full of fancy words. Pray Scripture. Write your prayers out. Pray every thought that is angry or bitter or resentful back to the Lord and invite him into it. When you pass a school, pray for it. When you pass a church, pray for it. When you pass your city hall, pray for it. All you’re doing is changing your spiritual lifestyle from passive to active.
At the risk of sounding a little crazy, I’ll tell you one thing I’ve done. I recently sensed and saw that my marriage unity is struggling – which still happens for us, especially in times of spiritual exhaustion. Aside from the obvious repenting to my spouse, and working on communication, there is a spiritual reality that has to be confronted. This was not the only thing happening. We have had consistent, serious issues with one child. Then Josh and our children started having nightmares. This clued me into the very spiritual nature of the battle in which we are engaged. I remembered reading about a woman who faced similar circumstances with her family, and what did she do? She marched around her house, praying over it, every day for a week. So that’s what I did. And I continue to do it. I suppose it’s funny – we live right on the road and our neighbors probably think I’ve finally lost it. But I really don’t care. Anytime a Christian family fights for their marriage, their home, the spiritual legacy of faith we inherit through Christ, there WILL be opposition. And sometimes God permits that opposition to strengthen us and our bond to him.
Prayer is war. And perhaps if more of us realized that, we’d make it a priority. I pray specifically and I pray by name and I pray what I want to see even as I am struggling to believe it can happen. And sometimes what I thought should happen, or what I wanted to happen, doesn’t. But I keep praying, because I am not praying to get God’s hand, I am praying to see God’s face. I am praying for the heart of God to be made manifest here, on earth, in this kingdom, while we are here fighting the battle the Cross made possible to win.
I believe there is another great awakening coming for the church. I believe there is a reformation, if you will, but it will be a reformation that shakes out the ones who aren’t committed, the ones who worship their sin, the ones who cover their abuses, the ones whose service of Christ was a lip service only. We are in that shaking as a national church right now. And this sifting will awaken the ones ready to rise, the ones who will grasp the sword of the Spirit and dress themselves in the reality of the gospel. Will you be one of those?
As I sat down to write this letter, I looked up at the verse on my office window: “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb. 12:3)
Prayer is war. Don’t give up.