Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Weapon of Prayer

Are you as often tempted as I am to doubt the effectiveness of prayer? But Jesus prayed. He told us to pray. We can be sure that the answer will come, and it will be good. If it is not exactly what we expected, chances are we were not asking for quite the right thing. Our heavenly Father hears the prayer, but wants to give us bread rather than stones. (Elisabeth Elliot)

For a few months now, the Lord has been saying to me “Ask me. Trust me.” Now, this isn’t just a general asking, it is a specific asking…for a specific thing…a thing/idea that is threatening to become precious to me. Given my track record for idol-making, my knee-jerk response when I saw this desire rising up in my heart was to think “I can’t pray specifically about that…I will latch on to it and that will lead to all kinds of sin.” But God’s response was “Ask me. Trust me.” Trust Him…to guard my heart, to stay my mind on Him, to set my face like flint in the direction of His purposes (not my own) and to endure in prayer so long as He should continue to say “Ask me. Trust me.”

So for nearly 3 months now, I have asked and have tried my darndest to trust. At first, whew…days without evidence that my prayers were having any effect or that the Lord was actually protecting my heart much less working in my circumstances felt like years…a week was an eternity. There have been many tears, but by His grace I have done as He asked and persevered.

The day before this specific desire birthed in my heart, the Lord said this to me via Amy Carmichael:
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3)...When Paul wrote to Timothy to endure hardness, what he meant was "remain under it", don't slip from under it Don't try to shuffle it off. (From Whispers of His Power)

One week later, He said:
Enduring is your dwelling place and your nest is set in the rock. (Numbers 24:21)

This place of enduring has been, at times, an intense hardness. In those moments it has been hard to pray. It seems everything in me wants to throw my hands up and surrender in defeat. But, I am meant to surrender in the Spirit…to Trust Him with what I can’t see and rejoice in the knowledge that He is for me, advocating and interceding for me with the Father, and plotting for my future. Then, I am meant to humble myself…admit that I really have no clue what is going on, but I KNOW Him and simply obey.

For today, that obedience means asking, even when I see no reason to and when all that is in me is crying DEFEAT. There may come a day when the Lord says “Ok. That thing you’ve been asking for will be a stone for you. Wait and I will give you bread.” But until that day comes, I must ask. I must obey. Not simply because I think one day (hopefully soon) I will see my “puny hopes” (as Elisabeth Elliot calls them) revealed as something beyond all I could “think or imagine” (as the Lord promises); but because this type of obedience changes me.

Were it not for prayer this hope would be an idol. Were it not for prayer my emotions would be all over the place. Were it not for prayer I would be indulging in every manner of sin out of bitterness regarding my currently allotted portion. Were it not for prayer all hope of anything good would be lost. And, who could endure a life without hope?

Without prayer, my true hope would be set on that thing I’ve been asking for and that would only disappoint and ultimately devastate me if it does not come to be. But, through prayer and by His mercy, He stays my mind on Him (or returns it from momentary travels) and keeps me in perfect peace…and able to endure this particular hardness…for the yet unknown joy set before me.

How can this be? It is possible because God is just so good AND because “prayer is a weapon. Paul speaks of the 'weapons we wield' in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. They are 'not merely human, but divinely potent to demolish strongholds' (NEB).” When doubts assail and fears abound and I just want to surrender to them, God gives me the weapon of prayer to combat the author of confusion and fear. Who was at that time “urging me to quit (or avoid) using the weapon he fears so intensely.”

That enemy wants me to focus on what I may or may not get. He wants to paint God as stingy, deaf to my pleas and unaffected by my tears. But that is just a lie! The bible says that “All my longings lie open before [Him]…my sighing is not hidden from [Him].” (Psalm 38:9) He hears even my sighing, certainly He knows of my tears and all of the emotion welling up in my heart. How can I not Ask and Trust a God like that? And, since I know He will not give me a stone when I ask for bread, how can I not joyfully await whatever His answer to this particular plea might be?

O Lord, I wait upon you. For your glory through my life to be revealed. Whatever it may be. I wait for you. I can do no other!

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