Praying Strategically

A few weeks ago, I began to study the book Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer, by Priscilla Shirer. Priscilla writes that prayer is “a key part of your offensive weaponry against a cunning foe who prowls around and watches for your weakness, your vulnerable places, for any opportunity to destroy you.” The purpose of her book is to develop specific prayer strategies to counteract Satan’s attempts to discourage believers from praying.

The Powers of Darkness

Priscilla believes that most people either overestimate or underestimate Satan’s influence and power. As a result, they either experience undue fear of Satan or they are unaware of his schemes and are open to every attack.

I have never been one to say “the devil made me do it.” I tend to attribute spiritual struggles to my sinful nature or to weaknesses of my character. Having said that, I do believe that Satan is real and that his dark powers are actively working in this world. Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies (Luke 8:44). The apostle Paul wrote that our struggle is not against people but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:11-12

I have always felt safe from Satan because I belong to God. Satan cannot destroy me! But have I been underestimating Satan’s power to manipulate me? Priscilla asked a probing question:

When you can’t seem to respond to spiritual stimuli with the same optimism and obedience as you once did, why do you think it could only be attributable to your bad character?

Priscilla Shirer

When I get discouraged by the brokenness of this world, when I lose my spiritual zeal, is it because I am too lazy or too easily distracted? Or does Satan know exactly how to curb my enthusiasm, how to silence my voice?

The Power of Prayer

While I continue to wrestle with the question of whether I am vulnerable to the machinations of Satan, I believe in the power of prayer. God moves in mysterious ways – through the Spirit who helps us in our weakness. I don’t always know what I ought to pray for. The Spirit may nudge me to pray for a specific person. The Spirit may nudge me to pray for a cause. The Spirit may nudge me to pray for courage or wisdom or guidance. The Spirit puts the right concerns on my heart at the right time.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8:26-26 (NIV)

In my last post, I shared how I had been questioning whether I was praying too much about my worries. Yet I knew that the concerns on my heart are in line with God’s will. Priscilla wrote something that I needed to hear:

When you bring your concerns and fears and irritations to the Lord in prayer, you’re aligning your weakling spirit with the full force of God’s Holy Spirit.

Priscilla Shirer

Priscilla also shared some wisdom from her grandmother. Her grandmother wrote her prayer requests in a spiral notebook and prayed over them every morning. When Priscilla asked her why she wrote her prayers in her notebook, she said, “So I won’t forget.”

Write it down so you won’t forget.

Make a daily appointment to pray.

Pray with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:18).

Keep on praying.

Apprehending God

The fourth chapter of The Pursuit of God is titled, Apprehending God. Clearly A.W. Tozer wasn’t using the meaning of apprehend that I am most familiar with – to arrest someone for a crime. To avoid confusion, I thought about using the word perceiving in my own title, but then I realized that the nuances of the word apprehend are perfect for the subject. To apprehend is to perceive or understand – to grasp something either physically or mentally.

apprehend – from French appréhender or Latin apprehendere, from ad- ‘towards’ + prehendere ‘lay hold of’

How many people really grasp who God is? To many people, God is unknowable. He is merely an inference or a deduction based on the evidence of creation. Others see God as an ideal or another name for that which is good. You would think that Christians would know God as well as anyone can but for millions of them, God is no more real than he is to non-believers.

Tozer wrote that the scriptures suggest that God is just as knowable as any person or thing we experience with our five senses. Taste and see that the Lord is good. My sheep listen to my voice. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. The implication is that we have the means in our hearts to perceive God just as we have the ability to experience material things with our five senses.

Jesus gives believers the ability to know God. Our spiritual faculties are awakened when we are born again! The Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:6) and it is in spirit that worshipers commune with God.

God is spirit and his worshipers must worship him in Spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

Tozer asked, why then do some Christians know so little about the “habitual conscious communion with God” that is prevalent in scripture? One reason is unbelief. We are prone to doubt the reality of the hidden spiritual kingdom that is all around us. The visible, physical world continuously assaults our five senses. We tend to draw a line between material things and the invisible, spiritual world. But the spiritual is real and constantly present.

Perhaps another reason we don’t commune with God is spiritual laziness. If you want to perceive God, if you want to comprehend the heart of God, you must love and pursue him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.

Faith enables our spiritual sense to function. Where faith is defective, the result will be inward insensibility and numbness toward spiritual things.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Tozer wrote that we need to break the bad habit of ignoring the spiritual. “For the great unseen reality is God.” If we truly want to seek God, we must seek to be otherworldly. Deliberately choose the kingdom of God as the focus of your interest, even if people think you’re crazy for doing so. Don’t make the mistake of pushing the kingdom of God into the future. The kingdom of God is here and now, existing parallel to our physical world.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Heavenly Father, thank you for the senses that allow me to experience and enjoy the material world. What a beautiful world it is! But the physical world overwhelms my five senses and when it does, I stop paying attention to my spiritual sense. I stop paying attention to you. Help me break my bad habits. Remind me to be still and know that you are God. Holy Spirit, remind me 50 times a day if you have to, that you are with me. As Francesca sings so beautifully,

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your Glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your Presence Lord

Jesus, I believe. But sometimes I am a doubting Thomas. Thank you for showing me the heart of God! Thank you for showing me that the kingdom of God is here. When I have my moments of doubt, help me overcome my unbelief!

Father, Son and Spirit, even with my limited faculties, I grasp who you are. I lift my hands up to you in praise and apprehend that you are my God.

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Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash

Depend on the Holy Spirit

My church studied the book of 1 John in a sermon series on “Living Deep.” At the end of the series, my pastor gave us a list of fourteen steps to help us go deeper in our faith walk. Step three is Depend on the Holy Spirit.

Christians believe that God is three Persons in one: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Most Christians don’t pay a lot of attention to the Holy Spirit, the one Jesus called the Counselor or Advocate. Yet Jesus said that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again, that is, born of the Spirit. The Spirit gives birth to spirit. Jesus promised to send the Spirit to his followers. The apostle Paul likened the Spirit to a deposit, a guarantee of what is to come.

Why should believers depend on the Spirit? What exactly does the Holy Spirit do? Jesus and the apostles provided many answers to these questions.

  1. The Spirit testifies about Jesus, reminding believers of everything Jesus said.
  2. The Spirit glorifies Jesus and affirms his oneness with God.
  3. The Spirit reveals God’s wisdom.
  4. The Spirit teaches believers about spiritual realities.
  5. The Spirit proves that the world is wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment.
  6. The Spirit searches and reveals all things, even the deep thoughts of God.
  7. The Spirit leads believers to live a spiritual life, which is not a life of the flesh.
  8. The Spirit brings hope, peace and joy to those who believe.
  9. The Spirit produces good fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  10. The Spirit advocates and intercedes for God’s people in accordance with God’s will.
  11. The Spirit guides believers into truth and helps us discern light from darkness.
  12. The Spirit enables true worshipers to worship God.

God came into the world as a Son of Man so that we might be saved. The Savior is called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” When Jesus returned to the one who sent him, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that God could continue to be with us.

As I studied verses about the Holy Spirit, Francesca Battistelli’s song, Holy Spirit ran through my mind. Let us become more aware of your presence. Let us experience the glory of your goodness.

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord

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Reading list:

  1. Isaiah 11:2; 34:16
  2. John 3:6, 4:23-24; 6:36; 14:15-31; 15:4-8, 26-27; 16:7-15
  3. Romans 8:1-17; 14:17; 15:13
  4. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
  5. 2 Corinthians 5:5
  6. Galatians 5:13-26
  7. 1 Thessalonians 1:6
  8. 1 John 2:26-27; 4:1-6

Because I am a child of God

First John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

Because I am a child of God…

I am a child of the promise.

I am beloved.

I am forgiven.

I am no longer a slave to sin.

I am no longer alone.

I am joyful.

I am led by his Spirit.

I love as I have been loved.