To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time of war, and a time of peace. — Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7, 8
In the last post, I stated that there is a time to contend for answers to prayer, but that there is also a time to rest. If we never rest from contending, especially when the wait is long, we end up wearing ourselves out, our hope and faith become depleted, and the desired fulfillment becomes our god.
By nature, I fall entirely into the contender camp. I take hold of things in prayer like a bulldog. So, I speak from personal experience about what happens when we don’t rest. I’ve learned a few things about contending and resting in the process of making a multitude of mistakes.
I mentioned in the last post that when God has newly revealed something to us or has begun to form a new desire in our hearts, with that there is initially a great urge to pray into what He has shown us. This is not merely our own natural enthusiasm fueling prayer, although that is part of the picture. The Holy Spirit is assisting us in jump-starting the whole prayer process which will ultimately bring to completion whatever goal God has planted within us. As we pray, especially in our prayer language, the Spirit builds our faith toward the desired end, and He continues to reveal details of what is to come and how to pray into them. Our intercession removes obstacles which stand in the way of fulfillment and partners with God to put the pieces in place. Along the way, the Holy Spirit encourages us and reassures us that the Father will surely do for us exactly what He has spoken.
But as time wears on, we can get tired of waiting, tired of the battle. If you notice that you are fretting and fearing, and the resistant circumstances are looming larger than what the Lord has said, one of two things must happen: either you must press through the doubt, or else it’s time to take a break — maybe a long break, a season of rest.
How do we know when to power on through and when to rest? There are a few indicators we should pay attention to. You may have a feeling inside that you’ve prayed all that can be prayed. The Holy Spirit does not seem to be fueling prayer on that subject anymore, even though you don’t yet sense that your breakthrough has come. You may have more of a desire to worship than to intercede, or God might shift your attention to something else He wants you to pray about for a while. Don’t fight those senses. The Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something. If He wants you to power on through and keep praying, He will let you know. He will keep on bringing you back to prayer about it and He will fuel it.
Those who know you best may notice that you are striving, not according to the Spirit, but according to your own flesh. They may see that you are careworn and losing your joy, and may caution you that it’s time to rest. Please listen to them. They love you and can see objectively, while you cannot.
You may feel that emotionally you cannot carry on. Then don’t. It is wisdom to know your limits. When it doesn’t feel healthy to carry on, just don’t. Release it to the Lord. If you’ve gotten to the point of emotional exhaustion, releasing it is usually what He wants you to do anyway.
There comes a time when you have done all you can do. All the prayer that can be prayed has been invested. The situation may look entirely hopeless, and yet it is not. The prayers already prayed are secretly working on your behalf. Most importantly, God has not forgotten. He is still working under the surface. He Who keeps you is ever mindful of you and does not sleep on the job (Psalm 115:12; Psalm 121:3,4).
This is the time of Ephesians 6:13, 14: “… Having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your waist girded with truth ….” It is also the time of Hebrews 4:3, 9, 10: “For we who have believed do enter into rest …. There remains, therefore, a rest to the people of God. For he who has entered into His rest has himself also ceased from his own works ….”
How do you enter that season of rest? By simply saying, “Lord, I can do no more. It is up to You now. I release it to You, and I believe that You will still do what You said. I’m going to rest in You and let You ‘perform all things for me,’ according to Psalm 57:2.” When you do that, something supernatural takes place. The Lord Himself graces you with faith-filled rest. You gradually become filled with a confidence in Him which is unshakable.
During that period of rest, the Lord will at times shift you back into contending, as it is needed, and then take you back into rest again. Whenever we have a weighty promise or prayer emphasis, the process is usually lengthy, and God will often swing us back and forth between the contending and resting seasons before we reach the fulfillment. Flowing with the Spirit and letting Him direct which season we are in is part of coming into our maturity as intercessors. He will be faithful to get you there.