Category Archives: Prayer warriors

Praying into Current Events

“Preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” It was a popular saying years ago, which eventually morphed into, “Pray with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other,” among intercessors. Pray the news is one of the methods intercessors are still frequently encouraged to use. It has its place. We should be aware of what is going on in the world around us.

However, intercessors can wear out fast, praying about every current event (or supposed current event) that they see in the news and on social media. CNN, MSNBC, CBS, Fox, etc. all thrive on the next big story, and if they can’t find one happening on its own, they manufacture something sensational out of what little material they have. The enemy of our souls uses these things to distract prayer warriors into engaging in lots of anxious prayer scattered in a bazillion directions … for things which are really nonissues from God’s perspective.

We’ve probably all heard that it’s important to choose our battles. If we fight on too many fronts, we lose. So, when there are apparent causes for concern, our first question should be, “What do You say about this, Lord?” He may tell us, even in the face of something which looks like a big deal, not to trouble ourselves about it at all — that He’s already taken care of it. If we ask Him first, and wait for His answer, it will save us a lot of useless care and wasted energy.

Part of the enemy’s spiritual warfare strategy is a smoke and mirrors deception. “Smoke and mirrors” is an idiom derived from the magic tricks illusionists pull off, where things seem to appear or disappear through the clever use of mirrors and sudden puffs of smoke intended to distract the audience. The expression has come to mean that reality is hidden, blurred, or blown out of proportion through half-truths or irrelevant information.

That’s exactly what Satan does. He uses partial, inaccurate, or overblown information, often dispersed through news and social media, to divert intercessors from the truly vital conflicts. He presents numerous false battlefronts to our eyes, attempting to convince us of their urgency. That way, he keeps us from mobilizing where our prayers are genuinely needed. He’s been pretty effective in using this tactic, too! Because we are constantly running in this, that, and the other direction, putting out fires, we are exhausted before we even get to the real deal!

God does not want us to be in a distracted tizzy all the time. It’s easy to go there, based on the mountains of natural information available all around us, but we must resist the urge to pray mainly by what our natural senses are presented with. Instead, the Lord wants us to calm down and listen for His marching orders. If we do that, we’ll be ready and available for the strategic prayer locations where we are actually needed. We’ll do the damage and gain the major victories we’re supposed to have.

When Distractions Ruin Prayer

Sometimes prayer flows like a river. We float along on its current and let the Lord lead us where He wills. However, that’s not always the way it is. In fact, it might not even be how things go the majority of the time. Often, our prayer life is more like a battleground. I’m not even talking about actively going against the gates of hell and prevailing against them, as Matthew 16:18 puts it. I’m talking about just the battle to keep praying!

A few months ago, I went through an extended season where my prayer life seemed like a disaster. It was hard to focus, hard to keep a heavenly perspective, hard to get past a swirl of thoughts. Hard, hard, hard! I even struggled to continue praying in tongues at length, which is not at all normal for me. At times, I asked myself, “What did I just do for the last hour or two? My intent has been to pray, but I feel like I have accomplished little.”

In the midst of being concerned about this, the Lord spoke encouragingly to me: “Persevere, My child. Just persevere.” It is in the persevering that we take ground, even when we don’t think we are getting anywhere.

Prayer is not always as perfect as we could wish. The enemy distracts us in various ways. Our own soul distracts us. Sometimes, even good and noble thoughts or causes distract us.

We know what we’re supposed to do: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). But it gets exhausting when we have to do it a couple of dozen (or more) times in any given prayer session, just so we can carry on a coherent, consistent communication with the Lord!

When we run into a battle such as this, we don’t need to get down on ourselves for being weak in prayer. God encourages us to keep pressing on in spite of the struggle. Even when our prayer efforts are imperfect, puny, and even downright messy, all He asks is that we get up and do it again … and again … and again, until we get through the season of distraction. As we do that, we really do continue to make progress, even though we can’t always see it.

The process of persevering through embattlement against our thoughts is something God allows, so that we become stronger. Psalm 18:34 says it this way: “He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.” Perseverance through the warfare of distractions is a tool God uses to make seasoned warriors of us.

If you are struggling to stay at prayer in a focused way, I encourage you to keep at it. You are not a prayer dud. It’s just another form of spiritual warfare. In persevering, you will be doing what the Lord said in Ephesians 6:13“Having done all, stand.”

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

Adapting to God in Prayer

Many years ago, I was taught an expected form of how my personal prayer time was supposed to unfold:

A — Adoration
C — Contrition
T — Thanksgiving
S — Supplication

In other words, we had to worship first, then repent of every sin we could remember committing since the last prayer time, then spend some time thanking, and finally, ask God for all the things we wanted. We were encouraged to spend an allotted amount of time on each — fifteen minutes apiece, for example, to achieve an hour of prayer. We were supposed to worship (adoration) first, so that God would be willing to listen when we asked for His forgiveness.

But then, a different prayer expert came along and said, “No, no! You must repent first, so that God will receive your worship!” — which left us with

C
A
T
S

— not ACTS.

It all sounds so silly now, yet this was how many people were taught thirty-plus years ago. No wonder prayer was a drudge which few people stayed with!

Fortunately, some of us quietly rebelled, and learned to connect with God through the heart, rather than in a dry form. We worshiped often, because Jesus made our hearts continually glad, repented as the Lord revealed our issues, gave thanks throughout the day, and presented our petitions somewhere in between all the rest. AND, we communed with the Lord for Who He is.

Even when we have not conformed ourselves to somebody else’s plan for how prayer ought to be done, many of us still unconsciously settle into our own little rut. We get comfortable with an idea of how prayer must go, and if we don’t live up to it, we tend to feel guilty, as if we have not really prayed. However, from time to time, the Holy Spirit Himself may wish to lead us into a different mode of prayer. We need to listen to Him, and let Him lead. It is all right if we don’t keep doing it the way we have always done.

For instance, maybe you have a habit of starting prayer with a time of worship. From there, you might meditate on a portion of Scripture, then listen a little for the Lord’s leading, then intercede for the needs on your mind. But what if the Spirit were to put a desire in you to spend your whole prayer time in worship? Or conversation with the Lord? Or tongues? Or thinking about one Bible verse? Or (gasp!) just sitting with Him — while He doesn’t even say anything! Would you feel guilty for not interceding that day? Would you think you were not doing your job as a prayer warrior?

Frankly, I have struggled (sometimes still struggle) with these things. I like to accomplish receiving many answers through intercession. I like to feel I have “done” something, because I see the needs around me, and they are great. However, I am learning that if the Holy Spirit wants to disrupt my routine and focus exclusively on a certain aspect of prayer for a while, it’s OK. If He wants to make my entire prayer time into a conversational session, or a listening time, He’ll take care of the intercession part somehow — perhaps through one- or two-sentence petitions while I’m doing other tasks during the day. Maybe He will have someone else intercede for those concerns. It’s not all up to me anyway.

I’ve tried persevering through and doing prayer the way I’ve always done (because I don’t always “get it” immediately, or because I can be a little mule-headed), and I can tell you, if what I am trying to achieve in prayer is not Spirit-powered, it does not work.

So, if the way you have done prayer for quite some time just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, or if you don’t feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit on it like you once did, step back and ask Him how He would like to change it for a while. “Father, how would You like to do prayer today? Do You have a favorite song You would like me to sing to You? What’s on Your heart?” You might be surprised at where He will take you. And it will be good.

 

The Intercessor Manual

Praying in the Dark

A concept I love and teach is that intercessors should endeavor to be sharpshooters in prayer. That’s why Annie Oakley graces the cover of my book, The Intercessor Manual.

The idea is that, rather than forging ahead in prayer according to our own limited thinking, we should listen to the Holy Spirit for how to pray. We pray from the details He gives us, rather than plowing ahead without His counsel and dancing all around and over a prayer topic, without a clue as to what God’s take is on the situation. Specific prayers inspired by the Spirit hit the target and get specific answers.

Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but what happens when we wait upon the Lord, and He still doesn’t seem to give us any light on the subject? You know, that happens to me a lot. A lot!

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you on how to handle praying when the light is dim or nonexistent.

Be faithful in waiting upon God and inquiring of Him. God honors our sincere attempts to hear Him. If He’s not speaking, it’s not necessarily your fault. People have sometimes chastised me for not hearing God on given subjects. The accusation is that, if you’re not hearing and other people are (or supposedly are), that means you are just not listening, or are refusing what God is surely saying. Maybe … maybe not!

We don’t all have the same realm of prayer influence. God shares one secret with a few, and still another secret with a different set of people. That is the way He works.

Don’t let anybody guilt you for not hearing from God on any given subject. It’s good to ask the Lord, “Am I resisting what You want to speak? If so, please reveal to me where my attitude is wrong.” But if you are truly seeking Him, that’s all you can or need to do. You can’t make God speak.

Keep on waiting upon the Lord with the questions you have. It takes time to hear Him. He may not be ready to speak. He may want to see how badly you want His counsel. He may simply treasure your diligent waiting upon Him.

Take tentative prayer steps and then expect Him to lead. Sometimes I have to confess to the Lord, “I don’t have the foggiest idea how to pray into this. It is too big for me! Please lead me as I go.” Then I take the first step in prayer, often in my prayer language. Many times, within moments, He takes over and leads me into prayer paths I never would have expected to go down. It doesn’t always happen that quickly. I could spend weeks or even months feeling my way along, praying in tongues a lot, and praying in English only tiny tidbits of understanding I receive.

Don’t try to sharpshoot based on your opinions. A lot of folks are doing this, and they are not praying God’s will. Don’t assume that your strong opinion must be God’s perspective too. It might not even be close. If it’s not from Him, it’s not going to hit the target, no matter how hard you try, and you will end up disappointed because the Lord didn’t come through for you.

If you desire to pray God’s counsel, He will get you there. Have confidence that, if you are doing your best to hear Him, He will adjust your understanding along the way. Stay sensitive for any uneasy checks in your spirit about how you are praying. If you do, He will steer any mistaken prayers back on course.

At times we have to pray immediately, because there is no time to wait. Just do it, calling on the name of Jesus, having faith that He will assist you and make up for any inadequacies in your understanding. God is not fussy about whether we use the right words. He sees the intent of the heart, and He has compassion on our limitations.

Don’t be surprised if the Spirit leads you down a side trail. This is common for me. I start out praying into a specific topic, and the Lord shows me side issues — still connected with the original matter — that are important to Him (but definitely not the same focus I started out praying into). It’s OK, if that happens to you. Have faith that these tangents are important to the Lord, and that’s why you end up praying about them.

Prayer in tongues will always get you through. You can have confidence that you are breaking things open and changing circumstances, even if you aren’t completely sure how to pray or what the outcome should be. The Holy Spirit knows what is needed.

Don’t use tongues, however, as your lazy man’s way out of hearing the Lord. We should still ask for understanding and expect to receive it. The same Paul who said, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18) also said, “If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also …” (1 Corinthians 14:14, 15).

There is a time for sharpshooting and a time to throw grenade-like prayers. Different situations require different kinds of prayer volleys. This type of intercession won’t be nearly as specific in details as the sharpshooting prayer. We still want to make sure we aim it in the right direction, though! Both types of prayer should involve using Scripture as the firepower. This one may utilize larger doses of that firepower.

I hope the ideas I have shared here will encourage you and help you persevere in going after the answers you seek.

 

The Intercessor Manual

Guidelines for Good Prophecy (Part 2)

Scale -- Pixabay Public DomainIn our last post, we began talking about the practical advice for prophesying and discerning of prophecy which God has provided for us in Jeremiah 23:9-36. Let’s continue on from where we left off:

Verse 22: But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.

Prophecy sometimes is given by the Lord to turn people back into the way of life and godliness. Prophecy will never condone, minimize, or ignore  sin. It will never tell people they are all right when they aren’t.

Verse 25: I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in My name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed.”

Again, don’t say you heard from God if you didn’t, or if you aren’t sure. Inwardly, if you give it a little time, you will know whether you have a true word from the Lord. Deep down inside, your spirit knows the truth — because the Holy Spirit is there to guide it. The problem is, our mind and emotions sometimes initially get in the way. Pay attention to that sense deep within.

Also keep in mind that our dreams need to be discerned just as much as any other type of revelation. Some of them are from God, and some aren’t.

Verses 26, 27: How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Yes, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who think to cause My people to forget My name by their dreams, which they tell every man to his neighbor ….

Yes, there are false prophets who do these things, usually for fame and gain. Just be sure you don’t go that route yourself.

Verse 28: The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream. And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff, [compared] to the wheat?

“What is the chaff, compared to the wheat?” There is a lot of chaff blowing around from so-called prophets these days. And when what they said would happen doesn’t, they just keep cranking out more of the same.

Chaff is of no value. It ends up being a mess in people’s mouths that they just want to spit out with disgust. Don’t do that to people! It cheapens prophecy to the point of causing people to turn away from all prophetic revelation, because they’ve been burned too many times by the fake stuff.

If you are sure you’ve got a true word, give it. That is being faithful to the Lord. But if you don’t have a sure word, don’t try to come up with something.

The quantity of your prophetic words doesn’t cut it in the long run. Quality does.

Verse 29: Is My word not like a fire? says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces?

A genuine word from the Lord carries impact — conviction, breakthrough, cleansing, a re-firing of someone’s spirit for the Lord.

Verse 30: Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who steal My words every one from his neighbor.

There are a lot of people out there prophesying who haven’t gotten what they are speaking from the throne room. They are only regurgitating what they heard some other prophet speaking. Some don’t even realize that they are doing this, because they have been filling themselves up constantly with reading and listening to prophetic blogs, e-mails, and videos.

If you want to really hear from God, go listen to Him directly. First-hand revelation beats repackaging someone else’s revelation every time. (Besides, claiming you have a word from the Lord which actually originated with another prophetic person is spiritual plagiarism. Ewww!)

Verses 31, 32: … I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who use their tongues, and say, “He says.” … I am against those who prophesy false dreams, … and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies, and by their lightness: yet I did not send them, nor did I command them. Therefore, they shall not profit this people at all, says the LORD.

Verse 36: … For you have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.

Tell what God said, the way He said it. Don’t embellish it, and don’t modify it to make it more palatable to your listeners. Exaggerating or adding to what God said is actually lying. So is withholding part of what He said. It is perverting His words. This is very serious in God’s eyes. Four times in Scripture, He warns not to add to or take away from His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18, 19). While we are not prophesying on the same level of infallibility that the Bible carries, we can learn from the principle.

Next time, we’ll talk about how discerning of prophecy is supposed to work among New Testament believers.

Previous — Part 1
Next — Part 3

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

 

 

Guidelines for Good Prophecy

In Old Testament times, the word of the Lord was heard by only a few, who then duly proclaimed it to the general congregation. But since the setting in place of the New Covenant through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on our behalf, and since the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Church, we can all hear Him speak to us. You don’t have to be a prophet to prophesy. In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul tells us,

  • Follow after charitable love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (v. 1).
  • “For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (v. 31).
  • “Wherefore, brethren, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues” (v. 39).

Furthermore, Jesus commented, “He who is of God hears God’s words” (John 8:47). You can hear God, and you can prophesy.

The prophet Joel said, “It shall come to pass afterward, [Peter quotes ‘afterward’ as ‘in the last days,’ in Acts 2:17] that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit” (Joel 2:28, 29).

The Bible is full of guidelines for how prophecy is supposed to happen. In this post and the next, I’m going to focus  on an anchor passage: Jeremiah 23:9-36. Although it was written in Old Testament times, it is loaded with basic, common sense advice which still applies to New Testament prophesying and discerning of prophecy. We can learn a lot from it about how to discern prophetic words and those who speak them. We can also apply a lot of this passage to ourselves, so that we do better at prophesying accurately. Let’s break it down, by focusing on some of the key points:

Verses 9-15: In these verses, God expresses through Jeremiah His heartbrokenness over the sins of many of those who called themselves prophets. Some were actually out-and-out prophets of false gods, while others were involved in deep sin, such as adultery, lying, and other unspecified forms of wickedness. In addition, he said “They strengthen also the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness” (v. 14). In other words, they condoned continuing in sin, and exalted and supported those who were evil. That sounds pretty relevant to what goes on today, doesn’t it?

Verse 16: Do not pay heed to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.

Don’t speak “prophecies” which come from your own desire to flatter or please the people you are speaking to. Don’t speak what you would like to see happen, but have not actually heard God say will happen.

Speaking from one’s own heart may come from a misplaced desire to encourage. Encouragement is a major component of prophecy. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:3, “But he who prophesies speaks to men for edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” But it is important to be sure we are really hearing from the Lord, not just trying to make people feel good. “Feel good” words which do not ever materialize ultimately end up disappointing people and can cause  them to doubt the gift of prophecy altogether.

If you are not sure if it’s from God, weigh it in your spirit for a bit, and if you still aren’t sure, keep it to yourself.

Verse 17: They say to those who despise Me, “The LORD has said, ‘You shall have peace.'” And they say to everyone who walks after the imagination of his own heart, “No evil shall come upon you.”

Again, such “words” can come from a heart of people-pleasing, fear of man, and desiring of approval, whether for personal gain or not. To tell those who are in sin that they are just fine and that no consequences will come is lying. It lacks love, because it shows an utter disregard for where they will spend eternity if they do not repent.

Verse 18: For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, and has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word, and heard it?

I would answer those questions, “The one who spends plenty of time in the Lord’s Presence in intimate listening prayer, and who immerses himself in the Scriptures.” There is no shortcut to standing in God’s counsel, having His understanding, and hearing accurately from Him. It comes through spending much time with Him, both in prayer itself and in prayerful reading of His Word.

Verse 21: I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

Don’t be too hasty to release what you think you have from God. Premature telling of your revelation is often fraught with lots of adding on to / exaggerating / fleshly interpretation of what it means. Sit on what you have for a while. See if it stays with you. See if God expands your understanding. Those who are too eager to “run” to tell everyone what they are hearing often have a heart motivation of wanting to be recognized and admired. Crucify that temptation by hanging onto your word and letting God verify it and hone it within you.

To be continued …

Next — Part 2

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

Intercession: Path to Freedom from Anger

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article by Francis Frangipane called, What Are You Becoming? I have been pondering the thoughts he presented in it ever since. He commented at length on the anger which is consuming not only the world, but the Church as well. He pointed out that even anger over injustice, if not handled correctly, can lead us into bondage. One thought in particular I cannot get away from:

We must turn indignation into intercession.”

What happens as we bring anger — even justifiable, “righteous” anger — before the Lord in intercession?

Intercession sometimes starts out raw, where we share with the Lord our own opinions and emotions on a given subject. Ideally, we should wait upon the Lord until we can pray by the leading of His Spirit. However, we are not always ideal people, are we. All of us have moments when we charge into prayer from the perspective of our own rampaging souls.

However, as we continue to pour out our thoughts and emotions before the Lord, the Holy Spirit gradually and subtly shifts our prayers — and us. He softens us, quiets us, and changes how we perceive whatever we are praying into. And He takes our intercession in hand and adjusts it into right paths. This is especially true if we intermingle praying in our prayer language with praying from our understanding.

Jesus understood the power of intercession in breaking bondage off the ones who are praying. This is one reason He exhorted His disciples, Bless those who curse you, … and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). When we decide, in obedience, to pray for those who hurt us and make us angry, although we may not start out well, the Holy Spirit will be faithful to take over and “lead us in [prayer] paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

When I was young in the Lord, we were repeatedly taught at our church thatBe transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) was specifically talking about reading the Bible. So much was this interpretation instilled in us, that, until very recent years, I actually thought the verse mentioned Bible reading — even though I had read it dozens of times. But it doesn’t. Although absorbing the living Word of God is vital to having our minds renewed, God has other means as well. One of them is engaging in prayer, including intercession. Whether it is by the Word or prayer, the Lord transforms and renews us through interaction between our spirit and His Spirit.

So, let the Lord renew your mind on any given topic by taking it to Him in intercession and letting Him adjust how you pray. He can give you immediate revelation of how to tackle the issue differently, but usually it’s a process which takes time.

As we “turn indignation into intercession” several things happen:

1.) God convicts us of where we are at fault — spiritual blindness, hypocrisy, offense, bitterness, pride, and other bad attitudes — so that we can repent.

2.) He gives us unique revelation which we could not have thought of on our own about how to pray and what actions to adopt to bring solutions to problems.

3.) He gives us a prophetic voice (as opposed to an opinion) to speak into the situations which we have been interceding about. We are able to bring “salt” and “light” into the conversations we engage in.

4.) He conforms us into the image of Jesus. We become unoffendable pillars of righteousness. We are set free from self and the anger which self generates.

I’ve addressed how intercession can be a pathway to freedom from anger. What other bondages can it set us free from? What is God speaking to you? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.