An Exhortation on Prayerby Paul Jehle on March 14, 2013
"Pray without Ceasing" - 1st Thessalonians 5:17
I've been on a journey in private and corporate prayer now with greater intensity for three years. In my personal life, the simple verse in 1st Thessalonians that I am to "pray without ceasing" has taken prayer to a whole new level. This appears to be an internal reality and not merely an external form. It is an attitude of prayer, an attitude of dependency, and an attitude of communion at all times with my Father through Christ His Son in the power of the Spirit. I want to hear that still small voice in the middle of my day, and while I am fulfilling my responsibilities. It is not limited to public or oral prayer, nor is it merely in my devotional time, though all of these disciplines are imperative. As exciting as this has become, prayer has taken on a new dimension and phase corporately as well.
God spoke to me through His Word three years ago to make corporate prayer my major focus in the Church. As Senior Pastor, once my own prayer life had risen a few notches with an attitude of prayer, it was time for the "prayer cover" of the Church to go up a few notches as well. If we were to become a "house of prayer" it was imperative that I take the lead. For some time now, in the study of God's Word, I have become aware that the anointing required in previous generations is not sufficient to take us to victory in these years. Simply put, the anointing must increase. The enemy is much more bold and empowered by the decay within the evangelical Church at large and as a result in the culture as well, and thus the anointing must increase within the Church if we are to see real victory in any measure in winning the lost or influencing the culture. Many pastors and believers seem discouraged because even the slight increase in prayer awareness as a result of how dark the culture is getting does not alone seem to be enough to break through - and they are right. There is a kind of "inflation" in the spiritual economics of the Kingdom; and due to the increased influence of the kingdom of darkness; it takes more spiritual resources to break through now than it did previously due to generational sin (called iniquity) and the Laodician lukewarm apathy within the Church.
God led me to put my main focus on prayer and the calling forth and equipping of intercessors. The first phase was to raise the level of private intercessory prayer "in the closet" within believer's hearts through exhortation and preaching. Then, in phase two, we began calling intercessors to revive the ancient well of the mid-week prayer and praise service that had either fallen by the wayside or had lost its vision and passion. The only focus of this time would be prayer and praise led by the Spirit with a short exhortation on prayer itself to guide and keep us on course. As a Pastor I invested time to equip intercessors with the knowledge and wisdom to "raise the prayer cover" that we might see more results in evangelism and service in the community. Steadily the numbers have climbed over a period of two and a half years, but numbers are not as important as the corporate unity and spiritual harmony being birthed within a core of the Church. The "prayer cover" has risen a few notches. We are now launching the third phase - to have strategic prayer teams of three to six individuals connecting via conference calls to systematically pray over every facet of the Church as well as the community. The rotation of topics for each team will the entire community specifically - the police, fire stations, public schools and elected officials - all by name.
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel." - Ephesians 6:18-19
Years ago I realized that prayer was the eighth piece of armor - the other edge of the "two-edged sword" of the Spirit. After all, the Word is called the "sword of the Spirit" - it is the Word used by the Spirit's power. The offensive weapon of a believer is the Word - operated through the Spirir - which is the attitude of unrelenting and persevring prayer. The progression of verse 18 to verse 19 is also clear. Prayer is like the Air Force, providing "cover" for outreach into the community - beginning with evangelism and loving service to others outside the four walls of the Church. I literally exhorted our mid-week prayer and praise night for weeks on this one verse, deducing in part some key nuggets such as...
1. Prayer begins privately - in one's closet - but is destined, like the armor of God, to be worn corporately - for only the Church is given the spiritual womb to birth the Kingdom into the community - this cannot be done remaining in our closets, for what we hear "in secret" we are to "shout from the housetops."
2. Prayer is warfare - softening up the church and hearts of God's people as well as the community so that we can accomplish our work of building the Kingdom;
3. We are to pray always - this involves an attitude of prayer (1st Thessalonians 5:17), but also encouraging us to have many praying at all times for all kinds of topics so that we "saturate" both the church and our immediate community.
4. Prayer requires perseverance - God has designed and equipped His people to outlast the enemy's curse and hold on a community or region. Remember that God says sin works to the third and fourth generations, but blessings to a thousand (Exodus 20:5-6), so blessings eventually overcome sin's hold if we persevere. A long term vision, beyond one's lifetime, is required in corporate intercession. We live off the well someone in a previous generation has dug out of the earth.
5. Prayer supplies our needs and gives us strength (meaning of supplication).
6. Prayer is to "guard" us against the enemy - providing covering for us to be protected (watching).
7. Prayer for the saints is to expand into the world - the community - for evangelism and effective service.
In pondering some of these truths, and recently re-studying in some detail about World War II battles in the Pacific, I saw in the natural the clarity that occurs in the Spirit. It is interesting that the great prayer warriors (like Leonard Ravenhill) got much of their revelation during WWII. C.S. Lewis and other writers used many illustrations of spiritual truth from the natural battles in WWII as well (Chronicles of Narnia and the Screwtape Letters are two examples). Many will remember that after Pear Harbor the U.S. had to split its war capabilities into two vast regions - Europe and the Pacific. The glories of D-day and Normandy are often told and re-told on the European front. The Pacific, however, was "America's war" - not many nations helped us there - only a few forces (Australia and New Zealand in particular) with numbers far less than our own nation. In order to get to Tokyo, we had to drive out the enemy one island at a time in the Pacific.
Strategic warfare required that we send in the Air Force to "soften up" the island for a land invasion and "boots on the ground." From the air, pilots would report dropping tons of bombs on "every inch" of an island, never seeing the enemy - and giving a good report that the army and marines could simply "clean up" by going in on foot. But there was one problem we did not anticipate; the enemy had entrenched themselves under every part of the island in cement protected bunkers in preparation for just such an attack. They dug tunnels and barricades of cement, several feet thick, and in some cases, their command was over 50 feet beneath the ground! Thus, while America watched the war prior to Pearl Harbor, the enemy dug in, preparing to draw us into a war that would require huge casualties in order to win. In the battle of Tarawa, as an example, 5,000 troops of the enemy were dug in on the island, and after days and weeks of bombing, the marines went in. Almost none of the enemy had been phased by the bombing, and it took 4,400 deaths of marines to take that one island - a ratio that could not be repeated! They fired from every bush, and once you flushed out a foxhole, it was filled with others who were waiting from beneath the earth. Furthermore, the commitment of the enemy was to "die for the Emperor" - they were trained to die - and though they knew we could win eventually; wanted to take out enough Americans to discourage us so much we would give up before actually persevering to victory.
I see a parallel to where we are in America today. While the Church has sat on the sidelines, the enemy has dug in. The anointing required to win two generations ago is now much greater today. The enemy is now behind every bush of our nation's culture, from the media to entertainment, to even the religious habits within the Church. The average believer looks like the world and lives like the world, only to come out once or twice a week to be recharged to survive, having little understanding that the Bible speaks of transformation, not merely adding Christ to your worldly life. The enemy knows he will lose eventually, but wants to discourage the believer and Church to give up due to the casualties we have experienced in our lives within the body of Christ. Discouragement in any generation can kill the perseverance necessary to see major revival and awakening. As many military commanders lamented in WWII in the Pacific, if only the airforce had not stopped but continued to bomb and increased its air support, we would have lost much fewer men and won greater victories much sooner. But the Air Force was applying the pressure sufficient for previous times and not for the present strength of the enemy. Many believers think a good church service is all that is needed to make it through the week. They think that a five minute devotional once a day will do. But the requirements of a greater anointing is inflationery and will require not just increased time - but greater corporate unity in prayer as a Church body.
As "prayer cover" has increased, we have seen greater success in evangelism and the fruit of community service. This is good news - for the principles of God's Word have not changed, it is simply the time in which we live and the accumulation of apathetic generations that have allowed the enemy to dig in to the culture in a degree we have not fully assessed. As we begin to understand that the required increase in personal prayer is most often quality and not merely quantity, it can release us to see that a change in attitude is quite possible if we surrender and die to our carnal ways. Corporate prayer focusing on flowing in unity according to God's pattern of disciplined priorities of confessing who God is and praying for his Kingdom to come more than we pray that our needs be met (from the "Lord's Prayer" in Matthew 6 and Luke 11) releases us a new excitement in people to come together. Strategic prayer groups that "cover" every aspect of our church and the unique needs of our communities - praying for people by name - allows everyone, regardless of age or schedule, to persevere and saturate every area of life in prayer to raise the prayer cover and anointing necessary to see greater victory.
The level of anointing (or unction) needed in the past will not do. It must increase, which means practically more of it must flow out from us - for the well of anointing and the Spirit is positionally within us. May God have mercy, give us a revelation of where we are in our culture today, and bring this kind of focus, discipline and intensity to our private and corporate prayer life!
"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving... walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man." - Colossians 4:2, 5-6
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