I struggle constantly to share prayer needs with others. I often have no trouble talking to God about various things on my mind, but I have also struggled personally to pray for my own prayer needs, and to pray without ceasing over the daily actions and routine of my life. The biggest reason for this is that I have a hard time counting many things as needs. It can be easy to pray wishful prayers about what I would like to see happen, but over which I have no control. Yet there are plenty of other times that prayer just seems… impractical. Barring an unforeseen disaster, why would I need to pray for strength to get a jar of peanut butter off of the shelf when I could just do it? Surely praying without ceasing does not require me to be imagining that I break my arm doing the most simple tasks! That kind of imagination also wouldn’t be very good to apply to corporate prayers, knowing now many others have serious and present needs. It is often so much easier to see Jesus as Friend than as Lord. These blocks have added a layer of awkwardness to my prayers for years.
I still can’t tell what sparked the process, but the Lord put me on a train of thought recently that has overwhelmed my prayer life. It didn’t come all at once like some of God’s lessons. It was half of a thought that sat for some time before it blossomed. The beginning that I can remember was wondering, “What am I missing when I keep my prayers to myself?” I know that there is power in prayer, so why do I so often isolate myself from the prayer of others, when prayer brings us into such sweet communion with our brothers and sisters, even over the small things? That’s not to say we make the focus of prayer meetings be the strength to open pickle jars. On the contrary. How often do we pray for normal rather than for extraordinary?
Our entire life as disciples of Jesus is a spiritual war, and prayer is the most vital battlefield. Yet so often we can make the focus of our prayers the desire to stay safe and to stay normal. It is easy to see how so many of my prayers have been defensive: focusing on keeping my head down, my shield up, and hoping that my prayers add extra strength to my rock, fortress, and high tower that God promises to be in Psalm 18.
But we really have no reason to pray defensive prayers of safety from inside God’s mighty fortress. Read Psalm 18 in its entirety, and try to imagine our hopes and thoughts being able to add any sort of power to the unyielding storm of our Heavenly Father when His children are in trouble. It isn’t our job to keep Heaven from crumbling, or from protecting God from His enemies, and the enemies and dangers we face are so numerous, that we would be crushed just by being aware of all that God protects us from without our knowledge! In a manner of thinking, none of our prayers are defensive, because God’s kingdom will never fall.
Battle metaphors speak to me, so I love coming back again and again to Caesarea Philippi. Jesus takes His disciples to this pagan city, the location of a cave called “The Gates of Hades” where demons were actively and grotesquely worshiped, to give them a clear and lasting image of their role as His disciples.
I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
Gates don’t make a habit of going out and attacking other castles. Gates are made strong to protect their cities. Gates can stand strong and overpower attacking forces, but those forces have to come to them first. We are the advancing forces, not the gates. At the same time that our treasures are stored up safely beyond the gates of Heaven, we are on the march. When we are spiritually attacked, it is because the Lord is pressing us forward into enemy territory, and they are rightly terrified of losing. The battle belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:31), and no weapon that is formed against His armies will prosper (Isaiah 54:17).
When we neglect to pray over situations we can handle ourselves-on a physical level-we are skipping over our battle training. We are disconnecting ourselves from our fellow soldiers who will need us in the fight. We may feel safer and more comfortable, but we won’t be useful in rescuing anyone or spurring each other on to greater effectiveness on the battlefield.
No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
~2 Timothy 2:4
Our battle prayers do not have to be complicated to be offensive instead of defensive. “Lord, I want to be chosen for the front lines of the battle. Let this situation equip me for the fight. Keep my focus on you so that I can reclaim lives for you. I don’t know how getting a jar of peanut butter off of a shelf will be a strike against the enemy, but if it can be, make it count! Keep my armor and my resolve strong when your enemies lash out in self-defense.”
That is not to say that we can never pray for our own protection. Our hearts and our treasures are safe in the stronghold of Zion, but we must go out against the gates of Hell, where we will be attacked. There is a hymn that has become a favorite of mine that paints a very good picture:
Lead on, O King eternal,
The day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest
Thy tents shall be our home:
A tent is not nearly as defensible as a castle, but it is where we find the fight. Remember that the church is built on the very rock that was named “The Gates of Hades”, so we are in full range of the attack. Our souls are safe with our Father, but our bodies, minds, and hearts will be wounded and broken on the battlefield. Choosing to fight for our King will mean choosing to live in dangerous places. It is not wrong to pray for healing and for protection here, but we cannot withdraw from the fight in order to keep ourselves safe.
Training will be hard. The fight will be long. The more we pray, the more we will be attacked, and the less normal life will be, because God will put us into more significant battles as we press on. Never pass up the opportunity to become a stronger, more fierce, more devoted soldier. As you leave normal comfort behind, the Lord will be your source of joy and peace.
Dear Sister, press on and let the enemy know your Sword, let the captive know your love, and know Who has rescued you and given you both. Never hold back, never look back, and pray because lives depend on it.
You have been chosen for this fight. Take your stand, choose this day whom you will serve, and do not be afraid, for the Lord your God will be with your wherever you go.