Do you ever find yourself praying for the same people for the same things over and over and over again? I do. In fact, yesterday I was at it again, broken heartedly and earnestly praying for someone: “Lord, please help _____ do what is right; help ______ receive; deliver _____ from bondage ….” Except this time, I had a revelation. Most of what I was praying either asked God to do what he’s already promised and done or boiled down to asking Him to manipulate this person’s free will. Hmmm…
James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly ….” While its full context speaks to self-serving attitudes, the fragment here still has application to the broader act of prayer. I’ve been praying that my friend would make liberating decisions and begin walking in the truth (3 John 1:4). That’s God’s will isn’t it? Yet nothing changes. Maybe I haven’t seen progress because I have been praying wrongly – aiming at the wrong target perhaps?
More revelation: the focus of my prayers has been for flesh to move! But Ephesians 6:12 says, “… we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but … against the cosmic powers over this present darkness [and] the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Instead of praying for flesh to move, I should aim at the spiritual powers that deceive and immobilize flesh. Instead of asking God to make my friend walk in the good works He has prepared (Ephesians 2:10) I should be asking God to reveal the restraining forces so that in the authority given through Christ I can “bind” the “strong man” (Luke 11:21-22; Matthew 18:18). And then, with the “sword of the Spirit”, which is the word of truth (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12), I can focus on hewing chains of lies and slashing cloaks of darkness that prevent my friend from stepping into God’s blessings.
Well duh … I knew that! Yet here’s me, trying to shove my friend out the cell door without cutting the shackles first!
Dear Friend … I’ll do better ….
Matthew 18:18 – “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.
Ephesians 6:17-18 – [A]nd take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints …