As we end our 30 Days of Prayer, I want to bring us back to the reason we started this in the first place. Prayer is about connection with God. It’s about being in his presence and receiving life from him. One final key in experiencing that kind of life is learning to surrender.
In prayer, we bring our requests to God, we trust that he has heard us that he cares and that he is capable of intervening. We believe that he will enter into our situations and do something, even if it’s not what we wanted or expected. Then we surrender to him, saying not my will but yours.
It is this moment, the moment of yielding our will to his that we find his peace. Surrender brings peace, because it acknowledges that God is not ours to control and that the outcome isn’t dependent on us. In surrender we leave our cares and anxieties in the hands of God. By surrendering to his will we don’t have wonder our prayers weren’t good enough for God to come through. In surrender we don’t carry the responsibility of making something happen, we leave that to God.
Now, let me say that we absolutely pray like it depends on us, knowing that our prayer have power and influence. But at the moment of surrender, we say I’ve done all I can, and now I leave it to God. In that moment, we pray the way Jesus’ taught us when he prayed ferociously in the Garden of Gethsemane. We follow the example given to us when he asked God the Father to allow him to not have to endure the crucification that was about to happen. And after praying with such intensity that he sweat blood, Jesus prays, “not my will, but yours be done.”
So, whatever you’re praying for today, pray fiercely. Pray with fervor and intensity and when you’ve done all you can, surrender it to Jesus and rest in his peace.
Remember, just because our 30 days is up, doesn’t mean we’re done. In fact, we’re just getting started. Keep praying. Keep connecting. Meet with God and experience his voice, his life, his victory and his peace.
Many Christians have heard the term spiritual warfare but in my experience, few of us know what it really is. Even fewer know how to engage in it. Today, I want to begin to help you join the fight. By the way, you’re in it whether you want to be or not.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12, ESV
What is Spiritual Warfare?
The most basic definition is this: Spiritual warfare is the battle that has been waging between God and the angels that remain loyal to him, and the angels that rebelled and are trying to overthrow him. Angels, like us, have free will and can choose to obey or disobey. The history of how these two factions developed is too long for this post. For now, it’s enough to know that a long time ago, there were some angels who decided they knew better than God and choose to disobey. As a result, sin in the world increased. Those angels were eventually cast out of heaven and now roam the earth seeking to destroy the things of God (John 10:10). Since we bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27) we are despised by these creatures.
Now, you might be thinking, “I don’t feel like I’m under attack” but that’s simply because you haven’t been taught what to look for. We tend to think that the Enemy will come at us with big attacks desired to take us out all at once. We think of things like cancer, bankruptcy, or the death of loved one as the Enemy’s work. Those are certainly the result of living in a broken world and sometimes they are the direct attack of the Enemy. But more often than not, the Enemy will use one of three tactics.
If he can win, the Enemy is guaranteed to fight the small battle with you. He’ll tempt you with the sin you’re most prone to or the one that’s most readily available, porn, drugs, alcohol, shopping, pride, anxiety, the list goes on and on. Then when you fall for it, he’ll hold the guilt and shame of it over your head as long as he can. He’ll try and get you to believe that God’s tired of forgiving you that you’re just one or two sins away from being unforgivable. Or he’ll convince you that while God can still forgive you, you’re too broken to be of any use to him and so he’s saving you but he doesn’t have a plan for you. He’ll stack up sin after sin and remind you of them all, convincing you that you’re worthless. Then, when you do seek forgiveness, he’ll temp you agin and the cycle repeats. It’s all an elaborate scheme to trap you. From the Enemy’s perspective, trapped is almost as good as taken out and it’s much easier.
This is why the Bible talks so much about not sinning. God’s not a prude, he just wants you to stay free from the burden of guilt and shame. If you do sin, seek forgiveness quickly and don’t believe the lie that God can’t or won’t forgive you. Quote the truth, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
If he can’t tempt you into a sinful behavior, he’ll tempt you into a wrong belief. We call these agreements, because they happen anytime you agree with a lie instead of the truth from God. Agreements are tricky. They often come on the heals of falling for a sinful temptation, but most of us make them without even realizing it. To illustrate, let me tell you a quick story.
When I was around eight years old, the enemy and a friend of mine convinced me to engage in a sinful behavior. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyways. I grew up going to church and so I knew about God’s forgiveness and shortly after this incident asked him for it and he forgave me for the behavior.
But what I didn’t realize is that the enemy would remind me of that sin for years to come and every time, it would come with the temptation to believe that while I was forgiven, I was disqualified. I agreed. My sin was too grievous to be completely forgiven. I was forgiven, but still disqualified. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties, that God reveled to me the agreement that had held me captive for more than twenty years and gave me the strength to ask for forgiveness for believing that lie and living as if it were true all those years.
The problem with agreements is that they give the enemy a foothold. When we make agreements with the Enemy, knowingly or unknowingly, we give him permission to keep lying to us and hold us in bondage to the lie we’ve believed.
Often you won’t know you have an agreement until God shows it to you. It’s a good practice to set aside time, weekly or even daily asking God to reveal any agreements you’ve mad to you. Then, stand in the authority of Jesus and bring the freeing work of Christ against those agreements and against the Enemy.
You can pray something like this: “Jesus, I praise you for your victorious work on the cross. I stand in your victory now and I bring the full work of Christ, his blood, sacrifice, death and resurrection against [name the agreement] and I declare it broken in Jesus’ name. I now stand free from it, in the new life won for me and given to me by Jesus.”
3. Other People’s Free Will
Sometimes, if the Enemy can’t get at you, he’ll go after people around you. It could be your spouse, a friend, child, parent or even a stranger. He’ll tempt them to blame you, steal from you, verbally or even physically attack you. Free will is a beautiful gift, but the Enemy will use it against you if he can.
Defeating Other People’s Free Will
With this one, the best offense is a good defense. In your daily prayers, ask God to fight for you. Bring the full work of Christ over your household, your finances, vehicles, spouse, business etc. Ask God to send angels to fight for you and instruct them to destroy the schemes and traps of the enemy set against you, and ask them to rebuild the shields and protection surrounding you in the spiritual realm.
Remember, the Enemy fears you because Christ has given you victory and authority. The Enemy is terrified of you being engaged in the battle and standing against his schemes, free to live fully alive. But the victory has been won for us by our God, we only need to step into it.
And now, may the Father of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, clothe you with power from on high. May he establish you in his truth and plant you in his victory that you will be able to stand against the schemes of the enemy and proclaim the victory of our God to this world and to the powers and authorities in the spiritual realms, in Jesus’ name…
There are lots of reasons to engage in prayer, but the primary one is to gain closeness and intimacy with God. In order to do that we need to get really good at asking for his forgiveness. Something happens when we engage in sinful behavior, it puts a barrier between us and God. Often this is true even when we don’t realize we’ve done anything wrong. We usually think of sin as wrong, hurtful or even wicked things we’ve done, but sin is really doing anything that God has asked you not to do or not doing something he has asked you to do. Even if it’s because you forgot or just weren’t thinking, the curse of sinful behavior is separation, the cure is his forgiveness.
When we seek God’s forgiveness any grip the enemy had on us is broken. The curses and consequences were defeated with Christ’s death and resurrection. But this side of eternity, we still feel their effects when we engage in sinful behavior whether intentionally or not. Receiving forgiveness restores and renews us giving us victory again over the consequences of sin.
Seeking forgiveness does something else, it combats our pride. When we seek the Lord’s forgiveness we acknowledge his perfection and our imperfection, his sovereignty and our inability. This posture of humility is essential for closeness with God. One of the ideas that is repeated in scripture in both the New and Old Testaments is this: The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace, and favor to the humble.
Engaging in Forgiveness prayer
I’ve found there are three ways in which I regularly engage in praying for forgiveness. In all three cases my prayer is similar, it goes something like this:
“Jesus, I thank you for the you forgiveness won for me on the cross. I now confess to you my every sin, I confess my pride, arrogance and disobedience, (if you have a specific sin confess it here). I renounce every sin and humbly accept your forgiveness and the freedom that comes with it. In Christ, I put off the old man and take on the new. I now ask that you search my heart and know me and if there is anything else I need to confess, I ask that you reveal it to me now.” (If the Lord brings something to your mind that you need to repent from, ask for forgiveness from that thing and repeat the process until there’s nothing left to seek forgiveness for).
The three times I find myself engaging with this prayer are:
- In my daily prayers. I have a regular time with the Lord each day in which I seek his presence, his wisdom and direction. It’s a time of reconnecting and receiving power and strength for the day. I use this prayer template to structure that time. One of the items I always include is a time of seeking forgiveness.
- Whenever God reminds me of something. This might be when I’m praying about something else and God brings to mind something I need to repent of. It might also be out of the blue, at work, on a walk, or talking with a friend when a completely unrelated event will come to mind an I’ll realize I didn’t follow God in that moment. Whenever this happens, stop and seek his forgiveness as soon as possible. You don’t want that thing, whatever it is, interfering with you and God.
- The third time is likely the hardest. It’s when someone else, a friend, boss, coworker, spouse or even one of my children, will show me that I was wrong. In these moments, I’ve found it’s best to immediately ask their forgiveness and then pray and ask God’s forgiveness. Again, you don’t want this junk in the midst of your relationships.
One more thing
Be honest about your sin and your need for forgiveness. God knows you better than you know yourself, so any attempt at rationalizing or justifying your behaviors won’t bring the restoration you need. Just own it, embrace forgiveness and let God bring restoration.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:5-10, ESV (emphasis added)
Today, I want to introduce you to a simple but effective tool to help you engage in prayer and connect with God. It’s an acrostic that you can use to remember the different parts of prayer. While there’s no right or wrong way to pray, there are ways that are more effective. This tool, will help you get the most out of your prayers. What I love about it, is it helps me remember to include things in my prayers that I know are effective no matter when or who I’m praying for.
P – Posture & Praise
R – Receive (listen & connect with God)
A – Act
Y – Yield (surrender)
P – Posture and Prasie
I always begin my prayer times by taking a humble but confident posture with God and by praising him for something. I’ll often tie that praise to the situation I’m praying about. For example, if I’m praying for healing, I will praise God because he knows every cell and atom in our bodies and thank him for being the ultimate physician. It can also be very effective to bring truths from Scripture into the prayer at this point. For example, if I’m praying for an answer of some kind, I’ll thank him for being a good father, who has good things for his children and praise him because he knows all things and is the keeper of wisdom. I’ll then thank him for the promise that he gives wisdom to those who ask.
R – Receive
My second step in prayer is to receive from God. This might be receiving instruction about how or what to pray, it might be letting him renew me and restore me. If you don’t regularly hear from God, you might want to check out Intro to Listening Prayer and Listening Prayer pt. 2. This time of receiving can also include breathing prayer, Lectio Divina, or just sitting in silence as God does his work in the spiritual realm. When praying for someone, while I’m with them, I find it helpful to practice breathing prayers while quietly or silently asking God how to pray. Then, when I think I know how God wants me to pray, I’ll continue.
A – Act
This is the part of the prayer time when we take action. We could be asking God for forgiveness, protection or healing for ourselves or someone else. Or we might be engaging in spiritual warfare or intersession. Remember, to let God lead you to your action. This is another point at which it is helpful to bring the promises of Scripture into the prayer. For example, “Father, I ask your forgiveness for ______ and I thank you that you have forgiven every sin and made us righteous through Christ.
If you’re not sure what you should be praying about go back to receiving until God shows you. Also, in extended prayer times, I will often cycle through receiving and acting several times. For example, God might ask me to seek forgiveness about something during receiving so I’ll take that action then go back to receiving to get the next instruction. He might then have me pray for healing for someone so I’ll take that action and then go back to receiving. Depending on the situation, you may cycle through these two several times in one prayer session.
Y – Yield
Finally, we close out the prayer time by surrendering to God and accepting whatever he has for us. Remember it’s, “Thy kingdom come” not “my kingdom come.” It is often helpful, especially if you’ve made requests, to pray something like “God, we believe that you are going to do this and we are praising you in advance for it. But no matter what, we trust you, we love you and we worship you.”
Remember, there’s nothing magic about these steps. This is just a simple way to help stay connected with God and let him lead you as you pray. I encourage you to try it and see what happens. Let us know in the comments.
One of the ways we can connect with God during our times of prayer is by praying scripture. Now, there’s nothing magical about the words themselves. They’re not incantations or spells that have to be said in a certain way with just the right words in order to work. However there is significant power in the truths laid down in scripture. These truths are powerful promises to be claimed and mighty weapons to be wielded against the enemy.
Additionally, in my experience, there is something almost indescribable that happens with our connection with God when praying scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that ”All Scripture is breathed out by God…” This means that although the books contained in the Bible were physically written by many different authors, we can think of the ideas and truths as having been directed by God himself. So when we pray scripture we are literally reciting or reading back to him the things he’s written to us. I don’t know about you, but I would certainly be pleased if someone I loved, cared enough about me to bring the letter I wrote them and recite or read parts of it to me when we met.
Here are two ways you can incorporate praying scripture into your prayer life.
1. Pray the prayers in scripture.
A quick Google search for “prayers in scripture” will yield plenty of results to get you started. Most of the apostle Paul’s letters begin with a prayer so you might consider praying one of those. For example, in Colossians 1, Paul tells the church of Colosse about the prayers he and his companions pray for them. Or consider the prayer Paul writes to the Ephesians in 3:14-21. This is a great prayer to pray for yourself, your children, spouse, family or people in your small group. Another place to look is the Psalms, it’s literally a book of prayer and worship from ancient Israel. You can try searching for something like “a psalm for fear” which yields several results. One of which is Psalm 18, which was written by David when God delivered him from King Saul who was trying to kill him. Again, try a Google search for “Bible Psalm about _____” and fill in the blank with what you need a prayer for.
2. Lectio Divina
The other way of praying Scripture that I want to talk about today is through a process known as Lectio Divina which is Latin for sacred reading. This is a process for hearing from God through a passage of scripture. Technically, what I’m going to talk about is a modification of the traditional Lectio Divina. If you want to learn more about this ancient practice you can check out this article from Bible Gateway. This is modified for simplicity and to accommodate a shorter prayer time.
- First, choose a passage of scripture. I recommend no more than 5-7 verses and be sure to chose a passage you are familiar with.
- Quiet your mind using some of the prayer techniques we’ve talked about before. I’ve found breathing prayer to be especially helpful in preparation for this process.
- Read through the chosen passage slowly. As you do, you may notice that lots of things pop into your mind. Things like your to-do list for the day, concerns or worries, or even people. Try to set those things aside mentally. It may help to write them down so you don’t have to try and hold on to them. This first time through you may sense that God is drawing your attention to a particular word or phrase in the passage. If so, keep it in the back of your mind. If not, don’t force it. I’ve found that, for me, the first time through is more about getting all the distractions out.
- Pause a breath for a few seconds, then read the passage again. This time, take notice of what jumps out at you. Is there a theme, word or phrase that seems to leap off the page? Remember it. It may help to say it out-loud.
- Pause again and do those breathing prayers for a bit and then read the passage a third time. Pay special attention to those words or phrases that you got in the last step. What emotions do they evoke? What came to mind when you heard them the second time? Is there anything new here? Spend some time thinking about these words and phrases then ask God what he’s saying to you through them.
- Now, pray through what God has said.
These methods will bring a new, powerful dynamic to your prayer life. They’re not something you need to do everyday (although you certainly can) but they are good practices to incorporate into your weekly and monthly routines. I hope you experience new depths of connection and intimacy with God as you lean into praying scripture. Let us know how it’s going or if you have questions in the comments. We can’t wait to hear from you.
Once we’ve learned what God sounds like (for more on that check out Listening Prayer pt. 1), we can begin trying to discern what he is saying. Is he asking you to pursue a new job? Should you be dating that person? Is there something you need to repent from? There’s no topic that God dosen’t want to talk to you about. He also wants to bring restoration to the deep places in your heart. As you grow in this, he may ask you to remember an old wound and allow him to walk you through it in order to bring healing to it. He may show you an area of your life that you’ve withheld from him and walk you through surrendering it. Once you learn to really hear from him, there’s no telling where he might lead. To experience this kind of intimacy and connectedness with God we must grow our ability to be tunned in to his voice and what he is saying.
Today, I’m going to show you three ways to help to discern what you are hearing from God.
- One of the ways we do that is through scripture. God is unchanging, he will never contradict himself. If he seems to, then we have misunderstood something. So, if you think God has given you some sort of insight or direction check it against what is written in the Bible. God will not tell you to do something that contradicts his word in Scripture. For example, God is not going to tell you to worship another God, disrespect your parents, murder, have a sexual relationship outside of marriage, steal, etc. Those behaviors go against what he’s already said in scripture. A great way to know what God has said about certain topics is to simply do a Google search for “Bible verses about _______.” So if you feel like God is speaking to you about a career change fill in the blank with “work.”
- The second way we can know what God is saying is by getting confirmation from other followers of Jesus. In Acts 15, Luke records what is known as the Jerusalem Council. This was a meeting of the early church leaders to discuss how the Gentiles should be instructed in their following of Jesus. Verses 22-35 record their decision and the letter that was to be sent to the Gentiles describing that decision. Verse 28, begins with the phrase, “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”. The council had sought the Lord together and together determined what God was saying. This wasn’t one person saying, “God told me…” it was the group of Godly men together saying “I agree it seems like this is what God is saying.”
- The last thing to discuss today is fasting. I once heard it said that we pray to connect with God and we fast to disconnect from the world. I’ve often found that fasting can lead to greater discernment for precisely this reason. When we sacrifice something voluntarily, we are disconnecting from the world in favor of connecting with God. If you’re not familiar with fasting, here’s a couple things you should know. Most commonly, fasting refers to giving up all food and most beverages with, water, coffee and maybe juice being the exceptions. Fasting will often last from 24 hours to several days. However, Fasting doesn’t have to mean not eating food for a period of time. You can fast from something in particular like a certain food or meal, a drink or activity for a particular period of time. Rememberer the point of fasting is to disconnect from the world. So, if there’s something you’re particularly fond of, consider giving it up for a period of time in order to disconnect from it and the world in favor of connecting with Jesus.
Your assignments for today are to continue practicing what you’ve already learned, prayer posture, starting with praise and learning to listen. Then add these three practices over the next few days. The first is easy, simply start searching for things God has said in the Bible that you think he might be speaking to you about now. The second will be a little more challenging. Try to find someone or a small group of people you can trust who will pray with you about something you think God might be saying. Be willing to share with them what you think God is saying and ask them to seek his will on your behalf and share with you what they sense God is saying to you. The third is the hardest, but I encourage you to try it. Pray about it first. What is God asking you to give up and for how long in order to disconnect from the world? Let us know what you’re doing in the comments. May you connect with God like never before!