Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spiritual Breakthrough - Spiritual Warfare In Prayer

If you are a Christian, do you remember when you became one?  Did anyone ever tell you that you are now going to be tempted and tested by the enemy?   Do you remember when you were baptized?  Do you go through a period of testing and temptation following that?  

When you came to faith in Jesus, your heart became a battlefield.  You are loved by God, but you are also hated by the enemy.

Do not be mistaken.  The moment you declared your allegiance to Jesus Christ, you became an enemy of the prince of the power of the air.  It is his goal to neutralize you in the battle for the heart and lives of people.  He would love nothing more than to place believing Christians into a deep spiritual slumber where they are neither productive nor fruitful for the kingdom of God.  Today, it is my prayer that we will become more aware of the battle all around us, praying fervently, as our spiritual eyes are opened.  In doing so I believe our faith will become active and we will become freedom fighters for the King of Kings!

The Old Hymn – Charles Wesley – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

Don’t underestimate the devil, but at the same time know this too that he is not the equal of God.  He can’t be everywhere, he doesn’t know everything and he’s not all powerful.  He can do nothing in the life of the Christian without the permission of God.
We learn these lessons from the life of Job

We also need to know the truth that God will not test us beyond what we are able.
Yes, there are distractions and temptations that the enemy puts in our pathway but this goes beyond the situations where we walk right into temptation by our own decision. 

It is like a young man who said, “I’m always tempted to have sex with my girlfriend.”  What did you do last night?  “Well, we were lying together in the dark.”  Question.  Did you see the door?

It is like the person who prayed, “Lead me not into temptation…I can find it myself.”  So, we pray and ask God for some surge of power and God says run, get out of that place – there’s the door.

God will not test us beyond what we are able, but provide a way of escape – it’s called the door! A case in point is Joseph and how he dealt with Potiphar’s wife – he got the heck out of there!

No, this is something very different and we are talking about battling in prayer!

John White states
You have established a new relationship with the powers of darkness. Whatever you were before you were a Christian... you are now a sworn foe of the legions of hell. Have no delusions about their reality or their hostility, but do not fear them. The God inside you terrifies them. They cannot hurt you, let alone hurt you, but they can still seduce, and they will try. They will also oppose you as you obey Christ. ... you are serious about Christ being your Lord and God, you can expect opposition. 

Have you ever thought about the fact that we have the ability to see on three different levels?
1) On the physical level, we observe with the naked eye the world around us; 
2) On the mental level  we see things with our mind's eye, like redecorating a room, or putting together a computer program, 
3) On the spiritual level we comprehend, are enlightened, through the eyes of the Spirit of God

I want to look at a specific prayer in the life of Elisha.  Elisha was a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel who followed in Elijah’s footsteps.  He was active from 850 – 800 BC and very involved in the life of the nation.

In this particular story he is an enemy of the King of Aram

2 Kings 6:8-23

I want to look at prayer as we are faced with seeing on 3 levels

1.        The Physical – An army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.

Recognizing what we are up against is a strong call to prayer

As we can see here the King of Syria was making war against Israel. He thought there must be an informer in his ranks because each time he made a move the Israelites were already there. Finally he learned it was the prophet Elisha who was warning the King of Israel. So he sent a great army to Dothan during the night to get Elisha. The army with their horses and  chariots surrounded the city. In the morning Elisha's servant saw the army, ran  to Elisha and said, "Oh my lord, what shall we do?"  Imagine the picture with me.  Here is this servant pacing, fretting, overwhelmed at the thoughts of how they were going to die and then Elijah’s words! 

From a purely human perspective, it really was a ‘lights out’ situation.  There was no humanly way possible that they could escape from the hands of the Arameans. 
2.        The Mental -  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them

We need to see with our mind’s eye.  There is a clear mindset that we are to take with us into prayer

The servant was like so many of us. Fear prevented him from seeing the bigger picture. Elisha has a bold confidence in God and speaks His faith by sharing with His servant.
"Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."    The mental scene here I realize is brief, but its powerful.    The picture that the servant needed to see was a very real army and presence of God that had completely surrounded them.

3.        The Spiritual –  And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”

Elisha prayed a simple, specific prayer and his servant's eyes  were opened. 
Prayer can be a real eye opener. Without it, our ability to see past our circumstances is hindered and we end up worrying and wringing our hands.    We lose heart and may even become spiritual cripples. Prayer gives us a faith focus.  Hebrews 11:1 shares a beautiful description of faith: "Now faith is the  assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (or evidence) of  things not seen."  Open our eyes, Lord!

As amazing as this scene would be for Elisha’s servant;  I find Elisha’s next prayer even more fascinating!  What is Elisha’s prayer to the LORD?  Strike these people with blindness!  What kind of a prayer request is that?!  I think most of us might have prayed…OK, LORD, put those chariots of fire into motion and take out my enemies. 

Often, in times of prayer, we may believe we already have the answer and we just need the Lord to act.  However, this passage shows an unusual series of events where Elisha leads a blinded army straight into the presence of the king of his nation.

This is when we need to have our eyes opened by the Lord to see what He wants done in the very circumstance that we find ourselves.  So, the prayer needs to become THIS! 

 Lord what is it that you want me to know and how do You want me to respond to this situation?

Ephesians 6:10:18

1.       The Physical – Our struggle is not against flesh and blood

For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organisations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.  J.B. Phillips translation

They want to hinder and stop the work of God

Jesus is not into a timeshare program with your heart!

Remember these promises –  Submit to God, resist the devil and He will flee! 
Greater is He that is in you, than He is in the world!
The enemy wants to do whatever he can to come between us and God and in
Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might  - Strengthen yourself in the Lord!

In your own strength, you are no match for the devil.  Don’t do this alone. 

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Romans 8:26,27

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.   Romans 8:34

We rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

2.       The Mental – Put on the full armor of God

One of the subtle ways that he attacks us is by keeping us so busy or so distracted that we don’t spend time in God’s presence.   He wants to keep you from the great and precious promises of God’s Word.

We don’t fight for victory, we fight from victory!  We have already been told that we are more than conquerors.

Yes, we won’t necessarily win every skirmish, but we will win the war.  Yes, we will still struggle with sin, but it should never own us.

I don’t have the time to do justice to these verses.

Belt of truth – don’t think of this as a fashion belt.  It is more like a utility belt that a police officer would wear to carry his weapons
As a Roman soldier… the sheath for the sword attached the belt, the breastplate – attached to the belt

A life and a mind that is pulled together for the glory of God.  If I’m saying that I’m a Christian and I’m not living in reality of it….than nothing else matters.

Breastplate – protected the vital organs…the kill zone.  We are talking about the imputed righteousness of Christ…His righteousness put  into my spiritual bank account.  I’m accepted by God not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He’s done!

Gospel footwear –  the right shoes!  The Romans wore interesting shoes….When they went into battle. it was gripping so they could hold their ground – spikes in the bottom; it was tough to withstand a blow and it was light so they could run!

What do these shoes speak to -  We need to keep on when others are quitting, to keep our footing, when others are slipping, we need to be able to move when others are weighed down.
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

The church gains ground through gospel proclamation…when was the last time you prayed for your 3 friends who you are trusting Jesus for?

Shield of faith – above all…of great importance – to quench the flaming arrows of the enemy.  – Sometimes they are just like wicked thoughts and you say,”Where did that come from?’…I’ll tell you where…from hell…thoughts of lust, blasphemy, doubt.

The just shall live by faith

The helmet of salvation – protects the mind…guard your mind from those impure thoughts.
Take every thought captive in Christ Jesus.

The gateway for the enemy into our lives in through our minds.  It is for this very reason that we have to put on the helmet of salvation. 

The sword of the Spirit – the offensive piece of armor.
The devil doesn’t want you to read your Bible…

You can read all the news on your computer, newspaper…dead quiet…the moment you open your Bible… kids start screaming, dog starts whining, and a 747 flies over your backyard…It also seems to be the time that 101 thoughts enter your mind…I forgot to get milk,  the dishes need to get done, I have to pay that bill or I’m going to get a late charge,  I forgot to call that person.

One practical solution is to have a separate piece of paper to write that thought down and tell yourself, I will deal with that later.

These are not necessarily evil things, just distractions… and the enemy doesn’t want you to unsheathe that sword.

Keep that thing away….He doesn’t want you to use it and would rather see it become dull from disobedience

3.       The Spiritual –  Pray in the Spirit

Some who suffer loss, experience illness or some other tragedy may feel that God has abandoned them. To be honest, many life experiences cause us to wonder. We see:  crime in our streets, brokenness and abuse in homes;   sickness that takes the lives of far too many far too soon;   wars that never end;   a society that seems to be going downhill.   There was news this week of selective abortions prompting the call for ultrasound rules in the Canadian Medical Journal.

 Where is God in all this? What is God doing among us? These are honest questions which most of us have asked at one time or another. Some of you sitting here today may be asking those very questions. There is a bigger picture and that is why more than ever that we need to pray in the Spirit.  When we pray in the Spirit, we pray asking for His enabling, His wisdom and understanding and His empowerment.

The Takeaway

May God open our eyes this very morning to see that "the God  who is with us, is more than all those who are against us...,"  greater that our  fears, greater than our circumstances or losses.  It is even greater than our understanding of what should happen in any given circumstance!

 And Elisha prayed,
 “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

1. What is God showing you on a PHYSICAL level…these are cold, hard, facts.  What are you up against?  What have the doctors told you?  What have your peers told you? What have your parents told you?

2.  What is God showing you on a MENTAL level in your mind’s eye? Do you learn to picture what you are trusting God for in your prayers?  Can you envision where God wants to work.

3.   What is the Spirit of God showing you with the eyes of your heart?  Ask HIM, God what do you want me to see?  Give me a vision, a dream of what you have in store for me, for this church, for my brother or sister. 

Seeing the temporal for eternal  2 Corinthians 4:17 – fix your eyes on what is unseen!
This week, pray this simple prayer.  God, open my eyes to see the things you want me to see.  God, open my ears to hear the things that you want me to hear.

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