All my life I have been taught that it is important to pray. I grew up in church, went to a Christian school, watched my parents and grandparents pray, and attended prayer meeting on Wednesday evenings where people would pray what I called “marathon” prayers. While prayer has always been a part of my life, lately it has become something that is getting more of my attention, and I’m not alone.
With the recent success of the movie War Room, prayer has become a big topic. It has been interesting to listen to people discussing their take on the movie and its message (whether they have actually seen it or not!), and while some people may not agree with its message, you have to admit that the viewing public is putting up their votes at the box office. In its first four weekends, it debuted at #2, moved up to #1, dropped to #3 and finished this weekend at #6. That’s a pretty respectable showing for a movie that talks about praying strategically to God, the Father of Jesus Christ in the name of the Holy Spirit – especially in our politically correct nation.
A couple of months ago I started to read a book by Cliff Graham called Cover Me that also hits extensively on prayer. The book speaks specifically about the war that takes place in the spiritual realm around the life of a believer and how he can actually join the fight the right way. The primary weapon he discusses is prayer and having a relationship with God. As a believer, I know that God is there with me at all times, but do I really believe that I can speak to Him and that He hears me? That’s a tough question to answer, and I wish I could say that more of my decisions reflect that belief, but sadly there is more evidence that I tend to do things my way. I could go to Him for counsel, for wisdom, but I just open my mouth and insert both feet!
What would my life be like if I was more in tune with Christ? What kind of difference would it make in my life? My family? My workplace? My community? My church? My Country? A few weeks ago, a conversation took place in our home that centered around a verse:
“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 CHRONICLES 7:14 ESV
This was God speaking to Solomon at the dedication of the temple. It was a moment of celebration for the people of Israel! The temple finally stood in Jerusalem, and the Ark of the Covenant had a permanent home. Everything looked good, but the first night after the celebration was over, God appeared to Solomon in a vision to talk to Him about what His presence in the temple meant, and His message starts out kind of dire.
12 the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,” – 2 CHRONICLES 7:12-13
So, basically God is telling Solomon that He is there, right where the people wanted Him to be. He is in the temple and everyone can find Him. He goes on to say that when things go really really bad, (not IF, but WHEN) then they can come to Him with humble heart, pray and seek His face, and turn from their sin. If they do all of that, then He will hear them and things will get better. I have one question for you. HOW SIMPLE IS THAT?
Today, we as Christians carry His name. Are we truly praying as we should for the healing of our nation? Are we praying for our families the way we should?” Are we praying for our friends? Leaders? If we want to see change, that is what we should be doing!
As we go through life, things come at us that are difficult. We end up getting beat up and bashed around by events at work, feelings that are hurt by family members, fears about what is happening in our country. Disappointment comes in so many different shapes and sizes, and we are just not always able to stand up to it. How many days do you crawl into bed and think, “I’m just glad I made it through the day. Please, God, just make tomorrow be better than today”? We get tired, and sometimes we don’t even realize why. The truth is, we are tired because we have been fighting a battle and we don’t even realize it.
My friend Joe over at The Overboard Life wrote a blog last week regarding a real battle and the faith of a man named Barak. You can read more about that right here. The main thing I took from his post was this quote:
“…the more you know about God, the more you’ve walked with Him, the higher the measuring rod for your faith.”
That thought is very freeing when you really stop and think about it. We can’t have a strong faith without a strong relationship. It doesn’t matter how long we have known Him, what matters is how much we know Him! The best way to get to know someone, to experience a relationship with them, to experience the benefits of a relationship, is to TALK TO THEM!
A person that spends time talking to God in prayer will begin to see Him at work in different areas. It is not that God wasn’t there and doing things, but we are blinded to it because we are not looking for Him in our situations. We see what we are doing and how our attempts at things are influencing our surroundings, but that is not a complete picture of what God is doing. His reality is bigger than the scope of our vision! The reality of God and a relationship with Him will bolster your faith!
All of this stuff that I have been reading and thinking about came together last weekend after we watched War Room. I was brought face to face with the reality of my relationship with God. I’m a believer, and I know Him, but how well do I know Him? How much time have I spent getting to know Him through conversation? Not much. Not much at all.
Blending what I have seen in the movie and read in the book, I then look at the verse in 2 Chronicles again. I am a Christian, called by His name. Am I humble? Not really. Am I seeking His face? Not like I should. Am I taking steps to turn from sinful behaviors? Yes, but not as fast as I could be. Why not? Why am I not doing these things like I should if I am a believer?
Because I am not always willing to admit that I am in a war, a battle going on around me every day. I believe that Satan wants me to rely on me. He wants me to keep my eyes on the task at hand. He wants me to focus on what I can do in any given situation because if he can keep my eyes on what I can do, then I am going to go through my life completely unaware of what God can do. Well, I have thought about it, and I’m not happy to live that way.
In the movie, we are encouraged to find a place that we can be free of distractions and have our time with God in prayer. They used an empty closet. My wife and I talked about our current closet deficiency, and we quickly came to the conclusion that this was not an option for us! My garage is a distraction. My office is full of distractions. But I am not going to settle for excuses. I just need to try harder if I want to win.
So, for now, my war room will travel with me. While reading Cover Me, I have begun writing in a journal that has been set aside as my “Battle Book.” It is the place I process my thoughts on what I read, journal my quiet times, and set my goals and strategies for living a life that battles sin and brings God glory. I’ve decided that while generals sit in big war rooms and create strategies against an enemy, the grunts on the ground are often scribbling on a map, a scrap of paper, or even in the dirt when they get a minute. I will use my journal as my portable war room.
I’ve been doing it for a few days now, and it is starting to take shape. I have a plan for my day to do battle over certain things, and it is making God much more visible to me. Need an example? Last night I prayed that God would bless the staff that I work with and give me opportunities to share grace and the gospel with them. This morning I was blessed by a staff member that did something nice for me because she wanted to thank me for being a forgiving and caring manager. Two hours later I had a very in-depth conversation with another person regarding faith and why I believe what I believe and why I don’t look down on her for what she believes like other Christians she knows.
Coincidence? I don’t believe in them. It is a war, and making a plan and seeking help in doing something that God wants me to do resulted in me being able to be a part of something God is doing. It might sound like circular reasoning, but it’s not. It’s simply God at work as He gently brings me into a position to join Him. I have asked for and been given opportunities to show grace and live the Gospel in front of people as I share what He has done for me.
I know this post has been a long one, and I have probably sounded a little more “preachy” than I usually do, but I hope it has acted as an encouragement to you to be Relentless in your growth in Christ. Relentless Living is best in relationship with God, and the best way to build that relationship is through talking to Him in prayer and reading His Word.