Sometimes Leftovers Are Just Right
As we approach a new year, I decided now would be a great time to trudge through some old computer files. While doing so, I ran across something I wrote almost 5 years ago for one of The Ridge's Prayer Journey books. As I read through it, I realized that this is a word for now as much as it was back then. It's a little on the long side, but take a few minutes to read it and be encouraged.
Prayer for the Impossible
From the time I was a teenager, I’ve whispered prayers for revival. I won’t say how long that’s been, but every one of those have been from a sincere heart, and I believe The Lord has heard every single one of them. Who doesn’t want to see the mighty hand of God hovering over our families, cities, nations? Who doesn’t want to eat the fruit of a land brimming with revival? However, the longer I’ve made this my heart’s cry, I realize it requires an ear calibrated to the voice of The Holy Spirit, hands happy doing the work of The Lord, a heart and mind occupied by thoughts of the wonder and majesty of God, a spirit that longs to drink in revelation of The Word, eyes that see the mysteries of God, and a flesh that is completely crucified.
I don’t know about you, but these things don’t come naturally to me. Frustration and weariness can be more commonplace than the miraculous in my prayers and ministry. Many years ago, as I learned to quiet my questions of, “Why isn't this happening?” or "When?", the Holy Spirit began to bring revelation of some things I should understand while praying for the impossible.
-My Father’s Business-
Jesus was only twelve years old when he was accidentally left behind in Jerusalem following the Feast of the Passover. Luke Chapter 2 says when Mary and Joseph found him three days later, Jesus was in the temple “sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening and asking them questions.” The bible goes on to say that everyone was amazed, but Mary wanted to know why he had stayed behind. Jesus responded, “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
From a very early age, Jesus understood timing, His placement, His part. While Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are the apex of His work here on earth, they were the result of all of the years Jesus spent preparing to satisfy The Law; and every year counted. Truly, the sum of Jesus’ life on earth sang out, “I must be about My Father’s business.”
A large part of “My Father’s business” is prayer. I often say that part of being a minister is mastering the art making room for heavenly things on earth. It’s the “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done” part of The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus made it very clear throughout His ministry that prayer was one of the most important things He did, and the early church followed His example. Throughout the Old Testament, many men cried out to God on behalf of the people, and The Lord always answered when they humbled themselves and repented. The key here is where there is big action from God, there is big prayer preceding it. God tends to be silent when we are silent; not because He doesn’t want to move, but because we have not called on His name.
I can’t help but believe that if we want to follow Jesus’ example, and we want to see God move in our families, cities, and the nations, we must be a people of prayer. Not just any prayer; it should be in time and in step with what God wants to accomplish in our lives and those around us, and that prayer should move us to action. It should bring vision and edification to the church body. It should bring truth where there is confusion and darkness. It should bring mercy where the debt is too large to pay. It should establish righteousness in our hearts and our homes. It should increase our faith and bring healing.
-The, “What If’s?”-
You may have asked yourself, “So, what if God doesn’t answer?” In 1 Kings Chapter 18, we find Elijah in a position where He is going to pray and demonstrate God’s power in front of the prophets of Baal and all of Israel. It was God’s appointed time to show Himself real in a land that was very dry both literally and spiritually. Over three years earlier, Elijah had declared a drought on the land of Israel. Ahab and Jezebel had led the nation in doing evil before The Lord and established Baal worship, and they made it very clear they hated God and anyone who served Him. If ever there was a time when Israel needed revival, it was then.
God speaks to Elijah in Verse 1 of Chapter 18 and says, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.” When Elijah meets before Ahab, he calls a meeting on Mount Carmel with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. He then calls for all of the children of Israel to witness this face off and opens with, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” The terms of the impending challenge are found in Verses 23 and 24:
“Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”
Let’s pause right there. Why in the world would Elijah call such a meeting? What if God didn’t answer? What if Israel wholeheartedly turned to Baal because Elijah wouldn’t be able to demonstrate the power of God? Did Elijah have THAT much faith? The answers to those questions are found in the word God gave in Verse 1, which includes the word “go” followed by “and I”. That is a commissioning followed by a promise. You’ll find this pattern all throughout the Bible; God tells someone to “go” and includes a promise/picture of the work He wants to complete.
You’ll be happy to know that God is the God who answers by fire in this story. And He brings rain back to the land after restoring His altar and destroying the idolatry infiltrating His people. It is a miracle, but not a mystery because God accomplished what He said He would do. As a part of the modern-day church, we find ourselves in a similar position as Elijah; and God has given us a commission followed by a promise through some of the last words Jesus spoke on earth. The Great Commission is found at the end of two Gospels, Matthew and Mark.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’”
In Elijah’s case, when we remove the “what-if’s”, and we laser in on what God is doing, where He is moving, the Word He has spoken, the miraculous is expected. And learning from Jesus’ example, we see that prayer is the beginning to understanding where we should be and what we should be doing to accomplish God’s will on earth. Applying both will help us accomplish the commission Jesus left us with, and that allows us to see His promises fulfilled.
I want to leave you with the understanding that The Lord is orchestrating our hearts and the hearts that will be led, and he’s able to breathe life into the land through our obedience. We MUST have faith that our work is being masterfully crafted and knit together. Don’t get tired and weary and give up before the work has been completed. Instead, pray. Pray that we are obedient to The Word and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Pray and become skilled at knowing your time, your season, your place in The Kingdom. Take a few more minutes and pray one more time for revival in our land, homes, and workplaces. Then, the impossible becomes possible in the hands of The Lord.