Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG), “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.
I like the Message paraphrase of this verse because I tend to be more receptive to very direct statements verses a 20 minute dialogue in hopes that I might get it (clue bird anyone?). Perhaps my background in being confrontational is one of the reasons for this? More on this in a bit.
This verse ranks in the top 3 of Prayer Principles that is the most difficult for me. I also believe this to be a challenge for many others. I still find myself, today, praying for things that I know I have already prayed for before but I have yet to grasp or see the fruit from it. Sometimes, I forget that I have prayed for something until I am right in the middle of prayer, and then I giggle mid-prayer, give a little spiritual “duh!”, repent, and move on out.
As I meditated on this with the Lord and asked Him about this, “Why do I keep repeating myself in prayer?”, He provided three prevailing statements to me
- It is because you (meaning me) do not have faith that He will answer that prayer.
- It is because I am holding onto fear, referring to the worldly outcome to me if my prayer is not answered. In others words, I am being “selfish”.
- It is because I am holding onto strongholds, blocking the needed Spiritual variables to operate in my life and not allowing them to work through me which would then, in turn, allow the answers to my prayer to manifest.
I dug a tad deeper into this with the Lord because it was really important to me regarding one particular area in particular that I have been praying about for several years now. My first reaction to His first three statements to me was frustration and to lash back and say “Come on, man! This isn’t right.” And then I would argue, “But what if what I am praying for are for the Spiritual variables to operate? I want them to operate, I have made a choice for them to operate. In my “mind”, I feel that I am allowing them to operate.”
If I am not getting results from my prayers because these variables are not operating, which I am now praying for, then what is wrong? Am I that jacked up? I then hear this from the Lord:
“Peace brother”. LOL, yep, that is what I heard. Ok? What about peace?
I lived the first 40 years of my life trying to live a life by my own knowledge, wits and cunning, never trusting anyone into my court when it was something near and dear to me “professionally”. As a result, I developed an internal system of being very analytical, applying intellectualism to dominate my thought life. I learned to be very creative, always coming up with “a way” to get past my obstacles or challenges.
I made an earlier statement above where I stated “in my mind”. “In my mind” I was allowing the necessary spiritual variables to operate, but I was not allowing them to operate in my heart. The Lord was telling me that I was not allowing Galatians 5:22-23 to operate:
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”
I was struggling to allow them to work “in my heart”. My heart gate, while having been freed from it’s hardened state, still required additional areas to be skimmed, allowing more of Him to soak in. My mind was still trying to control most of everything, to manage my conditions and think creatively. I was not allowing my mind to be renewed by my heart and my heart was NOT at peace with my new identity, a battle ensuing between my old man and my new man (see Romans 7-8).
Colossians 3:15 (NLT), And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Philippians 4:7 (NLT), Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.My most innermost heart felt prayer to God is not, and has not been, about money, success, or even physical health for that matter. If it were God’s will, I would gladly give up and sacrifice my money and professional success for one thing that I desire above anything, above all else. As a matter of fact, I am slowly and methodically sacrificing both of these things each and every day. And because I know this, I was allowing it to impact my faith, causing it to wane..
I was not getting an answer to my prayer because I was not at peace within my heart. Within the binders of His scriptures, He provides us with answers on “how to find peace”. But, I am a 20 year soldier with a military mindset, and, in the military, there is a common saying:
“This brief’s well, but…….” [I am using this as a metaphor in respect to what the Bible tells us to do and our ability to follow it].
In the military, at some point we become well versed briefers. When giving a Decision Brief or a Course of Action Brief, we eventually learn all of the keywords, the emotional points, the winning phrases that will get us what we want; yet, executing what you brief is significantly different. Because now you have to put your plan into action while depending on others to follow through.
This is when some well minded Christians will step in and say, “Well brother, the Word tells you what to do and how to do it. If you don’t do it, then I can’t help you.” Or, even more condemning, some of the more religious and legalistic Christians will say, “If you are truly Born Again, then this would not be a problem for you”, or, “if you have His Spirit in you, then this would not be an issue. If you are struggling with finding peace, then you do not really have His Spirit.” Or, even worse, some Christians will tell you that “You are not really saved then.”.
My response to them is – “not cool.” When men, in particular, experience this battle of the heart, it is not a clear cut issue of sin, it is an issue of a believer struggling on the fence between two worlds, the physical world and the spiritual world. You need a heart for life, both the blood pumping muscle in your chest and the spiritual one that is the wellspring of true life. Easton’s illustrated dictionary of biblical terms says, “the heart is that center of spiritual activity and all the operations of human life”.
Will the struggling person get there? Yes, BUT, not by being condemned with lies that they must not be truly saved, or, that they can’t be helped. A person in this condition is a person hungry for Jesus while struggling with the concept of heart and spirit. They need coaching, discipling, and intimacy through another believer living by example.
Jesus makes it clear that it is the heart He is after. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also. (see Matthew 6:21).
So, what to do? Here is the process He told me, which many Christians are familiar with.
- You MUST spend time, every day, in His Word, and, spend time at the cross. Prayer, meditating on Him, look for Him in your heart (no matter how much time it takes)
- You MUST build a relationship with Him. He wants your attention and He wants your heart.
- You MUST practice your spiritual muscle. Fellowship, community, journaling, sharing with others, lifegroups
Now, with that said, it is true that the believer struggling with this concept, who is not experiencing a fruitful prayer life, MUST take personal responsibility. This person MUST fulfill the basics of scripture and fellowship. So, what to do when a believer cant seem to take personal responsibility? There is no magic formula or specific step by step process. Each person’s character and personality must be taken into account. Our goal is to protect the heart of the believer while encouraging him.
In his book, The Three Battlegrounds, Francis Frangipane, points out that it is foolish to assume that our salvation alone eliminated all of our bad attitudes and ideas, strongholds, as they are still influencing our perceptions and attitudes. While it is true that our old man has passed away and we are a new man, but, until we are walking in the fullness of Christ, it would be dangerous to presume that the process of change is over.
At the individual level, there are areas of uniqueness that affect our continued success in the spiritual war that comes with yielding to the Lord. This process continues as He reveals our own unique strongholds to us and we agree with Him through repentance and pull those strongholds down. Sometimes, these strongholds are so deeply hidden that we do not recognize them or identify them. This is why the salvation and trandformative experiences are different for everyone, as well as the variable of time. Some transform at a faster pace than others, which can discourage the hard headed and heavy hearted man.
We need to get our thought life in agreement with what Christ has placed in our heart. And this my brothers and sisters is where it can cause rifts within christian circles. Why? Because there is significance in the process of deliverance for some men, which often involves longer seasons of inner conflict and turmoil.
Some christians will look at a man that is struggling with this process as a sign that the man is not truly born again. When in fact these signs are positive, signifying that the person has a strong desire to be free. We should expect a time where we exercise our authority in Christ as we help these individuals resist the devil, not discourage them from the process and demote them to a position in the back row of the pews. I for one, will guide them to the front row.