Christian Warfare - Pt. 8
We now come to the final installment in our series on the Christian warfare I have been teaching God’s Word for well over 20 years. I can honestly say that there has not been a series of lessons that have been as crucial than those of this series. Truly, whether or not you and I apply what we have learned will be the difference between victory and defeat in our spiritual lives. I hope that you take the information and, with God‘s assistance, that you suit-up in the armor of God each new day while you breath on this earth.
The last facet to our warfare cannot technically be described as armor. However, it is as vital to success in war as armor and weaponry. It is communication with Headquarters. One of the basic tenets of warfare is to always maintain a line of communication between the troops and their military command. It does not take a rocket scientist to discern the importance of this.
Through communication, Headquarters can provide necessary information to the troops - where the troops should be and how most wisely to respond to the enemy (whether defensively or offensively). Just as important, through the line of communication, the troops can relay to Headquarters their needs. The need for tactical guidance, the need for reinforcements, the need for first aid, the need for a morale boost, the need for a little R & R.
In Verse 18, Paul speaks of this line of communication between Christian soldiers and their Commander-in-Chief. Of course, we are speaking of prayer. Prayer is the Christian soldier’s line of communication to our Commander Jesus. No Christian soldier will win this war unless they maintain that line of communication. No Christian will survive Satan’s assaults, let alone gain any ground, unless they are prayer warriors.
I am absolutely convinced that the reason why so many Christians stumble, why so many Christians get so frustrated, why so many panic when the enemy attacks, why so many Christians get discouraged, why so many Christians lack holy boldness and inward peace is because they fail to maintain their communication with Headquarters… they fail to pray. We fail to understand that if the line of communication is maintained then the line of supply from Headquarters is also opened and maintained.
Our receiving what the Lord wants to supply - wisdom, encouragement, peace, comfort, strength, steadfastness, boldness and deliverance - is very much dependant upon prayer. Since this is true, the Scriptures tell us…. yea directs us ‘always to pray’ (Luke 18:1), ‘pray always’ (Ephesians 6:18), ‘continue in prayer’ (Colossians 4:2), be "devoted to prayer" (Romans 12:12), and ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
How many of us are faithful in those commands? Very few.
Brethren, another basic principle of military strategy is to destroy your enemies’ line of communications. Take for example the two last wars we have had with Iraq Before we moved our troops into enemy territory, we used missiles to destroy the Iraqi military’s ability to communicate. This left the Iraqi troops blind and without support.
I tell you now, Satan will do all that he can to disrupt and destroy your line of communication to Commander Jesus. He will put forth incredible effort to keep you from being a prayer warrior. He knows that if you ‘pray always’, he doesn’t stand much of a chance to defeat you. "Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees."
Now, brother Scott, I have a pretty busy life. I have got responsibilities. I don’t have the luxury to get down on my knees and pray throughout the day I got household duties and chores, I got children to tend to, I got my job, I have my school classes…. I do not have the opportunity ‘always to pray’.
Dear brethren, it has been my experience and observation that we have opportunities for prayer throughout most of our days. For the Lord to hear you, you don’t have to kneel down, you don’t have to verbalize your prayerful thoughts, you don’t even have to close your eyes. The Lord constantly is reading your mind and taking note of your thoughts.
Each of us receives on average about 50,000-60,000 messages per day. Most of these messages are silent thoughts you consciously entertain daily from within - it is called self-talk. How is it that we can speak to ourselves 50,000 messages daily - as busy as we are - yet cannot find opportunity to talk to God? Prayer, brethren, is just like self-talk except that it is focused on the Lord. You are talking to the Lord rather than to yourself. I am confident our lives would be a whole lot better and more blessed if we talked to God a lot more often than talking to ourselves.
Yes, brother Scott, that is probably true; however, what would I talk to the Lord about throughout the day? I think I would run out of things to talk about rather quickly.
Brethren, you have a lot to communicate to the Lord:
You can count your blessings - one by one - and thank Him for them.
You can praise Him for His power, wisdom, love, kindness, patience, mercy and goodness.
You can share your circumstances and ask Him for the wisdom to see them clearly and the wisdom to respond to them appropriately
You can ask Him to intervene in your life and the lives of others about you to bring-about good.
You can pray that He will bless the efforts of your fellow brethren
You can ask that more people would be willing to take the Gospel around the world
You can ask Him for encouragement, comfort, peace, joy, strength, steadfastness, and boldness.
You can pray for personal victory.
But, brothers and sisters, you can share anything with your Lord and I promise He will not be bored. You can talk to Him about the weather, your house, your car, your clothes, your trees and grass, your hair, your skin, your job, your school, your neighbor, the mailman, the milkman, the price of beans in Brazil, ….it really doesn’t matter. He loves you and wants you to talk with Him. Share with Him whatever is on your mind! Nothing is too trivial to your Lord. He covets your attention and thoughts.
Let me just say that the more you include Him in your daily life, the more real will your relationship with Him be.
It can blossom to something extraordinary. When you are close to the Lord, people will know it. But, you cannot grow close to the Lord, you cannot build a close relationship with Him without communication.
I am going to devote the rest of this lesson examining with you eight keys to having your prayers answered by the Lord our God.
Keys To Answered Prayer
We Need To Abide in Christ.
Jesus says that you must first abide in Him - John 15:7, "If you abide in Me…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." What is it to abide in Jesus? You must have obeyed the Gospel. Galatians 3:26-27, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." Thus, the first key to having your prayers answered is to be a Christian. As a Christian, you are made a priest….meaning that you have access to God.
We Need Ask in the Name of Christ Jesus.
The second key to having your prayers heard and answered is that they must be offered in the Name of Jesus. John 15:16, "Whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you."
John 16:23-24, "In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full."
When Molly and I taught this point to our little James, we told him that a prayer not offered in Jesus’ Name is like a letter sent without a stamp. It will not reach the intended destination. Why is this so? 1 Timothy 2:5, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Nothing gets to the Father except through Jesus. He is our go-between Secondly, Jesus is our High Priest. Prayer is a form of worship. As our High Priest, He offers up our prayers to the Father on our behalf (Ephesians 2:18; 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16).
We Need To Strive To Obey God’s Word.
The third key is a sincere effort to obey the Lord’s commands. Proverbs 28:9, "He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination." If we are unwilling to submit to the Will of Christ relayed to us through the Scriptures, we cannot expect God to take our prayers seriously. 1 Peter 3:12, "for the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." On the other hand, 1 John 3:22, "whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight."
Before we move on to our next key, I want to speak to the husbands here. Brothers, we need to be reminded of the instruction found in 1 Peter 3:7 - "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." Clearly, we see here that if we deal with our wives without compassion and do not show that we treasure her, the hindering of our prayers will be hindered.
We Need To Be Humble.
The fourth key to answered pray is a humble heart. It is appropriate that we come to the throne of grace with boldness but not with empty pride as if God owes it to us to hear our prayers and do what we ask. Isaiah 66:1-2, "Thus says the Lord, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord. ‘But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’" 57:15, "For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, "I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite"
Luke 18:9-14, "And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: `God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. `I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
We Need To Ask In Faith.
The fifth key to having our prayers answered is faith. We must fully believe that God hears us and that He will respond to our prayers. Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." James 1:6-8, "But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." James 5:15-18, "and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him….The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit."
Brethren, I really question whether or not we truly believe that God will answer our prayers Sometimes I think we talk just to talk. Also, we don’t anticipate the answer to our prayers. Many times we are surprised if they are answered or we attribute the outcome to our own efforts or favorable coincidence. We should expect an answer and anticipate it. And, when it comes, be quick to acknowledge it with praise and thanksgiving.
Matthew 7:7-11, "’Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!’"
We Should Not Concentrate On Selfish Requests.
The sixth key deals with the nature of and motivations behind our requests. James 4:3, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." We ought not ask the Lord for things that will not promote our good or the good of others. We need to make sure that it isn’t simply asking God to satisfy our fleshly or carnal desires. Our requests should be consistent with the priorities that a Christian should have. We must remember that the purpose of prayer is not to persuade a reluctant God to do our bidding. The purpose of prayer is to align our will with His, and in partnership with Him, to ask Him to accomplish His will on this earth This leads us to our seventh key…
We Need To Ask According to God’s Will.
God answers our prayers 100 % of the time…. If we ask according to His Will When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, in Matthew 6, He inserted "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
What does this mean?
First, it means that we will not request anything that we know is contrary to His revealed will. If God has revealed to us through His Word that something is wrong, we will not ask God for it. We must be sure that are requests are consistent with what God has revealed to be His Will and Plan. For example, if I request that God see to it that my bank robbery scheme will work tonight, I strongly doubt that God will fulfill my request. Why? Because He has already revealed that stealing is wrong I cannot make that request in accordance with God’s Will. (May I add this is one of the reasons we need to study our Bible so that we can know "what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" - Romans 12:2).
Secondly, even if our requests do not violate His revealed Will, we acknowledge that we don’t always know what is God’s specific plan or purpose for us and those around us. We want God’s purposes and plans to succeed; thus, we want Him to know that we truly believe that His will is more important than our own will. If there is a conflict between our will and His, we pray that His Will be done. In our asking, we always have in mind and heart that God’s will being done is more important than our requests being granted. We want God’s will to prevail because we know that He knows what is best. Our attitude and perspective in prayer must be like that of the Lord Jesus - Matthew 26:39, "And He…. fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’"
There will be times when God will grant our specific requests.
There will be times when He will grant our request far beyond what we ever hoped and dreamed. As Paul says in Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Many times, God will answer our requests in a manner different than we had asked or expected. For examples, consider Jesus and Paul. Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering might be avoided. God did not allow Jesus to avoid suffering but He did send an angel to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43). Paul prayed that a "thorn in the flesh" be removed from him. The Lord replied that the thorn would not be removed but that He would give Paul "grace" and "power" sufficient to endure it (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Neither Jesus nor Paul complained about God not answering their requests because God did answer their requests. They had asked in accordance with the Will of God - ‘not my will but thine be done.’
So it is with us. 1 John 5:14-15, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."
We Need To Be Persistent In Our Requests.
The last key to having our prayers answered is persistence. If you have a request of the Lord, keep praying for it until He answers. Nowhere do I read in Scripture that the Lord becomes annoyed by our repeating our requests.
Yes, Jesus condemned meaningless repetitions in Matthew 6:7. Vain repetition is when you use the exact same wording every time you pray. Molly and I had different home congregations as we were growing up but amongst the things that the two congregations had in common was that some of the men who led prayers during worship services would use the exact same wording every time they prayed. We knew what the brother was about to say before he said it. We had it memorized as he did. After a while, such prayers lost their impact. They lost their meaning. They had become, at least for most of the congregation, meaningless repetition. From what Jesus says, I gather that the Lord doesn’t care for it much either.
However, if you sincerely and earnestly repeat particular requests of God, if your specific requests come from your very heart and soul…. The Lord does not condemn it. Rather, He commends it. There are two parables recorded in Luke’s Gospel that encourage persistence. We will just read the one in Luke 11:5-8, "Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, `Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs."
It is appropriate to continue asking God for whatever we desire until you are convinced that God has answered you in some manner. We have the examples of Jesus in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-44) and the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-8) lifting up the same request three times before they were confident that God had answered their prayers.
It is said that there are few atheists in foxholes. Truly, some of the most fervent prayers are uttered by soldiers who are about to go to battle or who are in foxholes Suddenly, the need for Divine intervention is paramount in their minds.
Brethren, we have learned in this series that we Christians are on the front lines of battle every day of our lives. Our enemy is relentless in his effort to destroy us. Without maintaining our line of communication and supply with our Commander-in-Chief, we shall fall.
No matter how complete the armor; no matter how skilled we maybe in the science of war; no matter how courageous we may be, we may be certain that without prayer we shall be defeated. God alone can give the victory; and when the Christian soldier goes forth armed completely for the spiritual conflict, if he looks to God by prayer, he may be sure of a triumph.