Monday night I was falling asleep and I heard in my mind, “Pray for sinners.” I bolted up in bed and as soon as I realized what had just happened, I thought to myself, “That’s it? Pray for sinners? God You could have told me anything, but You picked this?” It seemed so mundane, and to tell Christians to pray for sinners seems like a foregone conclusion. I thought, “God surely You don’t expect me to just tell everyone You said, ‘Pray for sinners’, because their reaction is gonna be like, ‘Well, duh. Thanks for the earth-shaking revelation.'”
It is extremely rare that I hear the Holy Spirit that clearly. So rare, that it always catches me off guard. And so far, on those rare occasions in which I have heard the Spirit in mind so clearly, the words I hear don’t seem very earth-shaking. But that is exactly what we see in Scripture. Scripture tells us that God uses the weak and foolish things of the world, the lowly and despised– the things that are not, so that He can bring to nothing the things that are– so that no one can boast in His presence (1 Cor 1:27-29). That is why God changes the course of history through nondescript mangers. He pours out Living Water in the isolated, scantly populated deserts of Galilee. He redeems through unknown Carpenters. One thing I have learned though, is that when God does speak, He is always communicating something important, but He wants us to seek Him further for the true depths of understanding, because that is how a conversation works and that is how you have a relationship with someone. So, although in my own thinking and understanding I didn’t really know what He meant by “pray for sinners”, I knew He would give me the deeper understanding I needed if I were to faithfully seek His presence through prayer. Which is exactly what I did over the next couple days, and this is what was laid upon my heart by the Holy Spirit to communicate to believers:
The misguided and misdirected among the human race are not your enemies (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; Eph 6:12). They are the pitiable slaves of your true enemy [Satan].
Just as scripture says that those in Christ are slaves to righteousness (Rom 6:18), those not in Christ are slaves to wickedness (2 Peter 2:19). They are the children of their father, the devil (John 8:44). They are children of wrath (Eph 2:3), sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2, Col 3:6), and workers of iniquity (Matt 7:23).
Pray for sinners because you are going to be tempted to hate them, despise them, feel contempt and bitterness toward them, and feel discouraged by them, which will tempt even more believers into apostasy (2 Thess 2:3).
Pray for sinners because the devil works through them to batter the church and wage war on the church. The weapons of your warfare and defense are not carnal, but divinely powered to demolish strongholds, arguments, presumptions and wicked machinations in the spiritual realm (2 Cor 10:4).
Pray for sinners because you are the only ones who will. You are the only voices in heaven crying out to the Advocate on their wretched behalf (1 John 2:1). You are a nation of priests, you are the sons and daughters of Your heavenly Father, crying out for the salvation of those who hate you (1 Peter 2:9; Matt 5:44,45).
Pray for sinners because beware you think you stand, lest you fall (1 Cor 10:11-13). Pray that you yourselves are not tempted (Luke 22:46; 2 Peter 3:17).
Pray for sinners because they are lost and do not know the way. You are the representatives of the heart of Christ, Who came to seek and save the lost and call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32; 19:10).
Christ fought the greatest battle that has ever been won, and He waged it through prayer.
He defended Peter–the rock of His church, the one that would establish the foundation of the church– through prayer (Luke 22:32).
Christ would remove Himself from the crowds to pray (Luke 5:16; Matt 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:28).
His prayers were intentional and done in isolation, and He purposefully sought the presence of God.
The night before His death, He covered His disciples and the mission which was entrusted to them in prayer (John 17).
The early church operated through prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:42).
God has been really burdening me with the understanding that we will not spiritually survive the days ahead without prayer. I cannot stress this enough. You cannot underestimate your enemy and for crying out loud, we have got to get out of the mindset that we are just supposed to twiddle our thumbs while we wait for Christ to take us home. WE ARE AT WAR PEOPLE! And we’re DYING OUT HERE, while lukewarm, armchair Christians try to convince everyone that we’re just supposed to “rest in Christ” until He returns. Paul clearly teaches that we are in a battle we are expected to fight in. Why would we need armor IF WE AIN’T FIGHTIN’ NOBODY?? Paul teaches that we are at war with rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms“therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”(Eph 6:12,13). Well guess what….WE ARE LIVING IN THAT DAY OF EVIL. That “day of evil” has come, we’re chest-deep in it, and there aren’t many of us out here swinging a sword because nobody has time to pray. If you ain’t prayin’ then you ain’t even on the battlefield.
For the most part, Western Christianity is abysmally lacking in powerful, consistent, heartfelt prayer. You are lucky to find a church nowadays that even has prayer meetings, and for those few that still do, it is usually only the same few people that actually show up. Heck, you are lucky nowadays to even find a Christian that consistently goes to church (Heb 10:25). The key element about the term “Body of Christ” is that all the parts need to be together to work right. There are too many people trying to have an isolated relationship with God and they have no spiritual accountability to other believers (Prov 27:17; James 5:16) and are thus, spiritually ineffective and inert.
Throughout the last week or so, the phrase, “Rise Up”, keeps going through my mind over and over. The other day I was sitting at my computer working and the thought entered my mind, “To Rise Up, You Must Begin On Your Knees.” Indeed, we rise up to the throne of God to present our supplications and requests by getting on our knees in prayer. We rise up against rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms by getting on our knees in faith that our Father has given us the victory. We rise up in victory, by humbling ourselves before the throne.
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:16-18)
“Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:7-9)
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph 6:18)
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Col 4:2)
“Pray without ceasing.” (2 Thess 5:17)
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph 6:14-17)