Day 33: Prayer Covering
p. 128-187 of Draw the Circle
During my first decade of pastoring in D.C., I often felt like the Lone Ranger. I was doing my thing my way. I was so busy trying to build our church that I forfeited potential friendships with outer local pastors. Then one day the Lord convicted m that it was easier for me to pray for a church four starts away than a church four blocks away. So I started praying for area churches. We started investing in local church plants, and I started inviting local pastors to share their stories and their hearts with our team during staff devotions. Many of those staff meetings turned into prayer meetings. We would inevitably end up on our knees interceding for each other. Each time a local pastor did devotions, I felt the stronghold of territorialism being weakened.
I firmly believe we need many different kinds of churches because there are many different kinds of people. As long as a church is preaching the gospel, it’s all for one and one for all. We may have different church names over the door, but there is one church and one Shepherd of the church. So I’m praying for revival in our nation’s capital, but it doesn’t have to start with National Community Church. I just want in on it.
In the last few years, God has blessed us with some tremendous pastor friends. Lora has cultivated friendship with four pastors’ wives – Donna, Heather, Jill and Taryn. And I’ve cultivated friendships with a handful of pastors whom I’ve grown to love and respect as brothers and fathers in the faith. Even pastors need pastors, and the Lord has blessed me with an Aaron and a Hur.
Bob Mathieu and Michael Hall have pastored in D.C. almost as long as I’ve been alive. Without my knowledge, they covenanted together to circle m in prayer every day. It’s hard to describe what it means to have two seventy-something pastors praying for me daily, but I feel those prayers lifting up my arms.
Part of what makes these new found friendships so meaningful is that they are the answer to a prayer I didn’t even know was being prayed. A member of my prayer circle recently revealed that they had been specifically praying for God to strategically place older pastors in my life. Over the last few years, God has answered those prayers. The answers are spelled Michael, Bob, Amos, Mike, Stuart, Dennis and Glenn, just to name a few.
Aaron and Hur
If we are going to intercede for others, we ahd better be sure that others are interceding for us. We need a prayer covering especially when we enter an intense season of prayer and fasting. When we hit our knees, we pick a fight with the enemy. And the enemy will fight back. Make no mistake, there is a target on our back. The enemy wants to take us out, but he cannot touch us. He has no jurisdiction in our lives if we are covered by the blood of Jesus, but we also need a prayer covering.
Intercession is spiritual warfare. It’s not for the faint or the feeble. By definition, praying hard is hard. There will be times when our hearts are breaking because of a prayer burden. There will be seasons when the labor pains become intense because the Holy Spirit is birthing something new in us. And there will be times when we feel the enemy launching a frontal assault on our family or business or church. That’s when we need to stay on our knees and pray through.
Spiritual warfare can be scary and lonely, but I’ve always been strangely encouraged when I encounter increased spiritual opposition or oppression. It means I’d doing something right. It means I’m riling up the enemy. It means I’m inching closer to the breakthrough. And just when the fighting gets fiercest, I know that God is getting ready to go to battle for me.
In Exodus 17, we find a blow-by-blow description of an ancient battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites. As long as Moses was lifting up his arms, the Israelites were gaining ground. But when Moses grew tired and lowered his arms, the Israelites lost ground. That’s when Aaron and Hur stood alongside Moses and lifted up his arms until sunset.
Spiritual battles are fought the same way. The victory is won with knees bent in prayer and hands raised in worship to God. The enemy cannot be defeated any other way. No victory has ever been won apart from prayer and praise.
We will have moments when we lack the ability, strength, will or faith to pray for ourselves. That’s when we need a prayer partner or prayer circle to hold up our arms, just as Aaron and Hur did for Moses. I’m so grateful for my personal prayer circle. There are a lot of people who pray for my family, but I have an inner circle that prays with a little more specificity, consistency and intensity. I know they are on their knees interceding for me every day. I may unfairly get credit for the things I have done, but they get the assist.
The day after the Israelites defeated the Amalekites, I’m sure Moses made the headlines. But in the grand scheme of God’s story, there is a footnote behind every headline. The footnote is prayer. And the true heroes of the kingdom are the Aarons and the Hurs.
In the words of Walter Wink, “History belongs to the intercessors.”
Charles Finney was the most famous evangelist of his generation. He made headlines during the Second Great Awakening, but there is a footnote to the story. Finney had an “Aaron” named Daniel Nash. At the age of forty-eight, Father Nash quit his pastorate to devote himself to full-time intercession. Several weeks before Finney would visit a city, Father Nash would rent a room, recruit two or three intercessors, and begin laying a prayer foundation for the revival that would follow. By the time Finney showed up, the hard work had already been done. The victory had already been secured in the spiritual realm.
During one of his revivals, Finney was contacted by a woman who ran a boarding house in town. She asked him, “Brother Finney, do you know a Father Nash? He and two other men have been at my boarding house for the last three days, but they haven’t eaten a bite of food. I opened the door and peeped in at them because I could hear them groaning, and I saw them down on their faces. They have been this way for three days, lying prostrate on the floor and groaning. I thought something awful must have happened to them. I was afraid to go in, and I didn’t know what to do. Would you please come see about them?” Finney replied, “No, it isn’t necessary. They just have a spirit of travail in prayer.”
When public meetings started, Father Nash rarely attended. He stayed in his prayer closet pleading with God for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to fall on the crowd and melt their hearts.
Shortly before his death in 1831, Father Nash recorded these words in his journal:
I am now convinced; it is my duty and privilege, and the duty of every other Christian, to pray for as much of the Holy Spirit as came down on the day of Pentecost, and a great deal more … I have only just begun to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
Father Nash is buried in a small cemetery near the border of New York and Canada. The headstone on his grave contains the following epitaph:
Laborer with Finney
Might in Prayer
Nov. 17, 1775 – Dec. 20, 1831
Prayer is the pen that writes history. Don’t worry about making headlines; focus on the footnotes. And if you focus on the footnotes, God will write the headlines.
If you intercede for others, make sure others are interceding for you.
General Comments on Intercession
I first learned about this about four years ago now, when through a series of unlikely coincidences, I met Esther and we became prayer partners. The Lord used her to begin removing, layer by layer, my doubts about prayer. He drew me closer to Himself. And He began preparing me, I think, for my entry into some kind of mission/journey/fantastic adventure plan He has setup here at Emory. It’s a combination of my life calling – His calling me personally into what He wants me to do for the rest of my life – and also something really big He’s doing here at Emory. They’re attached. I don’t know what it is really that He’s doing – but, He’s doing it, not me, and He’s attached me to it in some peculiar way. That’s all I can say.
I never thought He’d call me. Me personally. Not just to Himself for salvation – but into His mission – what He’s doing in the world. I always asked to be called for so long and waited. I almost gave up. But it finally came. And it’s amazing.
Intercession is weird. I’m not sure very many people realize it’s a gift He gives – or maybe that’s just me – it’s a weird gift. Through Esther’s prayer ministry and the teaching of Judy, who came to speak to us, I learned this was something He had given to me and He confirmed it many times.
He confirmed it again, when Juan from Colombia prayed over me – that was a confirmation of a lot of things at the same time – bigger things than what I knew about.
The Lord is doing something big. I was planning to say more about the burdens He had given me, but I feel like, that’s all He wants me to say for now. Lord willing, I’ll say more on this later. It’s a fascinating topic for study. I really should study it more.
Other Comments, with Scripture, and on Mark's Passage
Even if you’re not called to it in life – you can still intercede for people – and it is never easy. You’ll be attacked. A lot. Prepare for it. God doesn’t call without equipping you though, so don’t be scared of it.
Don’t listen to the lies of the Enemy. The Lord knows all people’s thoughts. The Enemy doesn’t, but he can whisper in your ear. Don’t listen to it. The Lord also speaks. Here’s some ways to tell the difference.
Confusion, chaos, doubt and fear are never from the Lord. He is always the bringer of harmony, unity and peace in your spirit and between people. Nameless guilt is not from the Lord either. The Holy Spirit will convict of sin – but it’s always for something very specific – and once confessed and repented of – there should be peace. He has also forgiven us of all sins in our past and given us a completely new start, purpose, calling and name (I Cor. 6:9-11). A nameless cloud of guilt is from the enemy. Those are some general guidelines others have taught me and I’ve confirmed throughout life to hold abundantly true. Romans 5 and Romans 6 are must-reads, beautiful extended discussions of the Lord’s redemption of people and their new life – though don’t expect to understand it at once – Romans is very deep and stuffed with an UNBELIEVABLE amount of TREASURE!! I love Romans.
There is a spiritual component to all interactions between people – arguments, disagreements, reconciliations, misunderstandings – do not look at the surface – we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil who hold sway here on the earth (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are the Lord’s called, His chosen to represent Him, and take back territory for Him. Claim it. We are aliens and strangers on the earth – not of this world, but part of it (Heb. 11:13-16). For an expansion of this idea, see this discussion by Jesus to His disciples, just before His death. It’s one of my all-time favorite chapters and still applies to believers today – John 15. All of the Bible applies. You wouldn’t believe how much. I didn’t, until He began showing me.
Lastly, Mark mentions the quote from Finney’s friend Daniel Nash, “I have only just begun to understand what Jesus meant when He said, ‘All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.’” This is true but is not a free ticket to get whatever we want. Because, James in the Bible also pointed out the following:
James 4:1-3, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet[a] you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
I think that’s it. I couldn’t stop writing until I had written all of this. He wanted me to. He just gave me stuff to say and started throwing verses at me to include. Don’t ask – it’s what He wants. He told me it would be lot.
I wrote part of the above passage from Mark yesterday morning but I was interrupted and delayed in posting it. He also wants the following up here, I think, that’s I’ve posted below – the Streams from the Desert devotion for today, which are available for free online. It's short. I’ll put a link to it after the post.
Sometimes, the Lord uses these devotionals to speak to me. Not every day - but sometimes - and when I particularly need it. However, I've found, He KNOWS how to speak to me and anyone He wants, and can do it with anything He wants, any way He wants, with almost any devotional, Scripture or sign He wants. He knows what He's doing.
Streams in the Desert, November 13
He Knows Us
God wants people that He can depend upon. He could say of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children … that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken.” God can be depended upon; He wants us to be just as decided, as reliable, as stable. This is just what faith means.
God is looking for men on whom He can put the weight of all His love and power and faithful promises. God’s engines are strong enough to draw any weight we attach to them. Unfortunately the cable which we fasten to the engine is often too weak to hold the weight of our prayer; therefore God is drilling us, disciplining us to stability and certainty in the life of faith. Let us learn our lessons and stand fast. --A. B. Simpson
God knows that you can stand that trial; He would not give it to you if you could not. It is His trust in you that explains the trials of life, however bitter they may be. God knows our strength, and He measures it to the last inch; and a trial was never given to any man that was greater than that man’s strength, through God, to bear it. [Link]
With much love in the Lord,