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Sunday, 25 March 2018

Fight Like a Warrior

I’ve been challenged a lot about prayer lately and the way I pray. It’s been one of those things which keeps coming up without me even really looking for it. First, a series of YA fiction books I read turned out to be based on the spiritual battles going on around us and the power we have through prayer to change things. Then a devotional I was doing worked its way through prayer and different prayers in the Bible, which led to me watching the movie, War Room (which, while corny in parts, is an incredibly powerful movie and one I’d highly recommend). Then there was the lesson God’s been teaching me about simply asking (see my last post for that one).
Whether or not we feel it, there is a battle going on around us. In the past few months, I’ve been more aware of it than ever. But alongside the battle, I’ve been aware of my part in it and the fact that God has given us the power, through Jesus, to fight in it.
One of the most powerful prayers I’ve ever heard prayed was by an elderly man the week before he died. The visit was precious but tough, knowing how close he was to leaving earth forever. He struggled to remember our names and phased in and out of consciousness. He barely had the strength to sit in his chair. But as we were leaving, he asked to pray with us. And suddenly, his words were strong. He might not have remembered our names, but he knew God. He prayed for us – my mum and me – and the wider church. He prayed using Bible verses and the words of an old hymn.
Those verses were so strongly settled in him that they bypassed his failing memory and came straight from his heart.
I want that. I want God’s word and truth to be the first weapon I pick up. I want to be able to fight with them, believing the power they have. I can pray my own prayers from my heart, and I know God loves that, but there’s something so powerful about speaking aloud God’s word. Claiming word for word his promises.
There are a lot of things I can’t do – heal people, change other's attitudes, be in more than one place at a time, embrace people I don't know who are hurting, be an actual soldier – but there is one thing I can do and that’s pray. And know that those prayers are making a difference.
I don’t know what you believe or know about prayer. Maybe you spend hours a day waging war against the supernatural, maybe you grew up reciting the Lord’s Prayer and never considered praying anything else, maybe you’ve given up on prayer altogether. Whatever you believe, know this, there is power in prayer. Whether you claim God’s promises in faith or timidly come asking hoping it to be true, God hears you and what you say makes a difference.
I mentioned the movie, War Room. The final song in it sums up pretty well both the challenge and privilege we have in praying. I hope you take the time to listen to it but more, I hope you find in it the encouragement to not give up hope. The greatest thing about this battle we’re fighting in is that we’ve already won.

Warrior - Steven Curtis Chapman

I see the smoke on the horizon.
I feel my heart pounding in my chest. 
I hear the war raging all around me. 
And somehow I feel like I was born for this. 
I can taste the fear, but I choose courage 
As I raise my shield and lift my sword.

And I fall on my knees and I fight like a warrior 
I am a warrior on my knees. 
I call on the Name of the One Who is Conqueror 
I'm more than a conqueror when I believe. 
The enemy trembles every time 
'Cause he knows the battle is no longer mine 
When I fall on my knees and I fight like a warrior

Daughters and sons, we can hear your calling 

Broken and weak, we can hear your cry 
And even though our enemy roars like a lion, 
The Lion of Judah is on our side. 
And He will go before us and behind us 
Fighting on the left and on the right

Our weapons are trust, our weapons are hope 
In the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords 
He says, "I am with you so don't be afraid, 
'Cause I've already won this war." 
So fall on your knees and fight with me, 
We are the Warriors when we are on our knees 
The enemy trembles...

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Should Have Asked for More

When I was little, I remember my dad occasionally leaving notes on my mum’s shopping list. ‘I love you’, ‘you’re sweet’ and such. He probably still does. Shopping for a family of twelve, you can imagine Mum’s list is pretty organised and detailed. It’s actually an A4 sheet with all the things she tends to buy split up into the aisles they’re located so she only has to go through and circle what we need that particular shop. Anything extra is written on the sides, so a handwritten note tends to stick out.

I found her list sitting on the bench one day in my early teens and thought it would be fun to leave my own notes. So, at random places amongst plain flour, bananas and washing powder, I wrote ‘I love you’s. And then also put a nice thick circle around ‘chocolate bars’ and wrote Cherry Ripe beside it, no doubt with a smiley face. I knew Mum would know it was me. My writing is very different from hers and anyone else’s in the family. I also didn’t think she’d actually buy one.

But she did. I came home from school that day to find a big Cherry Ripe sitting on the bench waiting for me. I was pretty shocked, and felt incredibly guilty, much as I probably enjoyed eating it. Keeping in mind, I have nine siblings and none of them got one…

I mentioned that memory to my mum the other day as we were buying Cherry Ripes for a cheesecake, telling her how guilty I’d felt accidentally asking for a Cherry Ripe. She laughed and commented that I should have asked for more.

I probably should have, knowing how incredibly generous my parents are. Not that they gave us whatever we wanted growing up (thankfully!) but Mum’s one of those amazing people who knows just what will make people feel special – like what all her kids’ favourite chocolates/flavour coffees are. Not to say I should have asked for a car or something but I could have been a lot more creative than a chocolate bar. (Two chocolate bars! :p)

I limit God a lot like that too, far more than I should. I timidly come forward, asking him for something all the while feeling guilty for asking because it’s so inconsequential. Or I sort my prayers into level of importance, putting limits on how many he can answer.

God, much as I’d love to get rid of this pain, [this person]’s salvation is so much more important. And [this friend] really needs their house to sell, and could you please heal [this other friend] because their pain is really affecting their life and please, can you find me an agent for my book? (Oh, boy, that’s a lot of miracles I’m asking for…) God, if you could just answer one, could you please, please, please bring [this person] to you because it just breaks me watching them live day by day without you. I’d take that over healing or a book contract any day. Oh, and tomorrow is… actually, don’t worry about that. It’s not that important.

And so on. As if God can only answer one prayer. As if he qualifies some prayers as more important than others. As if he’s not the loving Father who can’t wait to have us ask for something impossible so he can prove just how big he is.

Here's the truth: God is sooooo much bigger than we can imagine and his power even greater than that. He loves to do the impossible and really is waiting for us to ask for it so he can prove it. Nothing is too hard for him nor any prayer too big. He could answer every single one of those ‘big miracle’ prayers of mine in an instant without even breaking a sweat.

My challenge is to stop making him human and let him be God. Stop feeling guilty for asking what he’s just waiting to bless me with. Because God is big, and powerful, and definitely not limited by our human minds or laws.

What big or little things are you too timid to ask for? Go on, ask away! You'll never know what the answer will be if you don't have the courage to ask. 

Hebrews 4:14-16 
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.