Maybe I’m the only one who has thought this way, but I sometimes wondered why we pray. Why I needed to tell an all-knowing God, what he already knows? Especially, when combined with the idea that God is in control and that He is all-powerful. So why do I have to tell Him what He already knows, is already in control of and has the power to do something about? Why do I have to plead with Him to be merciful? Is He not by His very nature merciful?
So then I asked myself, what does the Bible tell us about prayer? First, it says that we should do it. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing.” But we’re also told there is no need for us to continually babble on like pagans who think they’ll be heard by virtue of their many words (Matthew 6:7). Second, it tells us to check our motives when we pray (James 4:3) and not to do it just to be seen by others and look spiritual (Matthew 6:5). Third, we are told to have confidence when we pray, because God will give us what we ask, when we ask according to his will (1 John 5:14). Fourth, we are told to pray for provision (Luke 11:2), healing (James 5:15), wisdom (James 1:5) and even for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). And lastly, whenever we pray we are to do it with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). But have you ever wondered why we are instructed to pray?
So, what is prayer exactly? Is it talking to God like we were told when we were children? Yes, in some ways. God is relational and prayer is part of how we interact in relationship with Him, but prayer must be more than about informing Him about situations that He obviously already knows about. Will God not move until we ask Him to? He tells us that He is a good Father who gives good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). Also, we are told that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2). So, we can see that there is an expectation that we ask for what we need in prayer. But we are also told that God knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). And, Ephesians 3:20 says that He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, so there must be an element beyond just our asking. Sometimes we don’t even know what to ask for, but we are assured that He even understands our groaning (Romans 8:26).
Is prayer a collaboration or a partnership with God? Is prayer a way of inviting God into situations? I would agree with that idea. But we have to conclude then, that even if God has the ability to control our world that He chooses not to and waits for an invitation to move.
But is prayer only a conversation, a relationship, or a partnership?
I believe prayer has to be so much more than that. For example, in Ephesians 6:12 we’re told, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” How do we engage in this struggle? Through prayer.
There has to be a spiritual principle in prayer that entails more than pleading with God to act on behalf of a situation. I believe that principle can be found in the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” God appointed man to “rule over” the earth. Some translations say “to have dominion over” the earth. God’s original design was that we would be in charge of our world. Now, we know that Adam and Eve messed up and sinned, but did they give up their dominion? Some would say the authority they had was in some measure given up to the deceiver, Satan, through their sin. Let’s follow that thought for a moment.
That brings me to another question. If Adam and Eve gave up some measure of their authority to Satan, does he still have it or was it taken away from him through Jesus’s death and resurrection? 2 Timothy 1:10 tells us that Jesus broke the power of sin and death. Revelation 1:18 says that He is the one who holds the keys to death and hell. It seems apparent that He took back the authority, but what did He do with it?
Daniel 7:27 tells of the coming of the Messiah and that his kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, but look who the dominion of the earth is given back to. It says, “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.” Through His death and resurrection, Jesus took back the authority over this world and He gave it to us.
Matthew 16:19 says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Wow. It sure sounds like we’ve been given authority. Luke 9:1-2 says, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death. When we pray we activate that power.
Authority, dominion, ruling over the earth. Prayer is not cajoling a reluctant God to pay attention to our world. It is not merely a conversation or part of our relationship with God. Prayer is not just a partnership. No, prayer is exercising spiritual authority. Prayer is releasing life and hope. So, let us be encouraged to exercise that authority and pray.
Written by: Sharon Letson
It’s impossible to scroll through Facebook today without seeing some passionately written, sometimes angry posts. These posts can take on a variety of different flavors. It could be the classic political rant, a religious rant, or any other number of rants that are always anti-something or someone. With the current political climate and division that we’re seeing throughout the US, it got me thinking about a teaching I heard years ago that is more relevant now than ever before.
In his book “The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind,” Bill Johnson has a chapter where he talks about the leavens of the mind. Leaven is defined as a substance, typically yeast, that is added to make dough rise. It can also refer to a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it. In the natural realm, when activated by heat, leaven causes dough to rise. In the spiritual realm, when activated by “the fire of difficulty” or trials, whatever leaven is influencing your mind will rise to the surface and be exposed. It is in this context that Jesus used the word leaven when speaking to his disciples.
Right after Jesus miraculously fed the four thousand, the Pharisees came to him and questioned him, testing him and demanding a sign from heaven (as if feeding 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread wasn’t a sign from heaven!). Jesus sighed and refused to give them the sign they so desperately wanted, knowing that they would still reject him no matter what. After his interaction with the Pharisees, Jesus addressed his disciples: “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast (or leaven) of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (Mark 8:15).
We see from the life and teachings of Jesus that there are three types of leaven:
- The leaven of Herod
- The leaven of the Pharisees
- The leaven of the Kingdom
These leavens, or mindsets, are alive and active today and they greatly affect how we think and live. They are a picture of influence on our minds and will influence our thoughts, decisions, and frame of reference.
The Leaven of Herod
The leaven of Herod is an atheistic influence based on the strength of man and man-based systems, like politics, popular will, and persuasion. Herod’s leaven excludes God entirely. This belief represents a big problem in the Church: practical atheism, or a disbelief in an active God. As believers, how often do we face situations on a daily basis where we don’t bring God into the picture? We are professing Christians, but are we living any differently that our atheist neighbors when we face a problem? Is our first response to seek God’s counsel and invite Him to intervene?
America is permeated by the leaven of Herod. We applaud those who are “self-made” and relied on their own strengths and abilities to rise to success. Sometimes the Church falls into this deception as well. We falsely think that whatever we can accomplish on our own strength has been directed or honored by God. We may accomplish our goals and reach what the world calls “success,” but that doesn’t always mean that God is involved in our efforts.
The Leaven of the Pharisees
The leaven of the Pharisees represents the religious system. This mindset embraces God in theory, but not in practice or experience. For those under this influence, the concept of God is essential, but the experience of God is completely removed. Bill Johnson said it beautifully when he wrote, “Pharisees provide explanations, but not solutions.”
Under this influence, we can “know” Jesus the wrong way, just as the people of Nazareth did – they knew him in form, but not in relationship or demonstration. We see in the American church today many people who are totally satisfied with the Pharisee leaven. They are content with being a churchgoer, but yet entirely unplugged from an active, invasive, ever-present God. Many Christians with this mindset find “explanations” for problems such as physical illness, broken relationships, or financial lack. They are confident in their ability to explain away any problem, but they are powerless to provide any solution.
I love how Jesus refused to give the Pharisees the sign they demanded from him. He was so focused on solutions that He didn’t even entertain their debate. The Church would do well to follow this example today.
The Leaven of the Kingdom
When we’re influenced by the leaven of the Kingdom, we’re able to live out the Lord’s cry that “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and know that anything is possible at any time. This leaven is activated in our minds when we surrender to the Lord and the ways of his kingdom. Every time we read about a miracle that Jesus performed, or experience a miracle in our own lives today, its purpose is to teach us a new revelation of God that we can build our thought lives upon. God wants every testimony in our life and the lives of others to have its full effect on the way we think – renewing our minds to be kingdom-focused.
It’s easy to be kingdom-minded when things are going well in our lives, but the real test comes when we face trials – your car breaks down, a relationship ends, you lose a job, face a physical sickness, etc. It is in these moments that we must refuse to bow to the reality of our circumstances and instead proclaim the greater reality of King Jesus and his kingdom reign. When we keep our minds fixed upon him, we know that there is always a solution to any problem we will ever face. We know that he will heal our hearts and restore broken relationships. We know that he will provide above and beyond what we need and desires for us to be prosperous. We know that it’s his will to heal every sickness and disease, just as he healed all those who came to him.
Does your thought life begin with what you lack, or does it start with the revelation of Jesus and his kingdom provision? Are you worrying over something that Jesus has provided for you time and time again in the past? Don’t get stuck in tradition or be deceived by the leaven of Herod and the leaven of the Pharisees. Remember, kingdom thinking knows that anything is possible at any time. Every testimony we have in our lives should become the new standard from which we think in the future.
I encourage you to reflect upon your thought life and take an inventory of what leavens you’re being influenced by. When the impossible begins to seem possible, then you’ll know your mind is being renewed.
Written by: Nate Ebel