What happened when you prayed for me?
I don’t have chapter and verse in answer to this question, brothers and sisters, but I am coming through a season of extraordinary prayer support and can offer my own personal observations on what has happened for me. I suppose what I want to share with you is in the form of a report more than a systematic theology on prayer because what I am sharing is based on the correlation of transformational moments in my life with the timing of others saying they are praying for me. This season has underscored that what I have received in concert with your prayers was not the great miracle I could see or measure, but miracles in the spiritual realm.
This is not what we often hope for when others pray for us. You know what I mean. Let’s say that you’re deep into the experience of a life-limiting illness. It doesn’t matter what you name it, because it really can be anything that causes you to ask for, or hope for prayers on your behalf. And when they come to lay hands on you and anoint you with oil (perhaps even in a literal, physical way), aren’t you hoping for the miracle of healing from that bodily ailment? When others pray for us we want the power of God to fall upon us and whatever the trying circumstance, to be delivered from it as quickly as possible in some marvelous way that we can see or touch.
But that’s not what I can report.
A couple weeks ago I took scores of sympathy cards from the mantle top of a living room buffet. As I laid them out on the table something wonderful began to build in my soul. Those cards refusing to lay flat and crowded together lay partly opened, filling the dining table top. The image that garden of cards filled my mind with was a room full of our dear friends and family with uplifted hands holding up me and my family in prayer.
And then, the many words of comfort, scripture and prayer that they had sent me via social media, the countless “likes,” heart, hug, and prayer icons posted in response to our FB posts added to the impact of God’s moving in our behalf to build a solid footing under our lives without my beloved Julia.
This experience also reinforced something I’ve come to believe with all my heart, that the greatest answers of God to our prayers for one another are not the circumstantial blessings that so often do follow. But what we can be 100% certain is that God will move in concert with our hearts to raise up joy in the darkness, hope against all odds, and faith in His ability to ultimately work all things together for good.
The answers to prayer that have been the sweetest and most constant have been victories in the spiritual battles that have raged – battles in which our joy in the Lord, our hope in His Word, and our trust in His love for us was up for grabs. There have been circumstantial blessings that have flowed into our lives, but nothing so magnificent or numerous than the many times during this season when our faces were lifted up, our minds renewed, and our souls filled up with the goodness of God Himself.
There are two clear results from intercessory prayer in concert with God’s working:
- Growth in Christ-likeness, lifting up a witness to His all-sufficient grace
- Defeat of spiritual enemies (demonic forces), bringing glory to His name
Growth in Christ-likeness
Three years ago, Julia wrote out for her Bible study group the following prayer card to help us to intercede for others with our eyes on what God is ALWAYS delighted to work into our hearts and relationships: HIS sufficiency, HIS strength, HIS overflowing Presence, HIS healing, HIS understanding, HIS wisdom, HIS creativity and amazing grace.
Notice how many things in her list do NOT have to do with circumstances changing. Dear friends, your prayers did not prevent Julia from dying. I’m sure God sent comfort to her body during those difficult days, but by far the greatest blessing in answer to your sustaining prayers were the uplifting of our souls to God in child-like trust. Whenever that happened, we gave thanks to God prompting hearts to pray.
Defeat of spiritual enemies
The second thing that I can report in answer to your prayers is that my spiritual enemies were time and time again defeated when what I experienced correlated with your prayers:
- the ability to give thanks, when I began to grow resentful,
- the courage to press on when I wanted to stop,
- the raising up of trust in my heart when I was afraid,
- my mind quieted when exhaustion, distraction and disorientation mounted up, and
- to hope again when depressed, even to the point of despair.
Here’s the thing to note: these were all victories over demonic attack in my weakness!
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV
It turns out the spiritual enemies of our souls (Satan, the world, and remnants of our sinful self-centeredness) don’t care much about our circumstances. Evil is only concerned about our material circumstance when it advances their cause – the destruction of faith in God’s goodness and love, the binding up in fear and anxiety the freedom of the children of God, and the twisting of a mind out of trusting rest on God’s holy word.
Brothers and sisters, when you prayed for me your were my “Aaron” and my “Hur.”
Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. 14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”Exodus 17:8-16 (ESV)
Aaron was Moses’ family and Hur was his trusted, God-fearing friend. In order for the battle to be won, Moses’ hands needed to be raised up over the Amalekites (a picture in the Scriptures of demonic destructiveness raised up against God’s people) – a clear picture of prayer in the midst of battle. But Moses grew tired praying for God’s victory, and his hands dropped. Aaron and Hur, knowing the need of Moses’ faith in God stepped and helped in to pray. They lifted his hands and the victory was won!
What can you expect when asking me to pray?
Of course, you can expect God to make a way through the trial. I am sure that your circumstances will change and you will see the hand of God moving in what is happening around you. But more than that, more than that – you have the opportunity to open your heart to his abiding presence. You will have the opportunity with my help and prayer to stand firm against the devil. You will have the opportunity with me praying for you to become more like Jesus in that moment.
What a glorious privilege to pray for you, my friend! Please don’t hesitate to ask.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV