There are some processes that you can’t pray away! Some seasons you can’t fast your way through. There is no bypassing it. The struggle will not end nor will the fire cease until you go through it. Some seasons of difficulties are not meant to be looked at as mountains to be prayed away but more as stepping stones to fulfill our God given purpose.
Jesus’ primary mission when He came to earth was to reconcile mankind back to God. He came to make a way for us to be in right relationship with the father (2 Corinthians 5:21). The crucifixion and the shedding of Jesus’ blood is what made reconciliation possible (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus’ crucifixion was not a mountain to be prayed away, it was a stepping stone, it was a necessary process for Him to fulfill His purpose. He had to go through it!
We can learn a lot from Jesus’ approach in the Garden of Gethsemane right before He was to be crucified in Mathew 26:39-46. Jesus was feeling the burden of what was to come. He was in agony. What does Jesus do? He goes to His father in prayer, not once but three times. He is honest with the father, and He asks Him if there is any way He could bypass what was awaiting Him…the cup, the judgement for sin. Jesus however, does not stay stuck on how He feels. Despite His feelings, Jesus submits to the will of God and concludes, “not my will but your will be done!”
This lets me know that it is through constant prayer that a submitted will is formed and maintained. I don’t have to feel bad about praying the same prayer more than once. Prayer gives me the strength and obedience to do the HARD THING! If you find yourself in a place of difficulty, don’t be quick to assume it’s a mountain to be prayed away, it could very well be a stepping stone to fulfill your God given purpose!
We assume we have mastered a lesson until we get another test some time down the road. Our grade on the tests reveals if it is necessary to relearn the material. In school, I tried to be diligent about studying for upcoming tests. I often passed the initial test. However, there were some instances where I did poorly on the final exam at the end of the semester, especially in math. This was a clear indicator that I had not mastered the foundational skills necessary to retain the material. I didn’t fully get it. Truth is, some lessons must be revisited.
Here I am at the end of the year taking inventory and asking honest questions, “Did I learn the material the Lord was trying to teach me, did I REALLY LEARN the lesson? Did I go around the SAME MOUNTAIN all year, or did I graduate? Have I made progress?” The Christian life is all about progress. We move from glory to glory(2 Corinthians 3:16-18). We press towards the mark of the high calling (Philippians 3:14). We allow the one who began a good work in us to continue it until its completed (Philippines 1:6).
As I sit and reflect, I encourage you to do the same. What lessons did God teach you this year, have you mastered them? Are you ready to go to the next level, or do you need to sit in class a little longer? I pray that 2018 finds us all in a place of total obedience and a made up mind to learn all the Lord wants to teach us.
Have you ever prayed to hear God’s voice? Have you been stuck, uncertain of your next moves and you need the Lord to speak to you? I have. I go and pour my heart out asking the Lord to provide clarity. However, when He gives me an answer I don’t want, I go back with the same prayer request, “Oh God please let me hear your voice!” But what I am really saying is, “God I heard what you said but I don’t like that response. I don’t want to do it! Can you please come up with some other alternative?” He is God and I am not. Even though I don’t always like what I hear when He speaks to me, it is always in my best interest to respond in obedience. Deuteronomy 28 lists all the blessing that follow when Israel obeyed God’s instructions. We love to shout about those promises, ‘blessed going out blessed coming in!’ But before you get to shouting, don’t forget to read that passage in its entirety. The latter verses share the consequences of disobeying God. This passage reminds us that God does provide direction for His people and tell them what He expects of them. However, the ability to hear His voice demands a response of obedience from the hearer.
God speaks to us in many ways. It may be in a dream, from His word, through another believer, or just a strong inner knowing, among many other ways. Don’t take for granted that the creator of the universe speaks to you! Even if it is not what you want to hear, you know He won’t lead you in the wrong direction. As we prepare to enter a new year, do you find yourself with unfinished God tasks? You know, the things the Lord told you to do when you asked to hear His voice. The things you did not want to do. Yeah, those things. The start of a New Year does not mean that God will change His mind. I encourage you to not only pray to hear God’s voice but to also pray for a heart to obey when He does speak even if it is not what YOU WANT TO DO. His grace is there to attend you!
Many of us pray to be more like Jesus. We pray to be perfected and to be patient. We pray to have hearts of humility and obedience. These types of prayers sound wonderful but do we really understand the implications of what we are praying? Have we thought about the reality that trouble and not comfort is often what brings an answer to these requests?
Perfection and patience doesn’t come from a steady stream of comfort but more from various trials that come our way. Read James 1:2-5 for a good dose of this truth. And for obedience, the scriptures tell us in Hebrews 5:8 that “even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Yikes! You want to be humble you say? Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus was humble because He gave up His rights and left His place of comfort in heaven. He became a servant and took on punishment He didn’t deserve by dying on the cross for our sins. He didn’t die a dignified death. Instead, He died a criminal’s death on the cross.
We should pray to be like Jesus. As believers, this type of prayer is very much in order. However, be sure that when the trials come you don’t complain but instead begin to rejoice, knowing your prayers are being answered!
The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 is one of my favorite bible stories. It reminds me of God’s ability to heal and the dangers of walking in pride! The passage opens by telling us that Naaman was favored by the King of Syria. He had a great position and great victories BUT he was a leper.
As the story of Naaman unfolds, we see that he not only had leprosy of the skin but leprosy of the heart. What on earth am I talking about? Naaman was angry when the Prophet Elisha didn’t come out to see him and by way of his servant, told him to go dip seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman was furious because being a man with such authority, he was expecting a more honorable greeting followed by special instructions for His healing. He received neither!
Given the severity of his situation, I would think that Naaman would have immediately obeyed instead of protesting. After all, leprosy was fatal! However, the pride in His heart made Him forget about his desperate situation. Pride has a way of blinding us from what we really need. Pride can be a deliverance snatcher! Thankfully Naaman had a wise officer who encouraged him to take heed to the instruction given by the man of God and he was healed.
What is the BUT in your life, that exception, that thorn? In other words, what is the thing that is hanging over your head that seems to overshadow all the other great things that you have going on in your life? Sometimes God allows the outward “leprosy” in our life to highlight the most fatal leprosy of all…the one in our hearts. God knows how to present scenarios in our life that brings the ugliness in our hearts to the surface so that we can be healed, delivered, and freed from pride. Have you been protesting, or have you yielded to the process so that you can be healed of spiritual leprosy?