Pray for help

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When I am being oppressed, when I am losing things that I value, when those coming against me are stronger than I am, and at the end of the day my suffering overwhelms me – I turn to God for help.

After Ehud died, the people of Israel sinned against the Lord again. So the Lord let them be conquered by Jabin, a Canaanite king who ruled in the city of Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived at Harosheth-of-the-Gentiles. Jabin had nine hundred iron chariots, and he ruled the people of Israel with cruelty and violence for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help. – Judges 4:1-4  GNT

He will hear me if I am repentant, humble and ready to move forward to doing what He asks me to do. When I feel He will not it is because I know I have not met Him in transparency and will find a shortcut by asking someone else to pray for me.

Simon said to Peter and John, “Please pray to the Lord for me, so that none of these things you spoke of will happen to me.” – Acts 8:24  GNT

Simon was the sorcerer who wanted to follow Jesus but ultimately wanted to know how much would he have to pay to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. He was supposed to turn to the Lord and ask for forgiveness but chose instead to ask a human being to act as his mediator. I am pretty sure that Peter knew what was going on and did not pray for him. We never heard of this man again.

When it comes to discernment and understanding, Jesus pulled Himself away to find the will of God. The first instance of this in His minstry was choosing the twelve to follow Him.

Then Jesus went up a hill and called to himself the men he wanted. They came to him, and he chose twelve, whom he named apostles. “I have chosen you to be with me,” he told them. “I will also send you out to preach, and you will have authority to drive out demons.” – Mark 3:13-15  GNT

This came at a critical point in His ministry – He had offended the traditions of the religious leadership and the crowds that followed were really not interested in spiritual things. He responded with prayer and chose the leaders He would begin to train.

“A set measure of bruising of ourselves cannot be prescribed, but it must be so far as (1) that we may prize Christ above all, and see that a Saviour must be had; and (2) that we reform that which is amiss, though it be to the cutting off of our right hand, or pulling out of our right eye. There is a dangerous slighting of the work of humiliation, some alleging this for a pretence for their casual dealing with their own hearts, that Christ will not break the bruised reed; but such must know that every sudden terror and short grief is not that which makes us bruised reeds; not a little `bowing down our heads like a bulrush’ (Isa. 58:5), but a working our hearts to such a grief as will make sin more odious unto us than punishment, until we offer a `holy violence’ against it. Else, favouring ourselves, we make work for God to bruise us, and for sharp repentance afterwards. It is dangerous, I confess, in some cases, with some spirits, to press too much and too long this bruising, because they may die under the wound and burden before they be raised up again. Therefore it is good in mixed assemblies to mingle comfort that every soul may have its due portion. But if we have this for a foundation truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things. And when God’s hand is upon us in any way, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the root of all, which is sin. Let our grief run most in that channel, that as sin bred grief, so grief may consume sin.” – Richard Sibbes

 

When I do not pray I cannot overcome

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The second time and I believe it is the last time Joshua made a mistake in not praying before making a decision came when the Gibeonites came up with a plan. What a call to me when I even think about neglecting to pray. I can be so easily deceived and make wrong decisions. Then when I do not pray and fail, then those who I am responsible to and for, fail also.

The Israelites accepted some food from them, but did not consult the Lord about it. – Joshua 9:14  GNT

It is in my decision not to pray and walk through the word of God that  I am deceived by the evil one.

Here is a great prayer that shows the difference. It starts with a prayer for deliverance.

Save me, Lord, from evildoers;
    keep me safe from violent people.
They are always plotting evil,
    always stirring up quarrels.
Their tongues are like deadly snakes;
    their words are like a cobra’s poison. – Psalm 140:1-3  GNT

 “The persecuted man turns to God in prayer; he could not do a wiser thing. Who can meet the evil man and defeat him save Jehovah himself, whose infinite goodness is more than a match for all the evil in the universe?” – Spurgeon

Then moves to a prayer for preservation.

Protect me, Lord, from the power of the wicked;
    keep me safe from violent people
    who plot my downfall.
The proud have set a trap for me;
    they have laid their snares,
    and along the path they have set traps to catch me. – Psalm 140:4-5  GNT

“The ‘wicked’ may arrogantly desire, plan, and execute; but the Master of the universe cannot tolerate anarchy for long. To this end the plea changes into an imprecatory prayer.” – VanGemeren

There is a time of acknowledging that I am praying to the God of strength and salvation.

I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”
Hear my cry for help, Lord!
My Sovereign Lord, my strong defender,
you have protected me in battle.
Lord, don’t give the wicked what they want;
don’t let their plots succeed. – Psalm 140:6-8  GNT

When I pray, asking God to work for me and against those who desire to work evil is important.

In fact, I am encouraged to acknowledge the presence of those evil ones and pray specifically against them.

Don’t let my enemies be victorious;[b]
make their threats against me fall back on them.
May red-hot coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into a pit and never get out.
May those who accuse others falsely not succeed;
may evil overtake violent people and destroy them. – Psalm 140:9-11  GNT

This is a prayer of a heart poured out entrusting the punishment to God in heaven rather than taking it in my own hands.

It is a prayer for simple justice – for the evil they give, may they receive the same evil back. This is not evil for evil, this is like asking God to give us a cover and when the curese comes against us, it bounces off and returns back to the the one cursing.

The idea of course is that when they experience the power of their own curse in their lives that they would be destroyed and overthrown.

The prayer at the end is one of confidence in God being victorious.

Lord, I know that you defend the cause of the poor
    and the rights of the needy.
The righteous will praise you indeed;
    they will live in your presence. – Psalm 140:12-13  GNT

“At the time of the intervention and vindication, ‘the righteous’…will alter their prayers for deliverance…to songs of triumph.” – VanGemeren

I think the ability to be this courageous in prayer comes from a repentant heart.

A noise is heard on the hilltops:
    it is the people of Israel crying and pleading
    because they have lived sinful lives
    and have forgotten the Lord their God.
Return, all of you who have turned away from the Lord;
    he will heal you and make you faithful. – Jeremiah 3:21-22  GNT

The idea of prayer against evil people should translate to spiritual warfare as well.

When they returned to the crowd, a man came to Jesus, knelt before him, and said, “Sir, have mercy on my son! He is an epileptic and has such terrible attacks that he often falls in the fire or into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” – Mathew 17:14-16  GNT

“It is easy to feel Christian in the moment of prayer and meditation; it is easy to feel close to God when the world is shut out. But that is not religion – that is escapism. Real religion is to rise from our knees before God to meet men and the problems of the human situation.” – Barclay

It was because you do not have enough faith,” answered Jesus. “I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything!” But only prayer and fasting can drive this kind out; nothing else can – Matthew 17:17-21  GNT

“There are some things which are obtained by a stronger faith, and by more fervent and importunate prayers, than others are. A mercy sometimes seems to come to out of the hand of God with more difficulty, and wrestling for it.” – Poole

There was no point in blaming the boy or his father or the demon, though the demon was strong and had been there long. The fault lay in the disciples. “When the ministers of the Gospel find their endeavours, with respect to some places or persons, ineffectual, they should come, by private prayer, to Christ, humble themselves before him, and beg to be informed whether some evil in themselves have not been the cause of the unfruitfulness of their labours.” – Clarke

I think that I show my faith in and reliance on God when I pray and fast. Prayer is that display with my occupation and my dependence on Jesus.

To pray with a sense of fervency brings a confidence that God will answer my prayer. How can I be moved with a dispassionate one where I give every indication that I am presenting to God an issue that I care little or nothing about?

If prayer and fasting demonstrates that I am willing to identify with the afflicted individual, and shows my regard of the strength of the demonic world as well as my dependence on God, and if it displays my incredible desire to fight and sacrifice for the sake of deliverance, then it all matters.

“He that would overcome the devil in certain instances must first overcome heaven by prayer, and conquer himself by self-denial.” – Spurgeon

For the ways he gives and sustains our physical life. For making us in his image, capable of knowing, loving, serving, enjoying him and other relationships; for preserving our lives thus far— bringing us through injuries and sicknesses so that we are alive today; for the supports and comforts that make our lives enjoyable, pleasant, and bearable; for the successes we have received, goals attained, and for the blessings we weren’t wise enough or capable of achieving but which he sent anyway. For the ways he gives and sustains our spiritual life. For the plan of salvation itself, and how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit planned it from the deeps of eternity; for Christ emptying himself of his glory for us; for his teaching and character that reveal to us the beauty of holiness; for Jesus’ death on our behalf, paying for our sins, fulfilling all the requirements, bringing us into a new covenant relationship with God through grace; for the Holy Spirit, for his power and presence in our lives enabling us to understand God’s truth, know his love and glory, be conformed to Christ’s character, and serve others with his gifts; for the Word of God, the Scripture— for its wisdom and truth, and its power; for the church, its congregations and leaders, who have shaped and formed us, who have helped us grow in faith, hope, and love; for the Christian friends who have given us so much; for the assurance of our salvation, that we can rest in the hope of future resurrection and living with him forever; for being able to know that, no matter what, everything will be all right. – Timothy Keller