Praying into the Abyss of Despair

Praying into the Abyss of Despair

Praying into the Abyss of Despair

Sometimes our circumstances make us feel like we are standing on the edge of a dark and bottomless abyss of hopelessness. We pray, do all the things we know to do, have been told to do, trained to do (and then some), and nothing changes or things get worse.

The pressure can lead us to the brink of madness. Cliché Christian answers and the insensitivities of cheap canned theology of fellow Christians don’t help. Rather than identify with us in the darkness of the mystery of our circumstances, “Job’s comforters” type of Christians heap guilt, shame, introspection, fear, and anxiety upon us with: “There must be sin in your life” or “You just don’t have enough faith,” or this would not be happening to you. Both are lies.

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What is REAL Spiritual Warfare?

Warrior Statue Silhouette and Orange SkyFor quite a few years now, doing “spiritual warfare” has been a trendy topic. Personally, I have begun to question a lot of . . . well, the antics that we sometimes engage in that make a lot of noise, but do not change anything in reality. A handful of believers in Ephesus overturned a city, and as far as we know, they did no “prophetic warfare” against the “spirit of Diana of the Ephesians!”  They did not do spiritual mapping. They did not do “prophetic intercessory” warfare. They simply lived an empowered Christian life in an apostolic dimension of the kingdom.

There has to be more to spiritual warfare than making “prophetic decrees” and “doing war in the invisible heavenlies,” that result in absolutely no visible change on earth over years and years of time

Misunderstanding the difference between demons and principalities and the ekklesia’s engagement with each is part of the reason why real change in time and space is often not realized. This is not the place to do a full unfolding of the important distinction and implications—this is not a treatise on demonology. 

Simply put: demons are cast out of individuals. An ascendant church displaces principalities.

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QUIT PRAYING!

We do not need to pray about that which God has made explicitly clear in his revealed Word! This is hardly hot news to most of you. However, this principle is regularly violated and abused by many well-meaning believers, some not so well-meaning.  

It is inappropriate to pray, when God is asking for responsive obedience.  I regularly interact with Christians who use a pseudo-spiritual cloak of prayer to cover impenitent self-will, rebellion, disobedience, and fear of the unknown or what they cannot control and manage. Fearful controllers will always leverage “we need to pray more” to their advantage. It is a particular plague among “prophetic” believers.  By that I mean Christians who believe, as I do, that the voice of God can still be heard and discerned in the redeemed human spirit. The closed canon does not render God a mute.

Believers often engage in a manipulative spirit when they say,  “I have prayed about it and the Lord told me I must .  . .” This is not the language of mutual respect and dialog.  It is the language of spiritual ultimatum—spiritual blackmail.  It is impossible to interact with people who use this type of language, without stepping all over their prayer life and self-perceived spirituality. How can you or I compete with God? How can you or I give any input to people who believe the Almighty has definitively spoken to them? You can’t reach a soul that is locked down with “God told me.”

It is common charismatic lingo used to keep others at a comfortable distance and to justify whatever notion may pop into our heads to do. You do not need to pray about whether or not you should abandon your wife, cheat on our taxes, have an affair, or other such nonsense. The answer is NO! Quit praying!

You might say, Steve, don’t be so silly, this is obvious. Well, let me briefly rehearse two true stories so I can convince you that this is not silly, nor always obvious, but rather an epidemic problem.

I once had to deal with a situation where a wife and mother of eight children was caught fornicating with her boss. Not rumor . . . in the act. She was the wife of an elder in another  church. When confronted, her response was: “Well, I’ve prayed about it, and I was trying to lead him to the Lord!”  Yes, indeedeeee folks, fornicating for Jesus. That’s some evangelism technique. She was deadly serious, and this was not some “new convert” who fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

I was once in a “city-wide pastors unity meeting” (yuck) of all the so-called “gate-keepers” (yuck) of the city. An older gentleman there began to share that he felt a call to a certain city, but that his wife did not want to go. He “prayed about it” and “felt” he was to leave his wife and “fulfill his calling” as the calling is the most important thing. Every leader in the room justified the man, encouraged him, except myself and one other brother (We were accused of being negative, judgmental and elitists.). Oh, and by the way, the wife of this man was a wheelchair bound invalid on oxygen. Well, with the “endorsement” of the stone-blind “gatekeepers of the city,” he left his wife and “started his ministry,” with the obvious results of disaster. His marriage and his ministry failed . . . well, as Gomer Pyle used to say: “Suhprise, suhprise, suhprise . . .”

These are not isolated incidents. Folks, you may have no idea of the sheer corruption and nonsense that goes on behind closed doors at “leadership levels.” Reason among many that the way we have been conducting ourselves regarding “leadership” needs a complete overhaul.

You don’t need to pray about some things. The answer is NO! And if the so-called “city gate keepers” are that stone-blind and ignorant . . . what does that say about all our pretention to spiritual significance, “cutting edge” this and that, and spiritual “gate keepers?” What a pile of excrement.

Praying to God for hours to bring “revival,” save souls, or whatever we may want Him to do on our behalf, is useless if He is requiring repentance and reconciliation. This is particularly true concerning interpersonal relationships. It is easier to talk and pray about unity and revival than to get real and deal with the  breaches in relationship that prevent unity in the first place!  Most American Christians simply do not have the stomach for the hard work required for biblical interpersonal reality.  They will leave a church rather than resolve relational difficulties. (Of course, they will pray for unity and revival at the next church they bless with their presence!).

An individual undergoing a crucifixion experience, is not helped by the prayers of others for blessing and escape. Believers with an unsanctified mercy or compassion gift frequently err in this regard. Sentimental prayer based on human analysis of circumstances and a soulish desire to spare people from difficulty, often runs counter to God’s redemptive purposes. We must always pray in wisdom with a God-perspective.  If we do not know how to pray, well, that’s what the indwelling Holy Spirit is for—get to know Him and let Him pray through you.

Endless prayer over the same issue or pending action, can be a cloak for unbelief, passivity, fear, timidity, and faithlessness.  When God is calling for faith action, it is inappropriate to keep praying.  ACT don’t PRAY! 

Moses at the Red Sea is a classic scriptural example. When faced with an impossibility, he cried out to God.  God reproved him for his prayer and exhorted him to use what was in his hand.  Moses’s rod can represent many things: authority, the anointing, etc. Simply, it represents what has already been provided and what has proven effective.  For the believer, this is the Word of God, the indwelling Spirit, our union with Him and with one another, and our confidence as His sons and daughters. 

Vacillation and indecisiveness are not fruits of the Spirit—better to be bold and decisive and have to compensate for mistakes, than to be immobile and right too late!  No decision is a decision.  God’s admonition to Joshua wasn’t “be cautious and be careful,” but rather “be bold and be strong.” Individuals who insist on “more prayer” may be yielding to a human (or demonic) spirit that requires absolute assurance in every detail before stepping out in faith.  This is a religious manifestation of a perfectionistic,  emasculated spirit, not godly virtue. The way of faith always encompasses a degree of uncertainty and risk.

Many in the ekklesia, for whatever reason, are severely damaged in this area.  Change, risk, and abandonment to God are more than they can emotionally,  spiritually, psychologically, and sometimes culturally handle. When confronted with a faith response requirement that affects them personally, they can suffer near personality disintegration. These dear individuals simply must get help, healing, and deliverance, either sovereignly from God or mediated through competent ministry.

Pragmatism often masquerades in the ekklesia as wisdom. Many believers’ minds are deeply impregnated with worldly and culturally conditioned concepts of wisdom, prudence, and caution that impersonate godly virtues.  The world’s wisdom is devilish, and inordinate caution is the protective mantra of the fearful.   

Godly wisdom and faith are two valid biblical virtues maintained in tension by divine design.  They are like a kite and string: wisdom is the string that enables the kite of faith to arise and stay in a proper sphere.  The kite of faith keeps the string of wisdom from being earth-bound. Healthy Christianity requires both.

However, the overall tenor of the New Testament is that faith is the superior and eternal virtue. Faith is the short-supply commodity the Lord seeks in his people and in the earth.  If we must err, err to the side of bold faith–it is what the Lord is looking for.

Inappropriate prayer is simply a manifestation of the carnal mind in rebellion against God, masquerading in religious garb.  The in-working of the cross  and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit are God’s provision and remedy. The disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray (Lk. 11:1-13).  He promised that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to that very end, if we persist in asking for Him. We have the same confidence and more because the Teacher and the Spirit of prayer is now within us,  forever, to the end of the age.

Let’s stop the nonsense. Lets can the hyper-spiritual lingo. Let’s be real people and let’s not cloak our disobedience with prayer.


Copyright 2012,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

 

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Freedom from Financial Anxiety

This dream is from my dear friend, Lynn Barrows of Nampa, Idaho. I try to be very circumspect about dreams and dream interpretation. The line between a fragment of undone potato and a Spirit-given dream, can be a bit murky at times! However, this one seemed to have the ring of authenticity and timeliness about it. I know many who are facing very challenging financial circumstances. I hope it is an encouragement.

Four years ago, God marvelously provided Lynne’s wife, Linda,  a job to meet their needs. Recently, that door closed somewhat unexpectedly, as she was abruptly laid off.  The dream and Lynn’s comments follow:

I was ministering to a man. I noticed a glint from the dust at our feet. I bent down to see what it was and picked it up. It was similar to a silver dollar. Then I noticed more in a pile in the dust on the ground, a total of five coins. I gave them to the man that I was helping. As I was going from one place to another, more coins were available. Plenty to share, and plenty to meet our needs.
 
It seems to me in this dream, that God was assuring me that He would provide the wherewithal to meet the needs of others and our needs as well. His assurance has given me rest. It is interesting to me as to where I found the coins, the dust, and that they were for others and for us.
 
Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, we need provision from our Father that is not based upon the economic system in which we live. One of the results of this dream in me has been an amazing peace. More than a goal to achieve or try to make happen, I find it is a place of both rest and motivation. Linda can tell you that in situations like, this my pattern is to spend emotional energy worrying. Now, the peace motivates me to act like God is in charge, directing my steps and making His provision and plans happen. It will be interesting to walk this out.

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Copyright 2012,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

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Hebrews 7:25 – Jesus IS the Heavenly Intercession

There is a common understanding of Hebrews 7:25 that gives the impression that Jesus is not at rest, seated on the throne on high after His resurrection, but rather is engaged in eternal intercession, praying to the Father, more or less pleading for humanity, in the eternal state, forever and ever. This is very unfortunate.

This understanding also gives rise to the idea that God is still looking for someone in the earth to intercede and “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap:” to plead with God along with Jesus who is pleading in heaven, to . . . basically . . .  not wipe us all out in one way or the other. This too, is very unfortunate.

In the KJV the verse reads:

Wherefore he is able also to save to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

We have to remember the historical context and grid of understanding that the KJV translators brought with them in regard to “Christian practices” such as prayer. Think Church of Rome minus the Pope. Think: strong performance, works, duty orientation.

The phrase “to make” is added by the English translators, and is most unfortunate, as it gives the impression of something yet undone, as if some sort of prayer is going on by Jesus, interceding as if His finished-work sacrifice really wasn’t enough to realize all of God’s longing in and for humanity.

Some very literal readings could go like this:

He is able, the ones coming through Him, to God, always living for the purpose of pleading for them.

Or

He is able the ones coming, to and through him to God, always living for the appeal on behalf of them.

The significant point (without getting bogged down in a bunch of Greek technical stuff) is, His eternal life, His resurrection life, is what is doing the appealing, pleading, etc., not his prayer. Christ in resurrection IS the intercession.

Only God has eternal life. It’s a quality of His existence, His Deity. It is His to share and give, and His to withhold. There is now, not only at the center of the universe, but in union in the Godhead, at the right hand of the Father, a resurrected God-Man. There’s a representative man, present not only “before God” in some petitionary mode. But “in God” in perfect union. He is there as a representative man, vivified by God’s very own eternal life.

The intercession of Hebrews 7:25 is not something we do, you do, I do, or Jesus does. No, the intercession is God’s own life in a man. He has found His rest in the Man he was looking for in Isa. 66:2.  That is the intercession. That is the “pleading.”  That is the rest. God need look no further than Himself in Christ-Jesus. The Sabbath of Genesis 1-3, has come full circle. God took humanity out of the question when he made a covenant with Abraham (he was asleep). He made a covenant with Himself (Heb. 6), and that covenant has come full circle . . . His own rest . . . in a man.

This gives substance and meaning to all the so-called  “positional” truths (in Him/in us, united with Him, seated with Him, etc. )  of the New Testament. They are not “positional” at all. They are ultimate reality truths. Too often, teachers and theologians throw the term “positional truths” around and it is code for: not real, doesn’t work, and you are not good enough yet.

Because of our union with Him (John 14:3 – that where I am you may be also, is not talking about heaven. It is talking about oneness in the bosom of Father on the throne in the universe) you and I are in that place, also. United with Him by the indwelling Spirit of sonship. We are not “absorbed into deity,” changed into “God” or “gods.” However, they that are joined to the Lord are one Spirit. Our union with a resurrected God-Man, by the Spirit, has profound implications.

You and I, and every other believer, are the Sabbath of God in Him. He finds His rest in us, in Christ.  You and I and every other believer are the intercession of God.  The church, the bride, you and I, are the living sacrifice of Romans 12:1 (literally: the worship, the “liturgy” – meaning “the work done on behalf of the people,” the intercession) for the world. My literal presence and being in the world, in Christ, is the intercession.  My “prayer life” is simply the expression of the realities of what I am in Him.  I can’t get any closer to God than: “seated with Him in heavenly places.”  Our prayer and intercession is praying out from heaven to earth, not from earth to heaven. We are the executors of the last will and testament of a resurrected God-Man who is seated at the throne of the universe. He is seated, we do the praying. However, New Testament intercession is more than the disciplines of my prayer time. It is my very life.

This is New Testament priesthood.

I believe this is linked directly with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In my opinion this has very little to do with speaking in tongues, but rather, is the outpouring of Jesus’ ascension and glorification enthronement/anointing of His investiture as King-Priest after the order of Melchizedek (it would take too long to unpack the significance of Psalm 2/Psalm 110 being the foundation of New Testament doctrine and the foundation of New Testament priesthood). The baptism in the Holy Spirit is the realization of Moses’ dream in Exodus 20 of a nation of king-priests: first realized at Pentecost, and in every bona fide, Spirit-regenerated believer since.

If we don’t get this stuff right when we teach prayer and intercession,  we will inevitably energize striving and Old Covenant mentalities, intentionally, or not.

My hope is not that Jesus might be praying for me, that somehow, I am on the eternal prayer list of the Son of God.

My hope is that He is alive forever after the order of Melchizedek. Priesthood is the energizing power of government and kingship: a priesthood based on the quality of God’s own life,  His own eternal life in the resurrected God-Man, in human beings . . . the new creation race. That is the intercession.

That Spirit of priesthood has united with my spirit. I am a new creation. A member of a royal priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. I am (along with others in the family of God) a living sacrifice, a living intercession for the world. My being is the intercession, of which my prayer life is but a fragment.

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Copyright 2012 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

For a deeper examination of the topic of prayer and intercession from a New Covenant perspective, please refer to our book with Don Atkin, New Creation Prayer, available at www.stevecrosby.com.


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Quit Praying (Like We Have Been!) – Part 2

Peace on earth, good will toward humanity (Luke 2:14).  When did that change?

It seems these days that God’s good will toward the planet in the gift of His Son was wholly unmerited, but “revival” in our cities is dependent on us—our prayer and intercession.  We pray as if Jesus never came, or still lies in the tomb.

There’s a dangerous delusion lurking in passion for prayer and revival.  If we are not careful in our understanding and practice, we will descend into a pagan and anti-Christ mindset that believes, consciously or otherwise, that we are responsible for any manifestation of goodness in our cities.  We will believe that “revival” is the fruit of our prayer efforts rather than the fruit of His grace.  It is His kindness/goodness that leads to repentance, not our sincerity in prayer.

Many pray as if God, our Father, is reluctant to do good. We pray as if  our efforts in prayer coerce, persuade, cajole, and nag God into bringing “revival” (whatever we think that is: usually “more” of what we like.). We pray like God is an inert heavenly potentate who must be conditioned by our prayers to reluctantly release a few crumbs of His grace and mercy, if we just cry long enough to persuade Him to do so.

Consider an example from the Old Testament: Sodom and Gomorrah. There’s no way that Lot’s family can be portrayed as “wholehearted seekers of God, crying out to Him day and night with fasting and intercession for city-wide or national revival!” Hardly!

In an inferior covenant, God was willing to forgive Sodom and Gomorrah if He could just find ten righteous people . . . if the mere presence of ten righteous people, who were not praying, not fasting, not even trying, would spare Sodom and Gomorrah, what do we think we are doing in our intercession? Why do we think the prayer “standard” for us is more stringent today? Why do we need ten thousand “prophetic intercessors” in a nation’s capital to beg, groan, and wail for revival in an era of a better covenant?  Is God’s attitude toward us in the day of a better covenant made with the blood of His dear Son, when there are not ten, but millions of righteous in the land, now less than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah?

Bultmann called self-effort the primal sin.[i] Our prayer effort is included.  The only work that impresses God is the work of His dear Son.  Our work in intercession is not more persuasive than Jesus’ work on the Cross.

Prayers that either do not understand or that misrepresent the work of Christ, are prayers that God cannot answer, regardless of how many people are praying them and how sincere, enthused, and moved by them the petitioners might be. Our approach to God, and God’s response to prayer is based solely on the Person and work of His Son. There is no other foundation.

Crosby, are you saying our prayers for individuals, communities, and the nation are useless? No, I am not saying that. We’re commanded to pray: always, everywhere, and for our leaders. What we think we’re doing when we pray makes all the difference. We don’t bribe or extort God with our good behavior and our prayers as if we’re saying:

“C’mon Jesus, have a heart and be nice to us. We’re really sorry for how bad we’ve been, and we’re trying really, really hard to be good, and now we’re praying really, really hard too. We are entitled to see revival.”

No!  Our prayers for our cities are only possible because God is already predisposed to be good to them!  Our prayers only make sense, the only rational hope for prayer, is that God has already secured His own good intentions, because we are not trustworthy![ii] He put His Spirit in us, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of prayer, as the “secured beach-head” in us, and through us, for His good intentions for humanity. Let’s believe it, enter into it, and release it. In our prayer for our cities we enter into His goodness and His rest, we do not persuade Him to be good!  All straining and striving in prayer, is a de facto confession of unbelief.

The only reason we have any hope in prayer is because God is constitutionally good, to the just and unjust alike. And has already secured His own interests. Jesus in resurrection as the representative God-Man is the intercession.

Hebrews 7:24-25 does not present Christ scurrying about taking care of cosmic events through prayer. The context refers to Christ’s priesthood as making access to God possible. His priesthood secures the salvation of those who would dare to approach a holy God. His priesthood is not the micromanaging of the cosmos through ongoing intercession!

The English rendering of “to make intercession” is at the root of the confusion. The words, “to make,” are inserted by the translators. It gives the impression that there is something undone—something yet to be accomplished which Jesus is now busy doing in the heavenlies with intercession.

The Greek is this: he ever lives to the interceding.  It doesn’t translate well into English and it is understandable why some translators did what they did for readability, but meaning has suffered.

Notice the definite English article: “the.” The verse is not speaking about random miscellaneous “intercessions” for this and that.   There is a specific intercession, a definitive, singular intercession, whose effects are continuously ongoing (present active tense).

His resurrection is the intercession.  He ascended on high and sat down.[iii] The intercessory work is done. His intercession is not something He is doing. His presence in the heavenlies, as the representative Man, is the intercession!  His resurrection is the intercession that makes and secures access to God for those who approach Him.

He is not currently scrambling about heaven beseeching the Father to do this and that.  His work, His cross and resurrection fulfilled the longing and need for the “man to make up the gap.”  There is a God-Man in resurrection who has forever closed the gap.

This should profoundly affect what we think we are doing when we pray. Much of what passes for intercession today is nothing but the anxiety-laced energies of the sincere and highly impassioned human soul trying to bring about on earth the things we think God should be doing. It is as if we are twisting the arm of a reluctant God who is otherwise disinclined to act unless persuaded by our intercession, as we erroneously think Christ Himself to be doing. This thinking is also an insult to the work of Christ.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who, without a shred of conviction, will drive miles to attend a prayer meeting for city-wide revival, passing the houses of their neighbors whose names they do not even know! What part of, “love your neighbors,” do we not understand?  It is my conviction that if we spent less time in prayer for our cities, and more time in practical obedience on behalf of our cities, we would see the “revival” that we have been begging God for.

This is not complicated.

You cannot compensate with prayer for what is lacking in obedience to the clear, simple, and direct instructions of our Lord.  I would like to suggest that if we want to see God’s goodness and power manifest in our cities in dimensions heretofore unrealized, the place to start in repentance is for the way we pray that is systematized unbelief, and for our disobedience in things so simple that a child could do them.

Prayer and the work . . . the work and prayer . . .  like a bird with one wing, either is useless without the other.  The love of God touching our neighbor through you and I . . . is revival. Revival is a present reality for the obedient, not a future hope for the spiritual mystic.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Portions of this article are excerpted from Don Atikin’s and Steve Crosby’s book, New Creation Prayer.  See the Books and Materials tab on this blog. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.

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[i] Rudolph Bultmann. Existence and Faith, p.81.

[ii] Hebrews Chapter 6 – God made a covenant with Himself in Christ, because humanity was not trustworthy. He secured His own interests in humanity, for humanity, through Humanity. Why do we pray like everything is dependent on us?

[iii] Hebrews 1:3, 10:12.

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Quit Praying – Part One

Having a passion for prayer, in and of itself, means nothing.  There is no spiritual virtue inherently associated with a passion for prayer. Jesus said: “Hypocrites love to pray [at length] and in public.”[1] Most of Jesus’ public prayers (that we know of) can be said in five minutes or less.[2] If He really is our example, if we really believe WWJD, we need to give serious reconsideration to some of our prayer beliefs and practices, particularly in “prophetic” communities.

Though emotionally intense and perhaps sincere, a good bit of our prayer belief and practice is rooted in unbelief and a lack of the assurance of sonship.

Any passion for prayer must be grounded in the new creation and a thorough understanding of the New Covenant truths regarding identity, sonship, and the finished work of Christ—risen from the dead. If it is not, it will degenerate into very unhealthy and spiritually unstable practices of bondage and deception.

The Scriptures are the objective element of our faith. They are the more sure word[3] of prophecy that speak to our redeemed rational faculties. Prayer, worship, and communion with God via the Holy Spirit are the subjective elements of Christianity. The voice of the Good Shepherd[4] speaks to our spirit-man, sometimes referred to as our hearts. Vital Christianity requires the presence of both aspects in proper relationship to each other.

For centuries, Fundamental and Evangelical Christianity have emphasized the objective to the near extinction of the subjective. The Charismatic Renewal was (in part) divine remediation for the historical imbalance. However, unbridled, undiscerned, and unrestrained subjectivism is a plague in the church. Objective truth validates subjective and intuitive leadings. Subjective experiences put flesh on objective truth. We must have both.

This is hardly a newsflash. However, this fact is regularly violated and abused by many innocent and well-meaning believers, and others not so innocent nor well-meaning.

We do not need to “pray about” that which God has made clear in Scripture!

 Obedience

It is inappropriate to pray when God is asking for responsive obedience.  I regularly interact with Christians who use a pseudo-spiritual cloak of prayer to cover impenitent self-will, rebellion, and disobedience. It is a particular plague among prophetic believers.  By prophetic I mean Christians who believe, as I do, that the voice of God can still be heard and discerned in the redeemed human spirit. The closed Canon does not render God a mute.

For example, consider an individual hurt in a local church by dictatorial or carnal leadership. He or she usually reacts, withdraws, pours out his or her complaint to others, seeks God, and receives a revelation something like this: “God told me I do not have to follow any man, only Jesus—I must be led by the Holy Spirit and not man.” This has a germ of truth, sounds spiritual and noble but is in open contradiction to explicit Scripture.[5] Dear reader, it doesn’t matter how sincere you may be about this (or something similar in which the Scriptures are explicit)—you may be sincerely wrong.

Believers often engage in a manipulative spirit of control when they say things like: “I have prayed about it, and the Lord told me I must .  .  .”  This is not the language of mutual respect and dialog.  It is the language of spiritual ultimatum—spiritual blackmail—a legitimate truth (hearing God for one’s self, and obeying) energized in the old creation nature and pushed too far.  It is impossible to talk to people who cavalierly use this type of language, without stepping all over their prayer life and self-perceived spirituality. There’s just enough truth contained in it, to ruin relationships when expressed carnally.

 Repentance

Praying for hours to bring revival, save souls, or whatever is useless if God is requiring active repentance and reconciliation. This is particularly true concerning interpersonal relationships. It is easier to talk and pray about unity and “revival” than repent and make right the breaches in relationship that prevent unity and “revival” in the first place!  Most American Christians simply do not have the stomach for biblical interpersonal reality.  They will leave a church rather than resolve relational difficulties. Someone once said: “We resolve our relational difficulties with good-byes.” (Of course, we pray for unity and revival at the next church we bless with our presence!).

The In-Working of the Cross

An individual undergoing the child-training discipline of God, or a crucifixion/resurrection experience, is not helped by the prayers of others for blessing and escape. Believers with an unsanctified mercy or compassion gift frequently err in this regard. Sentimental prayer based on human analysis of circumstances and a soulish desire to spare people from difficulty, often runs counter to God’s redemptive purposes. We must always pray in wisdom with a God-perspective.  If we do not know how to pray, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to pray for us and through us! Get to know Him and let Him pray through you.[6]

                                                                 Faith Response

Endless prayer over the same issue or pending action, can be a cloak for unbelief, passivity, timidity, and faithlessness.  Inappropriate prayer is often a manifestation of the carnal mind in rebellion against God, masquerading in religious garb. When God is calling for faith action, it is inappropriate to keep praying.  Act.  Don’t pray.  When God is calling for responsive action, perpetual prayer can be a deluding spiritual narcotic used to cover disobedience.  Since prayer is normally held in high esteem, we can feel good about ourselves in our disobedience. Moses at the Red Sea is a classic Scriptural example. When faced with an impossibility, he cried out for God to “do something.”  God reproved him for his prayer and exhorted him to use what was in his hand.

Moses’ rod can represent many different things. Simply, it represents what has already been provided and what has proven effective.  For the believer, this is the Word of God, the indwelling Spirit, and our confidence as His sons and daughters.

Vacillation and indecisiveness are not fruits of the Spirit. It’s better to be bold and decisive and have to compensate for mistakes, than to be immobile and right too late!  No decision is a decision.  God’s admonition to Joshua wasn’t: “Be cautious and be careful,” but “be bold and be strong.” Leaders and individuals who insist on “more prayer” may be yielding to a human (or demonic) spirit that requires absolute assurance in every detail before stepping out in faith.  This is a religious manifestation of a perfectionistic, cowardly, and emasculated spirit, not godly virtue. The way of faith always encompasses a degree of uncertainty.

Pragmatism often masquerades in the church as wisdom. Many believers’ minds are deeply impregnated with worldly and culturally conditioned concepts of wisdom, prudence, and caution which impersonate godly virtues.  The world’s wisdom is devilish, and inordinate caution is always the mantra of the fearful.

Godly wisdom and faith are two valid biblical virtues in divine tension.  They are like a kite and string: wisdom is the string that enables the kite of faith to arise and stay in a proper sphere.  The kite of faith keeps the string of wisdom from being earth-bound. Healthy Christianity requires both. However, the overall tenor of the New Testament is that faith is the superior and eternal virtue. Faith is the short-supply commodity the Lord seeks in His people and in the earth.  If we must err, err to the side of bold faith. It is what the Lord is looking for.

The Remedy

The disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1-13).  He promised that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to that very end. We have the same confidence and more because the Teacher is within us. He is the resurrection life remedy of God for ill-advised prayer. He is present in us to teach us to pray. Let’s pray as sons and daughters, as insiders to the throne of heaven, not as outsiders, begging and hoping that an indifferent heavenly potentate will throw us some crumbs if we just beg him long enough. Our Father IS NOT LIKE the reluctant judge in Luke 18. He doesn’t have to be begged. It is an insult to what Christ has done for us to relate to our Father in that way.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephcros9@aol.com.


[1] Matt. 6:5 – paraphrase; length of prayer is implied from what we know of Pharasaic practices at the time.

[2] He would sometimes pray longer privately such as in the selection of the twelve and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

[3] 2 Peter 1:16, 19.

[4] John 10:27.

[5] E.g., 1Ti. 1:16, 1Co. 4:15-16, 1Co. 11:1, Ep. 4:11-13.  The remedy for leadership abuse is not abandonment of leadership. It is healing and genuine relationship with trustworthy fathers and mothers in Christ, who have proven themselves through their laid down lives (not their demand for submission!) that they are worthy to submit to. This is all regardless of any ecclesiastical hierarchal structure, position, title, or lack thereof. We all must submit to Christ in one another in the fear of the Lord. Christianity cannot be lived biblically or effectively in relational isolation and independence.

[6] Romans 8:26-28

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