40 Days of Prayer | July - August
The Place we Find Ourselves
Yesterday in our Sunday service, we spent our time in Mark 9.14-29. In this passage, Jesus responds to the pleas of a faithful Father and heals his demon-possessed son. His disciples had attempted to help the boy while Jesus was on the mountain. Earlier, these same disciples had been authorized and empowered to "cast out demons" by Jesus (Mark 3.15; 6.6.7) but could not help this particular boy. The disciples privately asked Jesus why they could not cast out this demon. Jesus responded by saying, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer."
In these last days, we find ourselves living in very chaotic and confusing times. Every morning I wonder what new crisis or conspiracy theory will dominate the news. Despite the best efforts of our "best" people, no one can seem to figure out or fix what is broken in our society. The increasing uncertainty about our world is giving rise to an increasing amount of anxiety and confusion. Seeking to alleviate these feelings good meaning brothers and sisters counsel us to "listen to this podcast" or "watch this video" or "read this blog." Some of these suggestions may be helpful in bringing peace, others are likely harmfully giving rise to even more fear.
I am surprised that rarely, if ever, our best or first counsel to one another includes: You should pray.
I wonder if we are not quick to pray, or instruct others to do the same, because it feels so passive--like we're not "doing" something. Prayer is, without doubt, doing "something" but it is probably better understand as a confession of our inability to do something. Primarily, prayer is the means to commune with God, to draw close to Him, to depend on Him, and to be changed by Him. In many ways, prayer is a tangible confession of our weakness and a supplication for God's strength. Prayer is a humble acknowledgement that we can't figure or fix what is happening; it is an act of submission to God's sovereignty in pursuit of God's peace. When we pray, we are asking God to shape our perspectives, to guard our mouths, to guide our actions, and to change our hearts if necessary...because it is.
Our nation, and even our church is more divided politically, socially, racially, and spiritually than I ever seen in my generation. If the place we find ourselves in is the "kind" of situation that cannot be changed by anything but prayer, then podcasts, videos, blogs, and books will do nothing to truly heal our land of it's spiritual sickness. We must pray.
Let us pray together for 40 Days
The Bible uses the number 40 symbolically. It is used to designate important time periods in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (e.g. Noah/Flood, Moses intercession, Temptation of Christ, etc.). Mentioned 146 times in Scripture, it is generally recognized as a symbol of a period of testing, trial, or probation. There is nothing "magical" about 40 days, but there is something valuable in seeking God's face for a specific time and a specific reason expectantly.
The elders are asking the church to pray with us every day for forty days in the Spirit of 2Chronicles 7:14: ...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Set your alarm or calendar to pray at 7:14AM each morning as a reminder if that helps. This doesn't have to be a long prayer, just a consistent one. If, as the apostle Paul teaches, our battle is NOT against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this present darkness (Eph. 6.10-20), then continual prayer is our best weapon! In addition to whatever prayers you might normally offer to God, we are inviting the church to pray for/against the following specific spirits over the next forty days:
Pray for a spirit of unity and against the spirit of division
We are divided. According to 1Corinthians 11.17-19, this is to be expected. But Ephesians 4 calls us to make every effort to seek unity, to be peace-makers not just peace-keepers. Let us not use secondary disagreements "conscience" as an excuse to judge (or separate) but opportunities to welcome in love (Romans 14.1-12). Unity is possible in so far as we have the mind of Christ and consider others more important than ourselves (Phil 2.3-5).
Pray for a spirit of wisdom and against a spirit of deception:
There are many who believe that there is a "spirit of deception" plaguing the world. Depending on what is meant, this is probably true in some sense. At the same time, we are also often "self-deceived." Those who claim there is a "spirit of deception" are often blind to their own blindness. The prayer is that our perceptions, opinions, and actions will be governed by the truth, namely, the Word of God.
Pray for a spirit of humility and joy and against a spirit of rebellion or grumbling:
There are plenty of things to complain about. Some of these things are irritating and others are downright disturbing. yet, from a prison cell Paul reminds us to "Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life." (Phil 2.14-16). Insteading of pridefully proclaiming the evils of everything we disagree with, let us be characterized as a people who are slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry. Humility is not the same as passive suffering, it is actively submitting in expectation of exaltation. Pray that, like Christ, we will rejoice in humbling more than in rebelling.
Pray for a spirit of compassion and against a spirit of indifference:
Throughout the gospel of Mark, Jesus has proven to be a man of compassion. The word speaks to a gut-level empathy for the lost, wounded, and weak. This prayer is for an increase in our empathy towards especially--a call to weep with those who weep. More specifically, it is a prayer to be evangelistic, to see yourself as an ambassador of hope, to be loving. It is a prayer against indifference, against abdication of mission, against unkindness. We all have fleshly reasons as to why I can't love __________. But as former enemies of the cross, let us love the least of these as Christ loved us. There is no greater moment in our lives when people need the words of hope.
Pray for a spirit of healing and against a spirit of disease:
We will unapologetically and expectantly pray that God removes the disease that now plagues our land. In many ways, this plague is too much for us to handle, too much for us to stop. As Jehoshaphat prayed in 2Chronicles 20.1-12ff: "For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Simply, our prayer is that God will eradicate this virus and restore health again.
There are certainly more spirits to pray for and against. These are a few important ones. We hope you will join us in this 40 days of prayer for these five things. We will "officially" begin this period of prayer on July 14th and end on August 22 We look forward to learning how God answered these prayers in your life individually and our community collectively. We are hopeful that more of our brothers and sisters will choose to gather with us again as the Summer continues. Please know that your presence is an encouragement to all, and your prayers, when absent from one another, are even more so. Grace.