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Dressing For Intercession
How to Avoid Holes In Your Armor
Freedom from False Expectations
We learned that Satan tries to "take us out" before we ever get dressed for battle by trying to disqualify us. He does this because our prayers are effective, so he tries to keep us from praying. We learned this is a common strategy Satan uses against intercessors. He does not want us praying because as we build God's kingdom, we tear down his, and he does not like to lose ground.
So, Satan tries to disqualify intercessors in three ways:
The first week we looked at how Satan uses circumstances against us to try and get us disqualified. We saw how he tries to capitalize on our mistakes and make us keep paying for that mistake over and over, but that God will work in the situation for His glory. Then we saw how Satan will use false accusations, causing us to feel misjudged and unfairly treated (even when we've done no wrong). We saw how God will move in the midst of that and vindicate us and restore us to the calling He has for us. Finally we saw that Satan will try to make our ministry look/feel irrelevant to ourselves or others so that we will stop praying and interceding. We saw that our ministry can be quite effective, but it may take a long time before we see the fruit of it. We are to be faithful and continue obeying God. We learned that God will work in the midst of these circumstances to bring His glory into the situation and to assure that we end up in precisely the ministry/calling He ordained for us. The enemy may give it his best shot, but He is not able to disqualify us because God is for us and He will work His glory into each situation!
The second week we examined how Satan will bring difficult situations into our life to try and wear us down. We learned that standing firm in the beginning is easier than remaining standing over a long period of time. We looked at how depression, well meaning (but misunderstanding) friends, and many other circumstances can wear us down and cause us to give up and disqualify ourselves. We saw how even the most Godly people can begin to struggle with inappropriate emotions, including hopelessness, feelings of abandonment and even anger at God.
But even when we do give up and disqualify ourself, God does not disqualify us. He meets us and helps us to get our attitudes back in line with His will for us and His call on our lives. Then He restores all that the enemy tried to steal from us, both materially and in terms of the ministry God has for us. God sets us back in place and we are able to go on for Him and to be effective in the kingdom work He has called us to.
When the enemy's plans to disqualify us fail, he will try to sidetrack us by shackling us with false burdens or unreasonable expectations. This week we will examine his strategy and how God can make us victorious against this attack.
If Satan can't get us disqualified, he tries to put all sorts of expectations and rules and regulations on us that are not of God. We can put so much time and energy into trying to live up to impossible standards (ones that God has not called us to) that we have no time or energy left to do what God has really called us to do.
Satan tries to get us too bound up in other things to serve God effectively. He can do this in many ways. We will look at some of these:
Remember when David felt led of God to fight Goliath? (1 Samuel 17). This was a real physical battle, but it was also a type of spiritual warfare.
David had an interesting past. Even as a youth, he had a heart set after God, and had been anointed as king by the prophet Samuel himself. David had been chosen over all of his older brothers. He was given a call to a very important ministry. But (unlike Joseph), he walked in wisdom and humility while preparing for it. David did not try to step immediately into the call on his life. Instead he went back into working in the family business (herding sheep) and allowed God to develop and train him. God brought circumstances into his life to specifically prepare and equip him for his calling.
Then one day he was thrust into a real spiritual battle. The country was at war and his older brothers were soldiers in the army. David was too young to be drafted. His dad sent him to the war zone to bring some supplies to his brothers and to encourage them. His assignment was fairly simple, he was there in a support role, merely to refresh and encourage the soldiers who were involved in the front line spiritual warfare.
But when David arrived, he found the troops were in dismay and discouraged. He saw the Philistine champion come out and personally challenge God almighty. He saw how the others were terrified of this "giant." But David's eyes were not on the problem, the giant. They were on the solution: God. He was filled with indignation about this flippant attitude against God and about how the soldiers of God would not rise up against it. He began to ask questions: "how is it that you guys are intimidated by this blasphemer?? After all, our God is so much bigger and stronger." You see, the Lord stirred David's faith. He was angry at the enemy attack and could clearly see how God could bring His victory to this situation. God had personally prepared (trained) David for this battle, and David was willing to participate with God in winning it.
News of this got to Saul, who interviewed David. Saul was used to trained soldiers and champions. David did not fit the pattern of what Saul expected. He was too young and too small. So Saul was about to disqualify David, but David shares his training and preparation:
1 Samuel 17:32-37
- David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him."
- Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth."
- But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,
- I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.
- Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.
- The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you."
For whatever reason, Saul became convinced to let David meet this challenge. But Saul was a king and a warrior, and in his mind, there was only one way to approach a battle. So, Saul tried to turn David into a regular soldier, to put his own personal armor on David.
Saul was trying to force David to move in the way he expected him to, instead of the way that God was leading him:
- Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.
- David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off.
Now, it was a very high honor to be given the king's armor. But the armor constrained David. He could not move in it. If he'd gone out against Goliath like that, he would have gotten clobbered.
David was secure enough in his calling from God that he refused the constraints from others and was faithful to what God had called him to and prepared him for. Because David stuck to what God called him to do, he was successful (You all know the rest of this story).
If the enemy cannot disqualify us or get us to disqualify ourselves, he tries to overload us or to put the expectations and constraints of others on us. The intent is to make our prayer time so grueling that we don't want to enter in. He does this by trying to get us to commit to pray for all sorts of things that God has not assigned us to pray for.
Let me share an example from my own experience:
I found out that I was an intercessor one day when I was attending a week long intensive course at Fuller Seminary on spiritual warfare. Peter Wagner was teaching the course. One morning Peter spent an hour teaching about intercession. Before then, I had no clue that I was an intercessor. I assumed that everyone spent 2 to 3 hours per day in prayer and that it was normal to see quick answers to your prayers. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was a spiritual gift and not something that each and every Christian did every day.
I was so surprised that I began to share with my classmates. They responded by loading me down with prayer requests. One came to me with how he desperately needed a job. I prayed for him and with him. The next day he came back to class and shared a praise report of how I had prayed for/with him and a few hours later he was given the job of this dreams. Suddenly everyone in the class (all 125 of them) were coming to me with prayer requests. They all wanted me to commit to pray for them. I faithfully jotted down each request, assuming that if a request came to me, God wanted me to pray for it.
Suddenly my prayer request list was much longer than I could handle. It drove me nuts, but I tried to pray for each request. After a few days, it got so burdensome that I did not even want to go into prayer anymore. Prayer time became grueling instead of a delight. I threw away the list and stopped praying for a while. After a while, I went back to my "comfortable" prayer habits of waiting on God and getting His heart on what to pray. And prayer time came alive again. Then I started to get loaded down with requests again. Yikes! The cycle was repeating. My prayer time turned into going over a list of petitions. Boring. I was not enjoying the prayer time because there was no life in it. In fact, God was not enjoying it either.
I remember this so clearly. Once day I sat down and started mechanically going over my prayer-request list. God asked me what I was doing. I answered that I was praying. He said, "Really? Is that what you call this?"
He paused for a moment and then He said, "Teresa, why have you taken on all these prayer requests that I have not quickened to you?"
"I don't know, Lord." I replied.
"I am not pleased. You see, not only are you wearing yourself out on things I have not assigned you to pray for, you are making yourself so busy that you don't cover the things I really have assigned you to pray for."
At that point, I threw away my list and developed a new policy. When people bring me a prayer request, I will not commit "pray it through" unless God quickens it to me. Instead, I will pray with them briefly when they bring the request to me, then I let it go (don't worry about it again) unless God quickens to me to pray for it.
God released me from all assignments that were not from Him. And that brought the life back to my prayer time.
Do you find that your prayer time is becoming burdensome and you feel weighed down and find it difficult to force yourself to go into intercession? If so, perhaps you are taking on assignments that God has not quickened to you. Go back to Him and ask Him about it. Ask Him to review your prayer time with you. Ask Him to show you anything you are covering that He has not assigned to you. Ask Him to show you any prayer assignments that you are missing. Get your prayer time lined up with HOW He wants you to pray. Then the Spirit and the life will come back into your prayer time.
We must be careful to have God set our prayer agenda instead of allowing others to set it for us. We also have to be careful not to let our own expectations or misunderstandings of what intercession is force us into assignments or styles of prayer that God has not given to us.
Peter Wagner (in that class I took) identified four different types of intercessors, in fact there might be more than four. But I want to share the four that Dr. Wagner identified with you. Each walks out prayer differently. If you are type 3 and you try to pray in type 1's style, you will be frustrated. You need to understand your own gifting and pray according to how God has gifted you. Let's look at these four styles of prayer.
One night I was awakened in the middle of the night with a sense that Doris' life was in danger. My first thought was that I could not pray along those lines, because I did not want to inadvertently curse her. But the burden was so intense that I began to pray intently for her and asked God to spare her life. About an hour or so later, the intensity went away, so I went back to sleep. The next morning I called their office to ask Doris what had happened the night before. I was informed that Doris was in the hospital. She had been fighting for her life from an infection (from a mosquito bite in Indonesia) and had almost died the night before from a fever. The fever broke in the wee hours of the morning, e.g., the same time I was praying), and when I called she was resting nicely and her life was no longer in danger.The personal intercessor is usually not good at praying requests from people who God has not assigned them to. They often need input and feedback from the person they are assigned to cover, though some of them get enough supernatural revelation that they don't need the inputs. This type of intercessor will sometimes get prophetic direction or words for the person whom they are covering. They do best when there is enough relationship with their prayer assignment that they are free to share the divine revelation with them.
It was a Saturday afternoon. I was doing something and suddenly I was aware of God's presence on me. I saw a picture (in my mind's eye) of my pastor driving in a car, stopped at a stop sign. He was waiting to turn right onto a busy street. One car was approaching him and it had its right turn signal on, slowing down to turn. The pastor assumed all was clear and began to turn onto the busy street. But the other car changed its mind, turned off its right turn signal and speeded up. I saw it about to crash into the driver's side door of my pastor's car as he was doing his right turn. An intensity came over me and I prayed for his protection and rebuked any spirits assigned to bring any harm to him. After about 15 minutes the intensity lifted.The prophetic intercessor often cannot make long term commitments to pray for a specific person/thing and usually cannot commit to "pray through" specific prayer requests and usually cannot handle lists of prayer requests. They must come into God's presence and get their assignments directly from God.
The next day at church, the pastor shared from the pulpit how he had almost been in a car accident the day before, describing a scenario very similar to what I had seen in my mind's eye. After service I went up to him and asked him what time that had happened. The "near accident" was about the same time of day that the intensity to pray for my pastor's safety had lifted. God had just graciously confirmed to me that I had heard His instruction right and that my prayer had been effective.
However, the Strategic Intercessor is not good at specific requests or at praying for specific people. They tend to move in a combination of supernatural revelation, discerning of spirits and "doing their homework" (or research in the natural). This type of intercessor is likely to be involved in activities like spiritual mapping and strategic level spiritual warfare.
You may fit into one or more of the above categories. There is not a hard and fast rule that you are only one of the above. But your prayer gifting and style at any given period of time will tend towards one or two of these. If you don't know where you fit and you try to operate in another intercessor's role, you will be frustrated and ineffective.
If you are one who does not get the supernatural revelation of what to pray for and you try to pray as a prophetic intercessor, you will be frustrated because you won't be able to hear God tell you what to pray for and you won't get the supernatural revelation to know when the request is prayed through. On the other hand, if you are a prophetic intercessor and you try to take on and pray through a list of requests, you will become frustrated because you become too busy with the list to press in and hear from God what to pray for.
We need to sit down with God and identify what prayer style He has gifted us with and ask Him to teach us to be effective in it. We must not force ourselves to pray in someone else's style because that is what we think an intercessor is. Instead, we must each learn from God what our own style is and how to be effective in how He has called and gifted us to pray.
Another danger is that the enemy will try to get us to take responsibility and ownership for our prayer assignments at an inappropriate level. He does this to chain us down. You see, it is our responsibility to pray as God quickens it to us to pray. It is God's responsibility to answer the prayers.
Intercessors can fall into a couple of different fallacies. One is that if they did not get the answer they desired, they did not pray effectively. The other is that if they happen to miss a day of prayer and something bad happens to their prayer assignment, they take personal responsibility for it. Both of these are fallacies and we as intercessors should be careful and alert not to fall into them. Ultimately, the responsibility for the situation belongs to God, not to us.
It is a form of pride to think that someone's life or well being revolves solely around us and around our prayers for them. If they are a servant and child of God, then God is committed to take care of them and meet their needs. He likes to use us as intercessors in this process, but He is able to work in the person's life in other ways if we "fall down on the job". For instance, if He needs intercession to cover a given situation and we are not available at that moment, He may raise up another intercessor to cover that situation.
We fall into serious error as soon as we think that God's plans and purposes for a person depend SOLELY and always on us and on our specific prayers for that person.
Let me share an extreme (and sad) example of this.
I knew an intercessor who had a daughter in elementary school. The daughter's best friend developed cancer and was dying. This intercessor felt led to pray for healing for this little girl. (It is not clear that this was an assignment from the Lord. Her own heart may have led her into this because the sick child was her daughter's close friend.) But for two years she prayed daily for this girl, and the girl lived much longer than the doctors originally expected, but she was not getting better, she was slowly deteriorating.
Then the intercessor had a particularly bad week. Everything that could go wrong in her life did. She was caught up in her own personal problems (who would not be) and did not think to pray/intercede that week. The little girl died during this time.
My friend was convinced that it was her fault the little girl had died because she had been too wrapped up in her own emergencies to pray for the girl that week. She lost track of God's sovereignty and decided that the little girl's life revolved solely on her prayers. She felt she had murdered this little girl as certainly as if she'd stuck a knife in her chest. She was consumed with guilt.
To counteract that guilt, she invented a new prayer assignment for herself: to raise that little girl from the dead. Only she forgot to check in with God and see what His will was in this situation. So she went to the funeral home and prayed and nothing happened. The little girl was buried.
Still consumed with guilt, this intercessor could not let go of this. She made it her primary prayer project to pray that this little girl be raised from the dead, come out of her grave and that the whole town would see God's power and glory and be saved. She prayed this way for over a year, and even tried to recruit others to join her on this prayer project. God was not leading her to pray that way: her guilt was. She blamed herself for the girl's death because she happened to be caught up in her own problems and not praying for the girl the week she died. So, to ease her sense of guilt, she invented this elaborate prayer project and poured herself into it. Unfortunately, it was not biblical and it was not an assignment from God.
She wasted a lot of time and energy on a fictitious prayer assignment that was not from God. The really sad part is that while she was doing that, she was missing the real prayer assignments God had for her. She was consumed by false guilt and was miserable. She became bitter and even began attacking other Christians who would not support her prayer project. The enemy had sidetracked her and taken her out of effective intercession.
Don't let the enemy sidetrack you. Don't let him put false burdens on you. Pray as God leads you, but don't assume personal responsibility if He does not answer your prayers the way you expect Him to.
Let me share a less extreme example:
GodSpeak International (the ministry that sponsors the prayer-school list and this course) has a wonderful team of over 20 intercessors who are committed to pray regularly for this ministry and of the ones who work for and lead this ministry. I had a trip to BC Canada, where I served on a ministry team at a healing conference. God came in incredible power and I saw Him do many miraculous healings. I came home to my church, and God moved powerfully there as well. The next day, I was in a fairly serious car accident. I should have been injured much worse than I was. I contacted the intercessors and asked them to cover me in prayer as I seemed to be under attack.
Two of the intercessors wrote me back notes apologizing that the car accident happened. Both had "known" that there would probably be a spiritual counter-attack considering the powerful things God had been doing. But they had not thought to cover me specifically from counter attack. They felt as though they had missed it and that was why I was in the car accident. They both felt a bit guilty about not thinking to pray for me covering me from this type of attack.
It may be that God was teaching them a lesson about intercession and spiritual warfare and counter-attack; He may have been making them aware of how that worked in the spirit world. But I do not believe He wanted them to feel guilty for not thinking of covering me in prayer from counter-attack. The car accident was not their fault.
God does not want us burdened down and chained to specific prayers. He does not want us afraid we might inadvertently "miss it" on a single prayer. He does not want us afraid that a single missed prayer will have disastrous results for His kingdom. God is quite capable of communicating to us and leading us when He needs to mobilize us for prayer. And He is also capable of raising up another intercessor if we don't step up to our prayer assignment on a given day.
God is sovereign and He is in control. He does delight to use us and our prayers to participate with Him in advancing His kingdom. But He does not become handicapped and crippled and have His plans thwarted if we miss one of our prayer assignments. We are to delight in participating with Him in prayer. We must not allow the enemy to take us out with false guilt and inappropriate burdens.
We must put our faith in God, not in our own prayers.
Has the enemy been binding you with the chains of wrong expectations? Has he been trying to force you into a role where you don't fit? Are you tied down with rules/regulations/expectations that you can't possibly live up to? (And that God has not called you to live under)?
Jesus said: (Matt 11:28-30)
- "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
- Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
- For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
God does not want a heavy or unreasonable burden on us.
God wants our prayer time to be spirit and life, not regulations and death. He is present right now to free you from any false burdens or heavy yokes Satan has laid on you. Why not bring them to Him right now and let Him lift any false burdens or false expectations off you, that you may move and pray and minister in His freedom and liberty.