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When we pray, we also need to be alert and ready. This means simply just keeping your eyes open and being aware of what is going on, always watching, always aware. We need to always be conscious that the enemy is always there. Our adversary is like the prowling lion, seeking to devour. Make sure that you are always open to what God is saying and what God is doing. It is an attitude of the heart.
I remember back in the early '80s, I was pastor of a church in Washington state. Some of my members were serving on the Trident nuclear subs. One day they asked me if I wanted to take a tour. I said, yes, I would love to. So we get out there and they walked me through all of the security, and there was a lot of security. As you go, you meet this guard and that guard along the way. When you finally get out there, the sub is three football fields long, more than 900 feet long. It has 23 silos they can shoot nuclear warheads from anywhere on the earth underwater. And as you are going in, what caught my attention were the guards. They were Marines, and they had a staring problem. They stared at you as you came -- they looked at you up and down as you came by. This makes a person feel a little self-conscience. These guys do not smile. They were lined up with their weapons and were watching and looking around continuously. I was amazed by that. And whenever I think about prayer, that is the image that the Lord continually brings back to my mind -- the guards who are looking out. Everything that comes by is suspect and in question, as if to ask "Are you the real thing or not? I don't care who you are traveling with, I am going to keep my eye on you." All the time they are looking at everything in the area they are posted to guard.
That is the way we are to be in prayer. Always looking, always aware, always conscious of what is going on. We must be sensitive to the Spirit and what the Spirit is saying. Some of us need God to knock us on the head to hear the Spirit talk to us. We are walking along and all of a sudden bang! It is like the Lord is saying, "I'm trying to get your attention. Hello? Wake up."
God shouldn't have to work that hard to talk to us. He wants us to be so sensitive that He doesn't have to knock us on the head to get our attention. He wants us to see, to be aware and to perceive that the enemy is there. He wants us to know the next step to take. And He wants us to pray with tenacity, with perseverance, hanging in there and not giving up.
Do you ever get tired of praying for other people? Let's be honest -- I do. I admit it. There are times that I say, "Lord come on, are we done with so and so yet?" I mean every once-in-awhile it just comes out. "Can we just skip this one today?" But we can't ever give up, we can't ever quit, we can't ever stop, and we can't get too tired. Jesus would say this, in Luke 18:1: "Show them that they should always pray and not give up." God doesn't want us to give up. God wants us to hang in there. He wants us to stay there. And we don't know what all God is doing. We need to keep on praying until God breaks through.
One time Daniel was praying and fasting. And all of the sudden he looked up and there is this angel standing in front of him. Daniel chapter 10 describes this angel, and no one other than Daniel saw the angel. They knew the presence of the Lord was too strong and they responded by running away. Then the angel spoke to Daniel and said this, "Don't be afraid Daniel. Since the first day that you began to pray and ask for understanding and humble yourself before your God, your requests have been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer." Now how long was Daniel praying before that happened? It was 21 days. "But for 21 days, the spirit of the prince of Persia has blocked my way, then Michael, one of the archangels came to help me. And I left him there with the spirit prince of the King of Persia."
So there was Daniel, praying intensely and fasting. He prayed for 21 days (three weeks), and nothing happened. How would you be with that? About the third day you are fasting. After seven days you begin to ask, "Oh Lord what is wrong? Why aren't You breaking through?" We don't realize what is going on when we pray. Daniel was praying, but he didn't know what was happening. But as he began to pray, God sent angels and said "Go." And the king of darkness came up and they were fighting. And Michael, the archangel, came with his big sword and began whooping on the demons. And they were fighting back and forth and finally this messenger got through.
Meanwhile, what is going on with Daniel? He is just praying. "Oh Lord, do something, sometime, please. Just please come through."
We don't see all that takes place when we pray. Sometimes we say, "God I don't see anything. Are you hearing this prayer? Is anything happening?" You go to your backroom into your prayer closet and sit in your little chair and you begin to pray. "Lord, just come through. Please help me Lord." You are not feeling anything and you are not seeing anything. But up in the heavens God says, "Legion 475, get your guys together and go to take on that demon down there." They go and the demons say, "No you can't have that," and they battle. Michael the archangel comes and Gabriel is trying to get through. And all this fighting is going on and you are back in your prayer closet. "Thank you God. Thank you Jesus." And you walk away thinking, "Did anything really happen back there? Did anything take place at all? Why am I doing this? I'm getting tired. I'm getting discouraged." And we don't see all that is getting released in the heavens whenever we pray. We don't usually understand all the power, all the angelic hosts that are being dispatched when we pray. It happens even if we don't see it. Don't underestimate that power of prayer.
Don't underestimate what you have available to you. It is a weapon in your arsenal. And when we pray we have to pray with great tenacity. We have to hang in there. We can't quit.
Do you know what we do sometimes? We pray until we get to a tolerable level. We have our pain tolerance. When it is too bad, what do we do? We pray to God and we cry out to God. Then what happens? It lightens and lessens and it gets tolerable. What happens when it gets tolerable? You quit praying. Until all of the sudden your pain level goes up. Now I've got to come pray some more. "Oh God this is so terrible. Help me Please Jesus, please." Then you get back down to a tolerable pain level. It's not very good, but it is better than what it was. And you say, "I can handle that. I can tolerate that for a little bit." Right?
When Israel complained, "God these task masters are so bad. They oppress us, they kill our babies" God sent them Moses. Were they excited to see Moses? No. The deliverer had come, and they said, "Well, who are you?" Moses said, "God sent me, I am the deliverer." And did you know that God had to increase their pain level a little bit just to make them want to get out of Egypt?
Sometimes God does that with us. He may increase our pain tolerance to bring us to the place of deliverance. We want relief, God wants deliverance. We pray for our nation, "God change it." And if all that we got was a little bit of relief, we would quit praying.
God keeps it just intolerable. I don't mind that. To be honest with you, we have more people now that are at a place of uneasiness in our nation than any other time that I have been alive. There is no security. All of our security has been exposed as being false. So what are people doing? They are freaking out. Someone opens an envelope and little white powder comes out and he screams, "Anthrax! Spray me down!" A man on an airplane opens a birthday card and those little glitter things fall out and they shut down a plane because of it. People are freaking out.
I know that it bothers some of you. It doesn't bother me. I don't mind keeping people a little uneasy, on their edge. I don't mind that little fear rising up. Otherwise they won't turn to God. And God is interested in getting people to heaven. Are we clear on that one? Do you understand that God will allow whatever it takes to get people there? Hell is a long time. Heaven is a long time. God wants them to spend that time with Him in heaven. He will do whatever it takes to get their attention and to keep them on the edge. I don't look for peace to come over the nation. I look for edginess to come over the nation. And I believe it is going to drive people to God. It already has. And it will increase.
But keep in mind that God has a bigger plan in mind. God simply wants to get our attention. He's doing a good job. God wants each nation to have revival. God wants each nation to know Him. God is readying us for that day and that hour to get us ready for Him.