Discerning and Addressing Spiritual Challenges Part 2
Once you become aware that there is a spiritual component to a challenge you are facing, how do you then address it?
The short answer is “Prayer.”
My wife is an intercessor and the foundation of her praying is scripture. She is constantly in the Word looking for ideas and direction on how to pray for me, our children and grandchildren, the church, friends who don’t know Jesus, and whatever else she is led to pray about.
If you are a pastor or praying for a pastor, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are like an extended prayer list.
If you are praying for a church or ministry, Ephesians is a good place to start, but pretty much any of the letters to the churches will work.
And of course the Psalms and the teaching of Jesus is full of fodder to pray for yourself and your situation.
When I pray for people who don’t know the Lord I use Acts 26.18, where Paul is explaining his calling, how he was sent by Jesus to the Gentiles
To open their eyes
Turn them from darkness to light
Turn them from the power of Satan to God
So they would receive forgiveness of sins
And a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus
Those points become a prayer list for those who need to be saved because those are the things that need to happen for them to be saved.
The ultimate prayer pattern is the Lord’s Prayer. Each line is a springboard for a whole area of prayer for whatever situation you find yourself in.
If you are in a leadership role, recruiting prayer partners is very helpful in overcoming spiritual challenges. I typically ask long term friends if they want to be a prayer partner, and if so, they sign up for an email list, which they can also unsubscribe from if they like. It is not a newsletter, it is a prayer letter that I send out once or twice a month.
Just be careful who you recruit as a prayer partner. They need to be very safe people, not the kind who will use information against you or share it with others. Do not recruit someone as a prayer partner as a means of building a relationship with them. The relationship should already be solid. If not, you are actually opening yourself up to even more potential spiritual challenges!
Finally, a few observations on how to prayer. I once read through the entire Bible highlighting every prayer and any instruction about prayer. I noticed that both scripture, and also historical figures used in revival tend to focus on praying FOR what God wants, versus AGAINST the enemy or anyone else. When we ask God to do something according to his Word, it doesn’t much matter if we can describe to him exactly what needs to happen to bring it about- for example “remove this person from office”- because he knows what needs to happen and has ideas we never will have.
One concern I have as I look at current popular ways of praying, especially when we get into this warfare topic, is how much “claiming” and “declaring” flies around and how little asking happens. The ratio is all out of whack especially when I look at scriptural patterns of praying. It’s hard to be humble when you think your declaration is what accomplishes things. But humility is a foundational principle for prayer and spiritual warfare. I sometimes think, after there’s been a gathering that primarily consists of claiming and declaring, along with a smattering of praying against things and people, but little or no asking, that nothing has actually happened. I just don’t see it in scripture.
At the heart of addressing spiritual challenges is personal holiness and healthy relationships. I would say that ground zero in spiritual warfare in a church is the relationships. That is where the battle will often be won or lost. If we are united under Christ we are unbeatable.