Theme: Keeping the believer out of the prayer closet.
Text: Philippians 4:6, (NASB), “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Ephesians 6:18, (NASB), “With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the spirit and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all saints.”
Two important things that God has given to his church are: The written Word of God (the Bible), that instructs us in righteousness and teaches us his ways. The right and privilege of prayer. The opportunity to lift our needs to the throne of God and receive an answer from him concerning it. In part one of Satan’s Battle Strategy we talked about why he wants to keep the believer out of the Word of God. In part two, we’re going to talk about why he wants to keep the believer out of the prayer closet.
The Word and prayer are linked together. Satan does not want you and I to be students of the Word or to practice prayer on a regular basis. Let me give you three reasons why this is so: In his Word, God is speaking to us. In our prayers, we are speaking to God. Satan wants to disrupt these lines of communication between God and ourselves. In God’s Word, he has promised the believer provisions for living a successful Christian life. By our prayers, those promised provisions are brought into our life to meet our daily needs. Satan wants to keep those provisions of God from becoming realities in our life by keeping us out of the prayer closet. Satan fights against our pursuing Word knowledge, our practicing the doing of the Word and our praying the promises of the Word because he knows, better than many believers, how essential the Word is for effective praying. In the Word of God we are told: What we should pray. When we should pray. What we should pray about. How we should pray. To whom we should pray. Satan’s simple strategy concerning our prayer life is this; if he can keep us out of the Word of God then it’s also highly likely that he can keep us out of the prayer closet too. He reasons that the believer who doesn’t use the Word of God as their basis for praying, probably won’t get their prayers answered. The reason why we won’t get our prayers answered is, because if we’re not in the Word to know the will of God concerning what we are praying for, we will pray with uncertainty. The letter of James tells us that “if we pray in doubt” we are not to expect to receive anything from the Lord. James 1:6-7,
Prayer advice given to us in our two Scripture texts.
There are several things the prayer verses in Philippians 4 and Ephesians 6 tells us we need to do when we pray:
- We are told to pray about everything.
- With thanksgiving
- With all kinds of prayers
- We are to pray at all times, (anytime the need arises.)
- In the spirit (I take this to mean spirit directed praying,)
- With all perseverance (or until the answer comes.) A good rule to follow when praying is to pray until you pray (until you really get serious.) Pray till you’re conscious of being heard. Pray till you receive an answer.
- We’re told to intercede (petition) on the behalf of others.
Now all seven of these prayer instructions are worthy of being studied by themselves, but I want to briefly call your attention to the “all kinds of prayer” that Paul is referring to in Ephesians 6:18,
Have you ever really thought about the many kinds of prayers that can be prayed? There are a number of different kinds of prayers that Scripture has made available to us. There are differing circumstances of life that require different kinds of prayers to be prayed and it is imperative that every believer become familiar with and skillful in every one of them. Let me name a few of them:
- Prayers of repentance
- Prayers of Thanksgiving
- Prayers of worship.
- Prayers of intercession.
- Prayers of personal petition.
Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” This is applicable in the arena of prayer too. To my knowledge, there is only one way to refine our prayer skills and that is through regular practice in the prayer closet.
Prayer closet means, “prayer habit.” It’s having a daily practice of getting alone with God. That is what the prayer closet is all about; practice. It’s about disciplining ourselves to come before God when the Spirit’s wooing calls us to prayer. It’s having a heart that says, “I must get alone with God.
One reason why so many Christians suffer discouragement and depression in their lives is because they don’t have a consistent prayer life.
There are some Christians that pray maybe once a week or whenever they think about it. They come to the Lord in prayer as an after thought or out of conviction or guilt. Some pray only at church and at meals and perhaps a few quick words to God before going to bed, but they have no habit of consistent prayer. They feel no need to really pray until a crisis strikes. When an emergency arises in their life and the situation is really critical, then they are quick to bow their knees and head and pray. I don’t want you to think that I’m knocking desperation and crisis prayers. I’m not! It’s something we all have done and it’s the smart thing to do when bad times come. But when the Lord speaks to us in his Word about prayer closet praying, he has more in mind than just crisis oriented prayers. He wants us to be people who pray about all things with all kinds of prayers. He wants his people to expand their prayer life by practicing the lifting up the variety of prayers spoken of in Ephesians 6.
Have you thought about the awesome power of prayer? Have you ever really considered its far reaching effects? To my great joy, I have discovered that not only can prayer affect my own life, but it is able to have a direct effect on the lives of those around me also. Think about what our interceding on the behalf of others can do. Our prayers can:
- Bless them
- Encourage them
- Change situations
- Change circumstances
- Protect others in times of danger
- Touch lives for Christ
- Affect nations
As I think about this, I’m convinced that there isn’t any place in the world where our prayers cannot touch and affect lives.
Now the devil is fully aware of this truth. He doesn’t like it, but he is aware of it. Is it any wonder then that he purposes to keep us prayerless. His priority is to make sure that our priority is not prayer. It would make him devilishly happy if every believer learned to live their Christian life comfortably with no daily prayer pattern. He’s aware that a prayerless life will never be a God guided life and without God’s guidance coming into our lives each day, we are not going to make much forward progress, if any, in our Christian walk. We are going to do a lot of going in circles. We are going to experience a lot of detours, dead ends and dry holes as we wander around in a prayerless wilderness.
Apart from the Word of God, nothing is more vital to our spiritual growth and development than prayer. What the tap root is to the life and growth of a tree–prayer is to the spiritual life and growth of the believer. A tap root is the main root that goes down deep into the soil along with many smaller branch feeders to supply the moisture and nutrients necessary for the healthy growth of the tree. The deeper the tap root , the stronger and more stable the tree.
The Japanese introduced a tree to the world that is called a Bonsai tree. It is measured in inches instead of feet as other trees are measured. It is not allowed to reach anywhere near its full growth potential but instead grows in a stunted miniature form. The reason for it growing in stunted form is that when it first stuck its head out of the ground as a sapling, the owner pulled it out of the soil and tied off its main tap root and some of its branch feeder roots and then replanted it. By doing this, its grower deliberately stunted its growth by limiting the roots ability to spread out and grow deep and take in enough of the soils nutrients for a normal growth.
What was done to the Bonsai tree by its owner is what Satan has purposed to do to the believer, if he can. He is going to try to tie off our tap root of prayer. He wants to limit our receiving in prayer what God supplies for our spiritual growth.
At the beginning of this teaching, I mentioned that God has promised provisions to his children that will enable them to grow and develop spiritually. Those provisions come in answer to prayer. If we don’t pray–we don’t receive. James 4:2, “You have not because you ask not…” Without these provisions flowing into our life daily to nourish and sustain us, our spiritual growth will be stunted and this is exactly what the devil wants to happen. He wants to see us become what Robert E. Lee calls, Pigmy Pentecostals, Bantam Baptists, Midget Methodist, Puny Presbyterians, Lilliputian Lutherans and Cuddly Catholics who pose no threat to the devil. These are apt descriptions of the people of these denominations who let Satan tie off their prayer tap root.
I want to suggest two ways Satan will come against us in our prayer closet to hinder us in praying. When these two things begin to happen, you know he’s messing around with your prayer tap root.
- Satan will try to weaken our prayer life by appealing to our “flesh nature.” By the term “flesh nature,” I mean that self centered part of us that loves to cater to the comfort and pleasure of this old body. Most of us realize that for us to effectively pray like we should this old body of flesh has got to surrender to the desires of the Spirit. We also know that although the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. Have you noticed that when we set our mind to enter into the prayer closet–our old flesh starts to drag its feet and we find ourselves putting it off as long as we can? Why is this? One reason is because, to the flesh, prayer is work. Praying may require a person to get up early or sometimes stay up late to do it. Our old flesh just naturally rebels against this inconvenience to the comfort of this body.
Another reason is that prayer is spiritual warfare and spiritual warfare is tiring to the flesh. To our flesh, prayer will always seem to be impractical, tedious and a waste of time. But actually the opposite is true. God has made prayer to be to the one who practices it, a relaxing, tension and stress easing, mind refreshing, spirit lifting experience. In prayer there can be found: relief, release and renewal of body, soul and spirit that cannot be experienced any other way. Isaiah 40:31, states this truth with these words, they that wait upon the Lord, (in the prayer closet) shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of an eagle, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint…”
Have you noticed that so many times when we finally do get the old body to bow its knees in prayer, after five or ten minutes into praying, we begin to yawn and we just can’t seem to hold our eyes open? We find it suddenly difficult to keep our mind fixed on what we are praying about. Our mind wants to aimlessly wander off in all directions and even at times, go blank. Just a few minutes ago we were wide awake and alert to everything going on around us and now we’re having a difficult time keeping our eyes open and to think clearly. What’s happening? It’s the enemy coming against us and causing us to struggle in prayer. He’s trying to frustrate us when we go into our prayer closet. He knows if he can cause us to have a difficult time in the prayer closet, praying, we’ll soon give it up. He’s working on our prayer tap root to tie it off.
- Satan will try to weaken our prayer life by endeavoring to give us a “busy mind” when we go into the prayer closet. Have you noticed that when you set your mind to seek God in prayer, that as you kneel — suddenly–out of nowhere it seems, thoughts come floating across you mind of all kinds of little jobs that need to be done and seemingly need to be taken care of immediately. Now these thoughts of jobs to do had not crossed your mind all day, but they are there now parading back and forth vying for your attention.
Let me suggest something to you that might be a great help when this is happening to you. It would be a good idea to keep a little notebook and a pencil handy when you go to prayer. That way, you can write down all those little tasks that pop into your mind when you pray. I can guarantee that you will never recall more clearly all those jobs that need to be done than when you decide to pray.
What is going on? You’re facing what I call Satanic interruptions.” Anytime you set your face to seek audience with the Lord in prayer, the devil is going to throw a wet blanket on the fire of your prayer life, if he can, to try and smother it out. Noises will occur, the phone will ring, people will stop by to visit that you weren’t expecting, even physical discomforts or pains will bother you that you hadn’t really noticed until you are in prayer. The enemy wants to divert your mind on anything except your Heavenly Father.
Let me share with you a Scriptural way to keep the devil and all his interruptions out of your prayer closet when you enter it to pray. It is found in Matthew 6:6, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” The New Living Translation version renders this verse as: “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets will reward you openly.”
Jesus said “When you pray – go into your prayer closet and when you have shut the door–then pray.” In others words, after you have gone into your prayer closet, don’t start praying until you have shut the door to keep out all interruptions. If you leave the door open, distractions will come in and demand your attention. These distractions will cause you to pray half hearted unfocused prayers. Your mind will be drawn to the distractions more than to God. It’s difficult to get an answer from God with that kind of praying.
To “shut the door” is to purpose in your heart that no one or nothing is going to interfere with your time alone with God. Before you start praying, determine in your mind that you are going to stay focused on prayer and then begin to deliberately bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. II Corinthians 10:5, “Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” It takes an intense concentrated effort to get into effective prayer and we can’t do it with a cluttered mind. We need to shut out all thoughts that would cause our mind to drift when praying. We need to be wide awake and alert and focused on what we are in the prayer closet for. We may get by with letting our mind wander when talking with people, but not when we come into the presence of the King of Glory to talk to him in prayer.
Here is another truth that we need to consider about our prayer time. When it comes to praying, God deserves to get our best time. We read in the Old Testament that the altar of God could not be approached with a lamb that was blemished in any way. The people had to bring their very best when they came before God. I ask you. What kind of time do you think we should bring to God’s altar in our prayer closet? Shouldn’t it be our very best time? Shouldn’t it be our wide awake time? Entering our prayer closet should be for the purpose of coming before God with the purpose of pouring out our needs to him. Everything in us is to reach out to him. It’s difficult to do this when we find ourselves putting off and making prayer the very last thing we do before going to bed. More often than not, when we do this, we find ourselves coming to God weary and tired, dragging ourselves into his presence too sleepy-eyed to pray. What we are doing is giving to God the leftovers of our time. That’s not what he wants.
Satan likes to see this happen in our prayer-time. He knows that when we approach prayer with physical and mental fatigue, no earth shattering life changing thing is going to take place that will have effect on his kingdom.
If you can identify yourself with what I’m saying, then a radical adjustment needs to be made in your prayer time. If you will make the adjustments, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your prayer time better and I believe God will be there to answer. I really don’t think he takes satisfaction in a lame half hearted sleepy-eyed last minute type of obligatory prayer being offered up to Him. The Lord wants to feel the force of you fervency in your requests.
I close with this thought. Satan doesn’t want you to know it, but God really enjoys hearing your requests and answering your prayers. All through the Bible, we are encouraged and exhorted to pray. Just look up the words, pray, prayer, and praying in your concordance and you’ll come to the same conclusion I have. It really pleases God to answer our prayers.
Satan would like for you and me to think that we are bothering God when we lift small needs to him in prayer. He wants us to think that what we’re asking God for is not important enough to interrupt the God of heaven because surely God has far more important business to attend to than to listen to our little needs. The truth is…..God is not “bothered” by our coming to him with even our simplest request. He had the Apostle Paul tell us in Philippians 4:6, that “we are to pray about everything.” Jesus said in John 14:14, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Again he stated in John 16:23-24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that you joy may be full.” That doesn’t sound to me like God is “bothered” by any request great or small that we lift to him in prayer. He said, “everything and anything and whatsoever. I am absolutely convinced that God delights in answering prayer. Prayer will change things and prayer will change us.
The devil will try to keep us from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless services, and prayerless saints. But let the believer bend their knees in prayer and the devil will get excited because he knows that God can be touched in prayer. There are four things that we can do that will defeat the devil when we enter our prayer closet to pray.
- Pray persistently
- Pray precisely
- Pray passionately
- Pray with a prevailing attitude
I leave you with this Scripture found in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” This verse reminds me that God is:
- Able to do beyond that I ask.
- Able to do beyond that I think.
- Able to do beyond all that I ask or think.
- Able to do exceeding abundantly all that I ask or think.
And it all takes place in the prayer closet. God expects his people to be people of prayer.