Category Archives: Prevailing prayer

Victory in the Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane was the scene of one of the most magnificent, yet mysterious moments in the passion of the Christ. Passion comes from the Greek word paschein meaning suffering— i.e. the suffering of Christ. Most of that suffering occurred during the last eighteen hours of his life.

Gethsemane was located in an olive grove just across the Kidron Valley on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means “olive press.” This olive press located among the olive trees across from the Temple and the Golden Gate was the place Jesus chose to spend each night during the final week of his life according to Luke 21:37. This was a safe, quiet place out of the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem, but within minutes of the Temple. Here he would rest, talk with his disciples, and pray.

This was the place Jesus chose to go on the night before he would be crucified. This was also the location of a cosmic battle few of us understand. Here Jesus won the battle in prayer that would be played out a few hours later as he was scourged and crucified. Great battles and contests are often won in the mind before they are experienced on the field. There on a stone in an olive grove Jesus went to war in prayer to prepare his mind and soul for what lay ahead.

Most of what took place is a mystery to us. We can’t fathom his grief, his pain, or the extreme pressure that was unleashed on the mind Jesus by the forces of darkness as he prayed. This was the most extreme form of spiritual warfare ever fought. The enemy of our soul always attacks the mind. One of the basic axioms of warfare is: Control your opponent’s mind and you control your opponent. That was, is, and will always be the devil’s modus operandi in every testing and temptation. It works most of the time, so why change?

Jesus responded to this attack in prayer. He did not argue or even mention the enemy. He endured the crushing weight of the accusations, the condemnations, the taunts, and the haunting questions. He fought through the images, the sounds, the smells, and the feelings his impending date with crucifixion would bring as the forces of evil launched an all-out assault on his mind. Jesus told Peter, James, and John that “his soul is deeply grieved to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). Luke tells us Jesus was in so much agony that the capillaries in the sweat glands of this forehead burst and “his sweat became like drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44).

For many the picture is of Jesus kneeling in the moonlight with his hands clenched under his chin praying, but that is an inaccurate image that Scripture does not paint. Prayer was most often done from a standing position, but a careful reading of the Gospel texts imply that during this ordeal Jesus fell down numerous times and then after regaining his feet he would fall again under the pressure of the battle. What Luke describes with the word “agony” is a hand-to-hand wrestling match with an unseen foe whose only goal was to force or convince Jesus to stop short—to quit without accomplishing the Father’s will.

As Jesus prays, “Father, if Thou are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not My will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42), we are not witnessing a struggle between a reluctant will and an obedient will. Rather what we witness is Jesus declaring that the cup from which he is to drink is so revolting—so horrible, yet only because he knows it is the Father’s will he is therefore willing to drink it. Jesus is not asking God to change his will. No! He is asserting that because this is the Father’s will he wants it to be fully done!

Gethsemane is a watershed event. Yet for most of us the only sermons we’ve ever heard centered on a weak group of disciples who went to sleep and failed to pray. We’ve majored on the three times Jesus confronted his sleeping companions. We used it to bring guilt and condemnation on those who don’t pray long or hard enough. Gethsemane is not about apathetic, weak, or prayerless disciples. Gethsemane is about the agony of a Savior as he wars in the heavenlies to destroy the works of the devil and redeem humanity from their sin.

Be careful not to miss the short phrase found at the beginning of Luke 22:45—“And when He (Jesus) rose from prayer. . . .” Those six words alert us to a defining moment in the battle. When the struggle is over—when the hand-to-hand combat is finished, the victor is the only one who rises to his feet. Jesus has stopped praying—prayer time is finished. Why? Because his prayer has been answered—he has won the victory, so he stands up. The vanquished cannot regain his feet because his head has been crushed. The standing position is considered a sign of strength and Jesus is the last one standing!

Gethsemane is not about the failure of the disciples—none of them could secure our salvation anyway. No the focus of Gethsemane is about a powerful Savior who stands victorious!

Keepers of the Flame

A flame of fire is filled with tremendous power. That power cannot be extinguish as long as the fuel lasts, the flame is protected, and oxygen is plentiful. There are few things in existence that can stand against a flame that has all three. But, take away the fuel and the fire dies on its own. Take away the flame’s protection and it can be blown out by a puff of wind. Take away the oxygen and the flame is extinguished by suffocation. To be so powerful, that fiery flame is also extremely sensitive.

So too, is the disciple of Christ. That individual is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. But like fire, that follower must tend the flame of passion burning within or the power will wane and the passion grow cold.

Every believer must learn to feed themselves with God’s Word. The Scripture is like high octane gasoline. Read it, feed on it, memorize it, meditate on it, and apply it, and that fiery passion for Christ will explode. But—a sermon on Sunday or a Bible study every once in a while is not nearly enough. Though important, they will not sustain the flame, and quickly there will be only a few scant embers glowing. There is no shortage of fuel for the fire only a shortage of one’s desire to feed the flame. Fire without fuel dies, and likewise, passion without relationship burns out.

Like the flame, a passion for Christ must be protected. If you persist in this pursuit you will be called a fanatic. Many in the church will try to pour water on your flame to quench the heat you are producing or smother it with a blanket of innuendos or accusations. Protect that passion for Christ, for he is the one who has lit the wick that burns so hot within you. Protect it from the legions that are shamed by its exposing light and must flee from its purifying heat. Protect the flame and tend it carefully—don’t throw this precious pearl to the swine, for they will trample it in the mud. Tend this flame and it will burn hotter and grower higher. Ignore its care and it will be extinguished and emptiness will fill your soul.

As oxygen makes a fire burn hotter, so too the Holy Spirit will take the passion of your hungry heart’s flame from blue to white hot. Surrender to his leadership and he will guide you into places you never thought accessible, into glory unimaginable, and into a relationship with Jesus that is inconceivable, yet all very biblical. It is the Holy Spirit who knows the mind of God, and in our pursuit of God, he alone will reveal the secrets of relationship with God. Give the fire oxygen and it will consume everything in its path. Live life surrendered to the Holy Spirit and he will carry you into places of intimate relationship with God that are indescribable.

The flame was lit by God when you met Christ, but its care rests with you. Feed it, protect it, and give it the holy oxygen it needs and you will find the heart of God. Ignore it, leave its care to someone else, or starve it from the air it hungers for and all you will have is an empty, religious looking heap of ashes.

Destination Israel: The Witness of the Wailing Wall (Part 18)

The Wailing Wall

The Wailing Wall located on the western side of the Temple Mount is the only surviving remnant of the Temple destroyed by Titus in 70 AD. Due to this, it is the most significant holy site for the Jewish people. The Temple was once the center of Jewish life, both secular and religion, but after its destruction, that unifying element was gone. Today, the Temple Mount is home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque and is regulated and controlled by the Muslim community in Jerusalem. The Jewish people do not go onto the Temple Mount due to the absolute holiness of this site and their reverence for it. Thus the Wailing Wall is the site devout Jews go to pray.

The Wailing Wall is divided into two sections for prayer, one for men and the other for women. This same custom has been observed since the first Tabernacle with a separation between the Court of the Men and the Court of the Women. Today, the Court of the Men is located next to the oldest part of the ancient wall hidden underneath an opening to the left of the Wailing Wall that leads back into a cave-like room. Here, out of the sight of camera flashing tourists, you will find the elderly Hasidic Jewish men dressed in black with long white beards rhythmically rocking back and forth chanting prayers from their Hebrew prayer books.

Back on the outside, you will notice thousands of tiny notes rolled up

Prayer Requests in the Wall

and stuck in the Wailing Wall. It is the custom of those who visit the Wall to place their written prayer requests in the wall, believing this is as close to God as a human being can get. The witness of the Wailing Wall is not its proximity to God, but rather it is a powerful place of prayer. Not because it’s as close to God as you can get, but by the sheer number of prayers offered there each day for the peace of Jerusalem and the petition for the Messiah’s return. Both Jews and Gentiles flock to here to pray—pilgrims come from around the world with a desire to petition and intercede at the Wailing Wall.

It struck me while I was there how sacred this place really is when I noticed a sign on a pole as I passed through the check point and the metal detectors. This sign declared: The Divine Presence Rests Here—Please Be Reverent. This conviction comes from the Jewish belief that the presence of God rested in the Temple deep within the Holy of Holies behind the veil over the Mercy Seat. With the Temple destroyed—the Jewish people believe God’s presence still rests here in this area of the Wailing Wall in a special way. God is there—not because of these ancient stones—but because of the incense of the intercession that arises from this place each day.

One day soon, God will answer the countless prayers for the Prince of Peace—the Messiah to return (this will not be His first visit as many who pray there believe—it is indeed His return). The eastern skies will open on that day—maybe today—and Jesus will descend onto the Mount of Olive and the mountain will split and He will walk across the Kidron Valley through the Eastern Gate and enter the Temple Mount at His victorious return. Muslim cemeteries and mosques won’t be able to keep Him away. On that great day, nothing will keep Jesus from His divine destination.

So, today as you pray—join the millions who pray daily for the peace of Jerusalem and the return of the Messiah, and you will be just as close to God as those pilgrims who are placing their notes in the Wailing Wall.

Destination Israel. The Power of Gethsemane (Part 10)

Garden of Gethsemane Olive Treee

The Garden of Gethsemane is one of the highlights and one of the holiest sites for any pilgrim visiting Israel. This ancient olive grove is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives on eastern slope above the Kidron Valley within the walled grounds of the Church of All Nations. It was here in this garden that Jesus prayed while His disciples slept (a situation too often repeated) in those fateful moments just before He was arrested and later crucified.

            This was a favorite spot for Jesus and His disciples when they attended the Jewish feasts and festivals in Jerusalem. They would often spend the nights here—tucked securely away from the crowds seeking miracles and the religious leaders seething with murder. As the sun would set, Jesus would retreat down the eastern slopes of Jerusalem along the winding trail from the Eastern Gate through the valley and into the garden. In the silence of these cool nights, they would talk of that day’s ministry and message, and pray together in preparation for the next. This was the spot were tired bodies found a respite and tired spirits were revived by the Holy Spirit.

            This was the place where Jesus led His intimate band of followers immediately after their historic supper where the last Passover Meal was celebrated and the first Lord’s Supper was instituted. Among these olive trees Jesus left the larger group and took Peter, James, and John with Him a little deeper into the grove to pray. It is likely that some of these very trees (some over 2,000 years old) witnessed the great cosmic battle that transpired as God’s will became the only will worth dying for.

The Rock of Agony

  As you step into the Church of All Nations (also known as the Church of the Agony) the focal point of the church is a huge flat stone that rests inside a short wrought iron fence in front of the altar. It was here that Jesus prayed alone as His three close friends were overcome with sleep. This stone soaked up every droplet of blood that fell from Jesus’ forehead as He prayed and wrestled with the direction of His destiny.  On this rock, the Rock of ages was chiseled into the cornerstone of a new house that Father God was building for His own personal residence.

            In this garden, the second Adam did not succumb like the first to the ancient serpent’s tempting words, “Has God really said…?  And with the victory secured, Jesus watched the torches of the temple guards led by Judas snake their way back and forth down the crooked path from the Temple and awaited the traitor’s kiss that would seal the fate of sin’s deadly dominion once and for all. This secluded garden had just witnessed a prelude in the darkness of what would transpire in the light over the next three days. The Son would rise and the light would overwhelm the darkness.

            The power of Gethsemane is not the ancient trees Jesus knelt under or the stone Jesus prostrated himself on. No—the power of Gethsemane was that simple prayer that shattered the power of hell. A prayer so powerful it echoed back through the portals of time to another garden where one act of self will had set in motion this amazing act of selfless will. The power rests in these simple words uttered by our Lord—“Not my will but Thy will be done!” In that surrender the victory came.

            That power is available for any situation or circumstance you face, but you must surrender and allow the Father to squeeze or press (Gethsemane means oil press) you until like Jesus you confess, “Not my will but Thy will be done!” In that surrender victory will come.

Perception vs. Reality: The Power of a Well Placed Conjunction

Chaos is the name of the world I live in…but the Lord is my shepherd.

All around me swirls a teeming mass of overwhelming need…but I shall not want.

The faces of war—earthquakes—tsunami—famine—disease melt my mind…but He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

The noise is deafening and the demands never end…but He leads me beside still waters.

Rush here—rush there—do this—do that—I’m totally exhausted…but He restores my soul.

My eyes and ears are assaulted by perversion and indecency at every turn…but He guides me in the paths of righteousness.

All cry out for popularity and demand their own way…but for His name’s sake.

Death and darkness shout their claim of victory…but even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Evil is loosed and terror stalks the streets…but I fear no evil.

Loneliness and emptiness poison the masses with despair…but You are with me.

There is little peace and lots of pain…but Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.

The opposition is overwhelming and their attacks withering…but You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

I am wounded, worn out and desperately want to quit…but You have anointed my head with oil.

Overwhelmed and helpless—I am pursued by the dark hordes of hopelessness…but surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

Some days God…You seem a million miles away…but I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Kingdom Prayer: Transformation (Part 6 of 6)

Wow! You look so different. I know what you’re thinking: I can’t see you from where I am in the mist of the world-wide web. I may not know what you look like, but I know what you feel like on the inside. And it’s better to feel good than it is to look good, no matter what the guy used to say on Saturday Night Live. A sense of freedom is springing up, and a transformation is starting to occur in the ground you have invaded and occupied through kingdom prayer.

That is the final phase that must take place for kingdom prayer to reach its fullest potential. That ground, held so long by the enemy, is now being changed. You are now ready to pray “on earth as it is in heaven.” Call forth in spiritual authority the will of God, which is done perfectly in heaven, into the realm you are standing in. Declare that heaven’s perfect order casts out all chaos and confusion. The enemy has been routed, so stop worrying about him, and build something permanent to the glory of God on this peaceful little spot of your life. This is redeemed ground now. The realm of your King has been empowered here. Heaven has come to earth in this one little place. The kingdom of God has not only come near; it has been established in this spot.

This kind of prayer—“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”—radically changes everything it is applied to. It is the full surrender to God of our hopeless independence in exchange for a full partnership of life with Him. If you have completed your invasion, occupation, and subsequent transformation, there has been a change in your form, your appearance, your nature, and your character. You are drastically and dramatically different, and you know it. You have invited the King to be King, and He heard you and established His throne over another area in your life. That area, which was once enemy territory, has now been transformed from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.

This is not rocket science. This is hearing the Word of God and applying it specifically to your life. Kingdom prayer is activating the King’s promises. Enjoy the abiding peace and the quiet calm of this moment. Enjoy it, but don’t think this is it.

When you’ve had time to catch your breath, sharpen your sword and tighten your armor. I hear there’s another invasion happening soon. Grab your gear and load the landing crafts. The word is: The King wants all the territory held by the enemy in our lives. Hang tough. I’ll see you on the beach.

Kingdom Prayer: Invasion (Part 4 of 6)

Obviously, you are no longer crouching in your foxhole or sitting behind the walls of a city under siege. You may be asking, “What do we do now?” The answer is we invade enemy territory through the warfare of prayer. Kingdom prayer expects to take any area, circumstance, or situation held presently under the kingdom of darkness, and transfers it to the kingdom of light. By praying “Thy kingdom come,” we are forcefully advancing the kingdom of God.

Invasion is the forceful entry into a territory with hostile intent for the purpose of taking possession of something. Take an assessment of your life right now. Is there any area where God does not rule? If so that is enemy territory and it must become battleground if you ever intend to conquer it. If you think the devil will wave a white flag without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. You must wade ashore in this area and plant the flag of God’s kingdom. You must go with the hostile intent of taking possession of what is currently held by a well-armed enemy. This may be your marriage, one of your kids, a work situation, a personal struggle, an addiction or habit, or an emotional or spiritual wound. Whatever it is, this territory is flying the enemy’s flag, and in Jesus name that flag must come down.

Whatever the situation is pray “Thy kingdom come,” and place your feet squarely in the midst of the problem and stand firm. This is invasion. The ground you stand on is battleground and must be fought for. You must establish a beach head from which you can move inland. The key is taking the first step out of the dark water swirling around you and planting your feet firmly on the contested ground.

This takes total commitment. There is no giving up at this point. If you do, the enemy will not only take back your foothold, but he will also push you back into the blackness and drown you. If you have a plan B to fall back on, you will not succeed.

You must be focused. This is war—kill or be killed. Your sole purpose is to destroy any enemy that blocks your path with the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus.

As you secure that foothold, you are establishing the rule of King Jesus in that tiny area of your life. From there you will expand the battle and extend His rule. This is where you must begin to use the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6 and stop modeling it like you are in some kind of spring fashion show. The enemy will not give up an inch. You must take it—you must exercise the authority of Jesus Christ and take dominion.

Well, you know what to do. That grinding sound you hear is the door of the landing craft beginning to open. Make sure your sword is ready. When the door drops, scream at the top of your lungs and don’t stop running or swinging until your reach solid ground. I’ll see you later on shore…that is, if you keep praying