Have you ever noticed that we tend to be creatures of habit? We each have a routine we follow before going to bed or getting up in the morning. We tend to drive to work the same way every morning instead of exploring side roads. A woman I know always goes to the right after entering a store to shop. How we approach life often falls into such patterns. This is exemplified in a popular British comedy TV show in which one of the characters always begins a sentence by saying, "No, no, no, no, no." He even does this when his next words are in favor of whatever was suggested. Such personal habits are often described as ruts. Such ruts can be funny, annoying, harmful or neutral. The questions we need to ask ourselves are: "Do we do the same thing with God? Is our spiritual life in a rut? What about our approach to spiritual warfare?”
The answer to these questions is obvious. Since we are, indeed, prone to prefer the familiar, how can we identify our personal "ruts"? Since it often takes someone else to point them out to us, and since such "ruts" tend to be incorporated into the doctrine or practice of groups of people, I'm going to give some examples.
When I first learned about the necessity of spending time with God every day, I was a young mother. I asked around for advice. Someone told me that my quiet time should be first thing in the morning. Since I was usually awakened by a baby crying, demanding attention, that didn't work for me. Someone else told me that each day should begin with having my devotions the night before. I tried that. Alas! With three babies, two still in diapers, I ended up falling asleep in exhaustion. Finally, I did what has since become a life habit. I asked the Lord to show me what would work for my situation. He showed me a verse (which I have not found since) that said, "I am the God of the arising." That was a personal Rhema word that fit my situation. I knew God was telling me He understood so He would wake me when He wanted me to spend time with Him. That has not always been the case, as my life situation has changed many times through the years. But it worked for me then and set my mind at ease. In fact, it caused me to go to bed each night with excitement and expectation of God waking me up in the middle of the night. That was also the beginning of a lifetime of enough flexibility to be called to the night watch of prayer. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. God has made us each unique and with different giftings and callings.
Since the topic of this lesson is "Warfare Prayer," let's look at that specifically to identify some ruts we may have fallen into. We all need to be trained for spiritual warfare just as David was trained for secular warfare (Psalm 144:1, 2 Samuel 22:35). Our national military men and women are trained using set methods with the goal of learning basic skills so they can be flexible enough to handle any situation that might come up. Such skill and flexibility is what enabled our forefathers to win the American Revolutionary War. British forces were used to what had been standard warfare in which the soldiers lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and marched straight toward the opposing army who were lined up the same way. They didn't know what to do when the colonists didn't fight the same way. The colonists often set traps, shot from all directions, engaged in surprise attacks, appeared out of seemingly nowhere, and disguised themselves so they weren't easy targets. Yet when it comes to spiritual warfare in today's climate, many are engaging (and teaching) spiritual warfare much like the British taught secular warfare. Sometimes God may want us to do a sneak attack or engage in a different strategy than we've done before. Here are some examples of spiritual warfare "rules" being taught and practiced that have become ruts.
“Wait for the sound of marching in the Mulberry trees”
This is often quoted from I Chronicles 14:15. But contrast this example with Luke 17:6 – So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Lesson: Sometimes we may need to wait on something supernatural to happen like a sound coming from the trees; other times we may need to just get in there and pull some trees up!
"Judah goes first"
This teaching usually refers to the idea that spiritual warfare should be led by all that Judah stood for. It is taken from Numbers 2:9 - All that were numbered of the camp of Judah were a hundred and eighty-six thousand and four hundred, by their armies. They shall set forth first. This particular verse in context is giving instructions as to how the Children of Israel were to organize themselves as they traveled through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. But once in the Promised Land, God chose Gideon who was not only the least of his family but was from the least family in the tribe of Manasseh, not Judah, to lead Israel against the enemy (Judges 6:14).
"Send the worshippers out into battle first"
This instruction comes from the story of how Jehoshaphat was given victory over Moab and Ammon in 1 Chronicles 20. It has some truth to it simply because, as believers, our entire life and everything we do should be an act of worship to the Lord. But as a spiritual warfare strategy, it doesn't always apply and could be disastrous if carried out in every battle. It worked for Jehoshaphat just one time. We don't see this strategy used in any other battle described in scripture. If we apply this strategy for spiritual warfare every time, why don't we also use the strategy of attaching fire brands between two fox tails (Judges 15:4)? Ridiculous? Of course! And so is the assumption that any particular battle strategy should be followed every time.
"The leader of the church/prayer group/ nation will receive the strategy for war"
This is not always true as the above story about Jehoshaphat's victory shows. It was the prophet Jahaziel who gave the strategy, not Jehoshaphat. In fact, it was the King who not only told the people, "Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets and you shall prosper" (2 Chronicles 20:10). He then went on to consult with the people for consensus before giving the final orders for battle (vs. 21).
Two more examples
The Law said the showbread from the altar was not to be eaten by the common man. Yet the Priest gave it to David and his men when they were hungry (1 Samuel 21:3-6). The Law said don’t work on the Sabbath, yet Jesus allowed His hungry disciples to go into the wheat fields and crack open some grains of wheat on the Sabbath, using the example of David and his men eating showbread (Matthew 12:1-5).
Are you getting the picture? It's not that worshipping first is wrong or that a pastor or ministry leader can't or shouldn't receive strategy. The point is that we need to realize that such protocol is not a requirement. How we do what we do can and probably will differ, at least from time to time. It all depends on what God wants, not what worked in the past for us or anyone else. We can't just pick and choose to do what we want when it comes to warfare strategy - or anything else. Many of God's instructions are foundational and set in concrete. Nevertheless, God is a God of variety. He's always creating. He likes to make stars, planets, people, snowflakes, kittens and fingerprints. Yet none of them are identical. He is infinitely creative. So it is with patterns, plans and strategies for our prayer lives and for how we are to deal with our physical, emotional and spiritual issues. It's the same for spiritual warfare strategies. Interestingly, when you study each of Jesus' recorded healing miracles, you will find that He never healed exactly the same way twice. Neither should we go into a spiritual battle with what worked yesterday. We need to get direction from God EACH TIME and be open to His variety.
One Saturday night we had a special concert at our church at which a man and his wife sang beautifully. During one solo in particular, the anointing of God fell on the man as he sang, making the number powerfully moving. It was awesome as the Presence of God filled the auditorium. The next morning the pastor asked him to sing it again, expecting the same result. It didn't happen. In fact, the song fell so flat it was a prime example of futility and left the congregation disappointed. We don't want that to happen to either our personal times of prayer or any prayer assignment we may engage in. So, watch out for the ruts in your life and in your spiritual warfare strategies. Always . . .
WAIT FOR GOD'S SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS:
· ASK HOW
· ASK WHERE
· ASK WHEN