8 MAR 2014: MORE ON PRAYER

Elizabeth O’Connor of Church of the Savior, Washington, D. C. wrote that there are three engagements on this “Inward Journey” we all take – self, God, and others. ‘Self’ is first because it is the most difficult. I find that I am in a constant war with myself as I go about my days. While I want to follow Christ to the point that I’m stepping on His heels, the Enemy is trying to bump me out of line. Ephesians 6:12 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. Let that sink in. If I shout out angry words to someone I love or care about, my “fight” is not with that person…..’we wrestle not against flesh and blood’. There is a war going on in the heavenlies for our very souls. So while relationships start out “in the light”, they are not allowed to stand. The enemy will seek them out and bring to bear the onslaught of evil, dissension, deceit, lies, in short – all that creates conflict, brokenness, and despair. The lesson of praying in the midst of conflict came slowly to me. Learning how to anticipate conflicting encounters heightened that urgency for prayer. Our war with ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies’ is not mitigated by ‘diplomacy’. The battle is engaged whether we like it or not. If we ignore it, hoping it will go away, we lose. We are broken. The road back is long & arduous. So, Paul says, “Stand firm”. He challenges us to use the ‘weapons’ of truth, righteousness, readiness – peace driven, faith, salvation, the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. Then he says, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Suddenly prayer becomes an urgent matter. That prayer is initiated by self, placing one within the Silence of God, within His stillness.
Within the Urban Outpost, I’m always astounded by the fraternity that homeless people enjoy. Suffering and pain seem to unite them. They’ve fought the spiritual battles. They’ve experienced hunger, addiction, abandonment, and cruelty. Many of our residents at the Jericho House – http://www.thejerichoprojectrockford.org – have ‘lonely’ etched in deep lines in their faces. The life-line that we stretch out to them is such that they hardly know how to hang on to that rope. It is prayer on the part of our team & our supporters that increases their grip on the life-line. Prayers from many of them are prayers of desperation. But still God uses those prayers to sustain the life of the community in which they live.
The homeless venture into ‘community’ about two times a day – lunch & dinner. These meals are never quiet! This is an animated ‘humm’ about them – lots of smiles and laughter. In a way these times are celebration – celebration of having survived a few more hours to the next meal, having survived the cold of a winter night, having survived perhaps a robbery, an over-dose, or the pains of withdrawal from alcohol and/or drugs. Rarely are there fights or violence where the community gathers. They protect those of us who serve them. For those of us who know them, these gatherings are a celebration of prayer…..not the kinds of prayers with which you and I are familiar. These are prayers of being, prayers of thanksgiving expressed in the smiles and laughter that is heard. Each gathering has its ‘new beginning’. Why? Because, ‘where two or three are gathered, there am I in the midst of them’. Prayer gets us into that community – nothing else. If we are to follow Christ, then God follows us. He sees our path. He watches over our journey.
Continue to pray! In the midst of joy and laughter — pray; in the midst of pain and sorrow — pray. In the face of challenge and obstacles — pray. Never think for a moment that you can win this war ‘in the heavenlies’. Thus, pray without ceasing!
If you care to share a prayer need or concern, let me know!

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