Have you ever been so exhausted you don’t think you can make it to the weekend? Has money been so tight, you don’t know if you can pay bills? Have you lost someone close to you? Are you always worrying about the unknown? Does life seem unfair?
If you’re anything like me, you could say yes to a few of those questions, if not all of them. Stress, worry, sadness, and so many other emotions are constantly trying to take away your joyful existence. Life is tough, and God promises that it will continue to be because of sin’s entrance into the world. As you conquer one problem, another one arises. It’s unfortunately inevitable. So how can you handle all that life throws at you? Well you’re in luck. I have one simple solution for you: pray.
Over the years, I have always struggled with giving things over to God. I want to be in control of everything in my life. I don’t want help figuring life out. But then it dawned on me.
I can’t heal my family and friends suffering from cancer. I won’t ever be able to conquer life 100 percent the way I want to. I will never have a peace about the future because the future will always exist. At one point, I realized I am worrying, stressing, and stealing my own joy in attempts to be more powerful than the Person who created me.
The enemy was strategically and specifically using my worry, stress, and unhappiness about my trials to distract me from God. And I let him time after time. Thankfully over time, I finally understood how much easier life would be to give these trials over to the Almighty God. Our God is fearless and strong. As a believer seeking God through prayer, we will become fearless and strong with Him by our side.
Have the bad things in my life dissolved because I started praying? Definitely not. Will they ever? Absolutely not. But these trials have definitely gotten easier to accept and overcome through prayer. Giving your requests up to God, who hears you, loves you, and fights for you, will give you a greater peace than anyone else—including yourself—ever could.
I challenge you to assess your praying. A great place to start this process is by reading Battle Plan for Prayer, a companion book the new movie War Room.
I urge you to read Battle Plan for Prayer, and I pray that every word will encourage you, cause you to evaluate yourself, and invoke a passion for prayer. Buy it for a friend that you know needs to rely on God through prayer as they go through a difficult trial.
In addition, B&H Publishing wants you to experience a deeper prayer life. And because of that, we are giving away 200 FREE copies of Battle Plan for Prayer.
Comment to get an addition entry to the giveaway by answering this question:
In what ways would you like for your prayer life to grow?
ENTER TO WIN HERE
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Fervent: A Woman's Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer
by Priscilla Shirer
Learn More | Meet Priscilla Shirer
Just so you know what you’re getting into . . .
By the time you’ve finished reading (and working)through this book, the front cover shouldn’t be able to closeneatly back over on itself. It should be noticeably disfigured.Ski-ramping up from the spine at such a scooped angle thateven if you laid an old-school telephone book on top, youstill couldn’t smooth out what’s become so harshly, permanentlymisshapen. From heartfelt use. War torn. An impossibleoption for regifting at Christmastime.
I’m expecting grass stains. Ink smears. Dog-ears. Battlescars. A few of those little wrinkly circles that form on thepage when an accidental drop of tea, if not a tear escapingfrom your eye, spills across two or three lines of text.Unmistakable signs that you’ve been here and been involvedhere, invested here.
I want pages ripped out and written on. The edgestattered and the corners curled. I want your kids afraid totouch it without using plastic gloves. Perhaps even the saladtongs.
This book is just not meant for pretty reading. It’s not forcoffee-table curiosity and other such cameo appearances.Think of it instead as industrial-grade survival gear. Ducttape and superglue. Leather straps lashed around it. Oldshoelaces maybe. In tight double knots. Whatever it takesto keep it all together.
Because this is war. The fight of your life. A very realenemy has been strategizing and scheming against you,assaulting you, coming after your emotions, your mind, yourman, your child, your future. In fact, he’s doing it right thissecond. Right where you’re sitting. Right where you are.
But I say his reign of terror stops here. Stops now. Hemight keep coming, but he won’t have victory anymore.Because it all starts failing when we start praying.Now if you want a book about prayer, this one’s probablynot for you. You can find some wonderful books on prayerby some scholarly writers, books that are well worth thetime spent reading them. In fact, I highly suggest you do.Can’t really learn too much about prayer, can you But here,in these pages, we aren’t going to merely talk about prayer orthink about praying.No.
Because life is just too impossible otherwise—yours,mine, everybody’s. We simply don’t have the luxury of playingnice with prayer. Not if we want things to change. Not if wewant to be free—from whatever’s keeping us held down andheld back. Not if we want our hearts whole and thriving anddeep and grounded . . . different. Not if we want to reach ourdestinies and experience God’s promises. Not if we want ourhusbands and children living out what God has called themto do and be and become. Not if we want a fence of God’sprotection around us. Not if we want to bear the unmistakablemark of His favor upon us. Not if we want the devil andhis plans to go back to the hell where they came from.
But none of that is going to happen—no matter howbadly we may want it—as long as prayer remains an afterthought,a formality, a mindless mix of duty and manipulation,something we do but usually don’t do, and rarely if everdo with any meaning and vitality, with confidence and clarity.As a result, we waste a whole lot of years, doing a wholelot of other things. Things that thoroughly exhaust us butultimately don’t work. We end up, for all our trying, missingthe point, missing out on what God intended, missing thewhole heart of what really matters. So now we’re going topray specifically and strategically.
Praying with precision is key. When we pray about theplaces where we seriously suspect the enemy is at work—that’s how we keep our prayers focused, not only on particularsituations but on biblical truths that are consistentwith maintaining victory in the midst of them. It’s how ourpraying stays integrated with reality, rather than aimlesslywandering down a side, spiritual hallway that never seemsto connect with the living room, where we, you know . . .live. It’s how we keep our whole selves engaged and alert,trusting God for the right things, confident He’s givingthem, able to sense His direction about what to do and thento take action accordingly.
If all we’re doing is flinging words and emotions in alldirections without any real consideration for the specificways the enemy is targeting us and the promises of Godthat apply to us, we’re mostly just wasting our time. We’readding to the confusion while not really making a noticeabledent in the problem or the process. We’re fighting to keepour heads above water, yet feeling pretty sure on most dayswe’re fighting a losing battle.
Well, part of that idea is right: WE ARE in a battle.
A battle with a long history that reaches back before theannals of time began. But it’s one in which the victor hasalready been determined. A battle, yes. But a losing battleNot. Even. Possible.
And prayer is our not-so-secret weapon in the fight. I’deven venture to say, our most potent one.
I’m willing to admit, right up front, there’s an undeniable,unknowable, invisible mystery to prayer. That’s whyour first reaction to it often leans toward dismissing it,downplaying it, devaluing its critical importance. Prayer,we think, is a good idea in theory, if only it actually didanything or made a difference. But here’s the deal. Despitewhat we may or may not understand about prayer, God hasdeliberately chosen this particular vehicle as the one thatdrives His activity in people’s lives. It’s what He allows usto use to cooperate and partner with Him in the fulfilling ofHis will. He’s created prayer as a primary way of putting usinto personal contact with Him and with His eternal realities,any hour of the day or night.
So as we begin to grasp its significance, and as we practiceimplementing this incredible power tool He’s placed inour hands, He divinely positions us—even a little life likeours—in His grand purposes for the ages. Through the connectivetissue of prayer, He cracks open the door that makesus at least a small part of how these massive plans of His aretranslated into the lives of people we know.Including ours.
Prayer is the portal that brings the power of heavendown to earth. It is kryptonite to the enemy and to all hisploys against you.
That’s why you and I need this book. That’s why thisintersection of our life journeys in these pages is so crucial—not because of what I’m writing but because of whatwe are going to be doing with our time together—and whatour God is going to be doing as a result.
You and I, once we’ve gotten just a little betteracquainted, will begin actively crafting some prayerstrategies tailor-made for your victory. We’re going to do itby touching on the areas of your life that the enemy is targetingthe hardest—the bulk of what frustrates you, worriesyou, defeats you, exasperates you, angers you, taunts you,deflates you, and sometimes makes impossible demandson you. And if you come to a chapter that doesn’t seem tostrike a red-hot chord with you now, read it anyway, becausesooner or later it will. And then, at the end of each chapter,you’ll compose a strategy of prayer in regard to your ownlife in that particular area. Then with your personalizedprayer strategies in place—yanked right out of this book(did you notice the perforated pages in the back)—thenposted where you can regularly see them and read themand launch them against the enemy’s most well-disguisedhideouts—you’ll be able to fight back as hard (and harder)than the one who’s fighting against you.
Strategies Yes. Because as you may have noticed, thebattles your enemy wages against you—especially the mostacute, consistent ones—possess a personality to them, anintimate knowledge of who you are and the precise pressurepoints where you can most easily be taken down.
Random accident Lucky guess I don’t think so. Theseareas of greatest fear and anxiety in your life are clues tosome important spiritual information. They reveal, amongother things, that a personalized strategy has been insidiouslyput in place to destroy your vibrancy and render youdefeated. It’s been drawn up on the blackboard by someonewho knows where you live and whom you love, knows yourcustomary tendencies, and knows from long experience howbest to exploit every single one of them. And maybe up untilnow, it’s been working.
But I assume, by your presence here, that you’re sick ofthat. I know I most certainly am. Sick of losing these dailybattles of mine. Sick of watching things deteriorate aroundme, as well as in the lives of those I care about. But what I’mbeginning to understand is that I can’t just go barreling intothis fight blindly. I can’t just throw something up againstthe wall and hope it sticks. I need a plan. Just as you needa plan. A strategy for war.
And funneled through the experiences outlined in thisbook, as well as through the specific work of God’s Spirit inyour life and (most importantly) the living power of God’sWord, a number of personal prayer strategies will begin todevelop. You’re going to march out of here with some battleoptions that will not only help you deflect every assaulttrained against you but will allow you to actively advanceagainst them—against scrappy, tenacious opposition. You’llbe able to tread across stretches of high-voltage ground thatyou’ve never known how to navigate before, places that havealways seemed too impossible to figure out. Through prayeryou’ll not only be able to defend yourself from incomingsniper fire but through Almighty God will be able to pushinto enemy territory and take . . . stuff . . . back.Trust me, it can happen.
It will happen.
But not by happenstance. God’s plan for you is to moveyou into a position of impact by infusing you with truth andemploying you in prayer. You don’t need to be a genius todo it. You don’t need to learn ten-dollar words and be ableto spout them with theological ease. You just need to bringyour honest, transparent, available—and, let’s just say it—your fed-up, over-it, stepped-on-your-last-nerve self, and beready to become fervently relentless. All in His name.
At the end of the day, the enemy is going to be sorryhe ever messed with you. You’re about to become his worstnightmare a million times over. He thought he could wearyou down, sure that after a while you’d give up withoutmuch of a fight.
Well, just wait till he encounters the fight of God’sSpirit in you.Because . . .
This.Means.War.Opening in Prayer
To anybody else this photoprobably wouldn’t meananything. No one would paya lot of money or give largeamounts of their attentionto it. It wouldn’t be to themthe personal treasure it is to me. Because to them, it’d bejust a photo. A random image.Of two hands.
One of the hands, as you see, is wrinkled and worn.Visibly older. A couple of the nails are a bit bruised and tattered.There’s no jewelry to adorn any finger. And no realattempt at cosmetic touches. It’s just plain. Simple. Strongand storied, yet nobly, humbly feminine.
The second hand in the picture, lying just overtop thefingers of the first, is much younger and smoother. Brown—same color as the other, though with a skin texture that’sstill evenly composed and supple. Nails fairly neat and a tadmore youthful. A ring on the fourth finger. Together, they’rea quick portrait in chronological contrast.
But what I really love about this picture is what’slying beneath these two hands. That old spiral notebook.Grocery-store quality. A dollar forty-nine, plus tax, on sale.No expensive leather binding or intricately designed, acidfreepaper. Just a fourth-grade composition book with wideruled,lined sheets and a plastic-coated cover.
And yet within those pages, bound by thin, metal ringsslightly mashed out of shape by the pressure of frequentuse, are the vast treasures of a living legacy.
These two hands—older and younger—belong to agrandmother and her granddaughter. And this spiral-boundfiling cabinet contains a grandmother’s prayer requests—written out, printed off, and prayed over, during her dailyappointment with Jesus. She meets with Him the way she’dmeet with any important friend—faithfully, personally,punctually. And in those early morning moments, she opensup this book of prayer and vocalizes her needs to Him, aswell as the needs of others—requests she’s been quietlygathering amid her daily dealings.
These two women, though separated by several decadesof life experiences, go out together occasionally on littleafternoon dates. And since a ninety-five-year-old metabolismcan afford to indulge a predilection for McDonald’sFrench fries and vanilla milk shakes, that’s their usualouting. They drive through for a batch of that salty-sweet,hot-and-cold combination, then they meander randomneighborhood streets, windows down, while the lip-smackingpassenger munches to her heart’s delight. But it’s also inthese moments, between her grandmother’s swallows, whenthis grown grandchild seeks to absorb the treasured wisdomfrom nearly a century of holy living.
Recently on one of these fast-food sprees, when thesubject of prayer came up, the younger asked the olderwhy she wrote down her prayers in a notebook like that.Then she waited, even pushing the “record” button on heriPhone, hoping not to miss a word of what she knew wouldbe a long, deeply spiritual answer—one she’d never want toforget and could pass down in her grandmother’s own voicefor generations to come.
They glanced at each other. No one spoke for a fewmoments. Another french fry. Long gulp of milk shake.Then came these understated words:
“So I won’t forget.”
Hmmh. And there you have it. The message of thiswhole book in one simple phrase. Straight from the tenderlips of a godly grandma. You write out your prayers so you“won’t forget” . . .
- won’t forget who the real enemy is
- won’t forget the One in whom your hope lies
- won’t forget your real need and dependencies are
- and later, won’t forget the record of how God responds
Through intentional, deliberate, strategic prayer, yougrab hold of Jesus and of everything He’s already done onyour behalf. It’s how you tap into the power of heaven andwatch it reverberate in your experiences. It’s a key part ofyour offensive weaponry against a cunning foe who prowlsaround and watches for your weaknesses, your vulnerableplaces, for any opportunity to destroy you. In prayer you gainyour strength—the power to gird yourself with armor thatextinguishes every weapon your enemy wields.
Paul the apostle famously said it like this:Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be ableto stand firm against all strategies of the devil.(Eph. 6:11 nlt)
There’s that word again. Strategies. Schemes and deceptiveplots being concocted for your demise by a very realenemy who is always primed to make his next move. Heworks overtime to destroy the relationships and circumstancesyou want to preserve. He laughs at your attempts tofix your own issues with timely words and hard work—tacticsthat might affect matters for a moment but can’t begin totouch his underhanded, cunning efforts down where the rootissues lie, or up in those spiritual “heavenly places” wheresuch physical weapons were never meant to work. “For we arenot fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies—”
- “but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseenworld,”
- “against mighty powers in this dark world,”
- “and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
So we strap on weapons that work—weapons divinelyauthorized for our success in spiritual warfare: the belt oftruth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace.Then we take up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation,as well as the sword—the very Word of God. But we don’tstop there. Because neither does Paul in his description ofour spiritual armor in Ephesians 6—
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for allbelievers everywhere. And pray . . . (vv. 18–19 nlt)There it is. The fuel that drives everything. Prayer. Wepray till our hands are worn and wrinkled. We pray untilour granddaughters are old enough to understand and learnand copy our example. We pray until they can one day placetheir hands across ours, gently rubbing our aging skin, andwe smile because now they’ll never forget the things wehad the good sense to record in writing for their generation.
They will look back on our legacies and know we stoodstrong, fought the good fight, and finished a race in whichwe would not even think about letting the enemy have hisway in our lives or in the lives of those we love.
We pray because our own solutions don’t work andbecause prayer deploys, activates, and fortifies us againstthe attacks of the enemy. We pray because we’re seriousabout taking back the ground he has sought to take from us.
That’s what we do. And I hope it’s what you do—orwhat you’ve come here to be renewed in doing. But make nomistake, this enemy will seek to discourage you from doingit. Dissuade you. Disarm you by putting a distaste for prayerin your mouth. He wants to see you passionless, powerless,and prayerless. Quiet. And because prayer is the divinelyordained mechanism that leads you into the heart and thepower and the victory of Christ, he knows you’ll remaindefeated and undone without it. Tired and overwhelmed.Inching forward but mostly backward. Trying to figure outwhy the hope and enthusiasm you feel in church doesn’tfollow you to the four walls you live within.
And if I were your enemy, that’s exactly what I’d want.I’d want to make you devalue the most potent weapons inyour arsenal. I’d strategize against you, using carefully calculatedmethods to disorient and defeat you.
In fact, this approach makes so much devilish sensethat it’s exactly what the devil does do—to you, in real life—all under the umbrella of deception. He comes at you to . . .well, don’t just listen to me; hear it from the loud voices whoresponded when I polled a large cross section of women,asking them to tell me the primary ways the enemy attacksthem. After boiling down all their answers into the mostcommon categories of responses, I ended up with what Ibelieve to be a top ten of his favorite strategies. Here’s wherehe seems to direct them against you the hardest:Strategy 1—Against Your Passion
He seeks to dim your whole desire for prayer, dull yourinterest in spiritual things, and downplay the potency ofyour most strategic weapons (Eph. 6:10–20).Strategy 2—Against Your Focus
He disguises himself and manipulates your perspective soyou end up focusing on the wrong culprit, directing yourweapons at the wrong enemy (2 Cor. 11:14).Strategy 3—Against Your Identity
He magnifies your insecurities, leading you to doubtwhat God says about you and to disregard what He’sgiven you (Eph. 1:17–19).Strategy 4—Against Your Family
He wants to disintegrate your family, dividing yourhome, rendering it chaotic, restless, and unfruitful (Gen.3:1–7).Strategy 5—Against Your Confidence
He constantly reminds you of your past mistakes and badchoices, hoping to convince you that you’re under God’sjudgment rather than under the blood (Rev. 12:10).Strategy 6—Against Your Calling
He amplifies fear, worry, and anxiety until they’re theloudest voices in your head, causing you to deem theadventure of following God too risky to attempt (Josh.14:8).Strategy 7—Against Your Purity
He tries to tempt you toward certain sins, convincing youthat you can tolerate them without risking consequence,knowing they’ll only wedge distance between you andGod (Isa. 59:1–2).Strategy 8—Against Your Rest and Contentment
He hopes to overload your life and schedule, pressuringyou to constantly push beyond your limits, never feelingpermission to say no (Deut. 5:15).Strategy 9—Against Your Heart
He uses every opportunity to keep old wounds fresh inmind, knowing that anger and hurt and bitterness andunforgiveness will continue to roll the damage forward(Heb. 12:15).Strategy 10—Against Your Relationships
He creates disruption and disunity within your circle offriends and within the shared community of the body ofChrist (1 Tim. 2:8).
And that’s just ten of ’em—ten of the most usual wayshe strategizes against the strength of God’s woman.
Well, two can play at that game. And with God on ourside taking the lead in setting our own strategy plans, we’realready in the vast majority. But we must still be diligentand intentional. We must recognize and cry out against thehighly personalized attacks being thrown in our direction.
No, there’s no need to fear, but we’d better be on our guard.And we’d better not ever forget—like the grandmother inthe picture says—to keep praying with purpose and precision,the way she prays for people like her granddaughter.A granddaughter who just happens to be . . .Me.
My name is written in that book of hers. Has been fordecades. She’s prayed for me since before I was born, askingGod to gird and strengthen, to guide and sustain.That was back when she, like me, once wore a weddingring on one of those precious fingers, before her husbandof more than fifty years, my grandfather, went ahead ofher into heaven. But it occurs to me, as I look back at thisphotograph, that the wedding ring on my hand—and thestrong, happy, trial-tested marriage it represents—is notattributable to my own abilities and fine behavior as muchas it’s a direct result of my name being in her book and ofher firm resolve to fight for me. For my husband. For ourfamily.
My grandmother, Annie Eleen Cannings—the womanto whom I’ve dedicated this book—has gone to war for me.On her knees. In prayer.Fervent prayer.
And I’ve decided I want to follow her there.So with my grandmother’s keen instructions in tow, andwith the truth of God’s Word as my anchor on ultimatetruth and reality, I’ve started the well-worn, proven disciplineof writing down my prayers. I began by considering mymost pressing dilemmas—the ones raging in my own heart,my family, my finances, my health, my ministry—and thenstarted writing down my own battle plans for dealing withthem, based on the truths of Scripture. I resolved to stopusing physical means to fight battles that require spiritualremedies, using instead the power of prayer to do what it’salways been designed to do.
I’m certainly not perfect at it, but I’m trying to grow.They’re posted in my closet now. My prayers, I mean.Seriously. Some are on full sheets of lined paper. Othersare on little slivers of computer paper, ripped away after onlya sentence or two. Or even just a word or two. But big orsmall, I’ve dated them and posted them all. And now, therethey sit, taped right above a row of hooks in the closet whereI see them every time I get dressed.
That way, I won’t forget.
Those strategies help me remember to pray. And what topray. And in doing so, I get dressed up in my spiritual armor,even while I’m getting dressed for the day.
That’s what this book is all about. From my grandmother’sheart to yours. Leading you to deliberately and thoughtfullywrite down your prayer strategies—tearing them rightout of this book if you like—then posting them in a strategicplace where you can pray them regularly and consistently.Into Prayer
Couple of things to mention here, though, before westart to develop some intentional strategies of devil-bustingprayer, designed to counteract his specific strategies againstus. Whenever the conversation of demonic activity comesup in a book like this, most people scatter to one of twoextremes. Either they overestimate Satan’s influence andpower, living with an inflated, erroneous perspective of hisabilities. Or they underestimate him. They don’t assign himany credit at all for the difficulties he’s stirring up beneaththe surface of their lives. One extreme leaves you saddledwith undue fear and anxiety; the other just makes youstupid—(too blunt to say it like that sorry)—unaware andcompletely open to every single attack.
Which of these categories do you fall into or leantoward Either
Let’s be clear, no matter which way you gravitate, Satanis not God. And he is not God’s counterpart or peer. They’renot even on the same playing field. His influence, authority,and power don’t even touch the fringe of what our Lord iscapable of doing. Read ahead to Revelation 19 and 20 sometime,the so-called titanic clash of end-time foes in what’scommonly known as the battle of Armageddon. Know whatit really is More like the devil and his demons getting alldressed up with no place to go. It’s over before it even starts.
The only thing that makes it a war is that he becomes a prisonerof war. Satan is nothing but a copycat, trying desperatelyto convince you he’s more powerful than he actually is.
Because remember: he does have limitations—boundarieshe cannot cross no matter how much he desires or how hardhe tries. For instance . . .
- He can’t be everywhere at once (only God isomnipresent).
- He can’t read your mind (only God is omniscient).
- He is merely an illusionist, using cunning trickeryto deceive and mislead (only God can work flat-out,unmistakable miracles).And last, but certainly not least . . .
- He’s running out of time (our God is eternal).
So even though he’s been given temporary clearance tostrategize and antagonize, we don’t need to pray from a positionof fear or weakness against him. Quite the opposite.You and I, coming to the Father through the mighty name ofJesus, can pray like the victorious saints of God we’ve beenempowered to be. And we can expect to prevail. But wecan’t expect to experience this power unless we’re seriousabout joining the battle in prayer.
All right, then—before we get going—here are just afew bits and pieces of framework that might help you in gettingstarted. We’ll be using these reminders throughout tohelp the prayers you write stay anchored and strong:
- P—Praise: Thanksgiving is one of the most importantaspects of prayer. It’s not just a means of warmingup (or buttering up). It’s not just a preamblebefore getting down to what we really came to say.Gratitude to God for who He is and what He’salready done should thread throughout every prayerbecause ultimately His name and His fame are theonly reasons any of this matters.
- R—Repentance: God’s real desire, in addition todisplaying His glory, is to claim your heart and thehearts of those you love. So prayer, while it’s certainlya place to deal with the objectives and detailswe want to see happening in our circumstances, isalso about what’s happening on the inside, wherereal transformation occurs. Expect prayer to exposewhere you’re still resisting Him—not only resistingHis commands but resisting the manifold blessingsand benefits He gives to those who follow. Line yourstrategies with repentance: the courage to trust, andturn, and walk His way.
- A—Asking: Make your requests known. Be personaland specific. Write down details of your own issuesand difficulties as they relate to the broader issuewe discussed in that chapter, as well as how youperhaps see the enemy’s hand at work in them orwhere you suspect he might be aiming next. You’renot begging; you’ve been invited to ask, seek, andknock. God’s expecting you. He’s wanting you here.The best place to look is to Him.
- Y—Yes: “All of God’s promises,” the Bible says,“have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’”(2 Cor. 1:20 nlt). You may not understand what all’shappening in your life right now, but any possibleexplanation pales in comparison to what you doknow because of your faith in God’s goodness andassurances. So allow your prayer to be accentuatedwith His own words from Scripture, His promisesto you that correspond to your need. (I’ll provide lotsof options in each chapter to choose from.) Thereis nothing more powerful than praying God’s ownWord.
Praying like this, you can expect God to respond inaccordance with His own sovereign, eternal will and Hisboundless love for you. Or as someone more clever than Ihas said . . .PrayerReleasesAllYourEternalResourcesI like that.
But if you’re still uneasy about it all, if you’re not sureyou’ll know how to get the hang of this . . . no worries. Withthe next page you turn, you’re entering the prayer strategyzone. And I guarantee you, God’s Spirit is going to show youexactly how to get started.
Speaking of which . . . why don’t we do just that: getstarted.
If you’ve had it, then let’s do it.Let’s get after it.
Getting It Back When It’s Gone
If I were your enemy, I’d seek to dim your passion, dullyour interest in spiritual things, dampen your belief in God’sability and His personal concern for you, and convince youthat the hope you’ve lost is never coming back—and was probablyjust a lie to begin with.Fervent prayer is fueled by passion.
By faith. By fire.
When everything else inside you is pulling you in twentymillion different directions—off to the next busy thing inyour busy day, if not off to bed and off the clock—passion iswhat plasters your knees to that floor. And digs in for dearlife. It’s your oomph. Your hutzpah. Your cutting edge.
Passion is what pushes the athlete to run one more lap,to crunch through one more set of reps. It’s what silencesthose screaming thigh and stomach muscles, making themdo what their owner demands of them, no matter howloudly they complain. Passion is what keeps a piano playeranchored to the practice bench when no one else is aroundto notice the effort or give a pat on the back for approval.
Passion is what inspires the eager young employee to outperformexpectations, instead of just punching the clock toearn a paycheck like everybody else. Passion is what burnsup the road between a child in danger and a parent in pursuit.
It glows red-hot. And goes on driving. And grows evenlarger, the larger the obstacles become.
Passion is the fuel in the engine of your purpose. It’syour “want-to.” It’s what keeps you going when mundanetasks bore you or difficult ones dissuade you. Passion iswhat keeps you moving in the direction your best intentionswant you to go.
That’s why, if I were your enemy, I’d make stealing yourpassion one of my primary goals. Because I know if I coulddim your passion, I could significantly lower your resistanceto temptation and discouragement. I could make you walkwith a spiritual limp and lengthen how long it takes you torecover from the injury. If I could chip away at your zeal,at your hope, at your belief in God and what He can do, Icould chisel down your faith to a whimper. Make you wantto quit. And never try again. I’d cup an ear in your direction,hear nothing in your voice that sounds like anythingbut token prayer, and snicker at my success. Chalk anotherone up to my “Passion Elimination Plan”—the one withyour name on it.
That’s what I’d do. If I were your enemy.
I’d weaken your passion, your cutting edge—knowingfull well that weak, impotent prayers (or better yet, prayerlessness)would follow right behind.
So take a long, hard, deep look at yourself and answerthis question: Have you lost your passion Has your get-up -and-go simply gotten-up-and-gone
Maybe you’ve prayed and prayed for the same thing,over and over. . . . Maybe you’ve wanted God’s will so bad,and wanted life to look different for so long. . . . Maybeyou’re feeling utterly discouraged or disappointed rightnow and not sure why you keep being surprised every timethe same ol’ thing keeps happening again and again. . . .
Maybe other demands and distractions have leaked intoyour heart over time, crowding out space where older,nobler priorities once ruled. I get all of that. I’ve felt a lotof that.
But what makes you think it’s somehow all God’s fault
Or your fault Or everybody else’s fault But never the enemy’sfault Why aren’t we equally as quick to recognize thetelltale marks of his darkened ideas and initiative
When you can’t seem to respond to spiritual stimuli withthe same optimism and obedience as you once did, why doyou think it could only be attributable to your bad character
To a drop in your hormone levels To the normal deteriorationthat comes from age and accumulated adversity
Maybe another less noticeable but equally probablereason is that you’ve been a victim of satanic sabotage. It’s astrategy. Against you. On purpose. An assault launched withpinpoint planning and detail.
I mean, think about it. Doesn’t it fit the profile
Satan is a full-time accuser. He does it “day and night,”the Bible says (Rev. 12:10). Instead of convicting you for thepurpose of restoration, as God’s Spirit does, he condemnsyou for the purpose of destroying, humiliating.
This pattern, by the way, is classic proof of the enemy’sinfluence. Watch for it, and note his fingerprints.
Condemnation always leads to guilt-laden discouragement,while conviction—though often painful in pointing out ourwrongdoing—still somehow encourages and lifts us, givingus hope to rebuild on. The first makes you focus on yourself;the other points you to the grace and empowering mercy ofChrist. To hear the devil tell it, these weaknesses of yoursare reason for nothing but wretched despair; yet God saysthose same weaknesses are reason for your purest worshipand gratitude. Your need for God’s grace is supposed tobe a passion enhancer. That’s the opposite of what takesplace, however, as soon as you start believing the enemy’saccusations. He’ll make you think God doesn’t hear yourprayers or respond to them—why—because of you.
How typical. Because Satan, in addition to being anaccuser, is also a confirmed liar. No . . . worse. He’s the“father of lies” (John 8:44). The granddaddy of all untruth.Deception is the overarching umbrella that encompasses allHis plans and programs.
He warps your perspective on the current events in yourlife until reality appears much worse and more desperatethan it truly is. I’m not saying your situation is not legitimatelybad; perhaps it is painful beyond description. Butthrough his lying eyes, any passion for perseverance seemslike a silly, sentimental waste of time. And yet he has thegall to insinuate that God is the one who lies to you, thatany delay in the Lord’s visible response to your prayer isopen-and-shut evidence that He doesn’t really hear you likeHe says. Or if He does, He apparently doesn’t mind seeingyou writhe in discomfort while you wait on His own sweettiming.
Such biting accusations against you, against God.
Such bitter lies about what’s really taking place.
Those are just some of the ways he tries to eat away atyour passion. Not overtly and conspicuously. He’s much toocrafty for that. But cunningly. Slowly. Incrementally. Overtime.
And sometimes he gets us. We don’t recognize it’s himat first, working behind the scenes. We think the reasonwe’ve stopped praying is because—oh, “we just don’t feellike it anymore.” And sure—maybe, maybe, that’s the way itreally is. But possibly, possibly, this lack of feeling is a cluethat the enemy’s strategy has begun to take effect. He’sworked you down enough until you can’t seem to musterup the will to fight back, to keep believing for and prayingabout . . .
Your marriage . . . still hopelessly tense and broken.
Your child . . . still rebelling against all sound logic.
Your money . . . still not enough to feel like enough.
Your health . . . still as chronic or scary as ever.
Your addictions . . . still defeating you way too often.
You just can’t seem to bring these up to God anymorebecause there doesn’t seem to be any spiritual fire burninginside. Maybe even right now—even while reading a bookthat’s inviting you back where you once walked, back to fervent,believing prayer—you honestly just don’t see the pointin going there again.
So here’s what I’d say to you. Let’s start here. Praying forthis. To recover and maintain your passion. To regain andsustain your cutting edge.
In order to do it, I want to take you back to a real-lifestory that God placed in Scripture (2 Kings 6:1–7) for justsuch a moment as this. And I want to use it and the principlesit teaches to encourage your heart and then help youbegin stirring up a strategy to get your passion back. Becauseif you’re not at a low-passion point right now, the time willlikely come when you’ll feel yourself being tugged there.And when that season comes, make a note to put this storyon your must-read list.
As it happened, the prophet Elisha was standing nearone of his protégés, who was chopping down a tree at thebanks of the Jordan River, laboring to gather the raw materialsneeded for building a larger meeting place. But at onepoint in either an upswing or a downswing, the iron headof that man’s ax wiggled loose from its wooden handle andsailed into the water, plopping to the bottom.[Splash.] [Gasp.]
And just like that, he’d lost his cutting edge.
The young prophet was horrified. Not only had he lostthe one tool on hand—the most important tool in the toolboxfor moving him toward the outcome he desired—butthe ax he’d been using had been borrowed from a friend.The ker-plunk of that dead weight in the water was a doublewhammy of disappointment and disgust. He couldn’t go forwardwith his building project, and now he’d need to go tothe person who’d loaned him the ax and tell what happenedto it, that he’d broken it, lost it, that there was no getting itback.
Notice, though, these encouraging details from thestory:
Number 1: Despite the lost ax head, the presence of Godwas still near. In ancient Israel, Yahweh’s prophets were representationsof His presence and power with His people. Sowhen the man in this story lost the ax head, the fact that theprophet Elisha was right there alongside him (v. 3) wasn’t justa simple comfort. It mattered that Elisha had seen how hardthis man had worked, all the trees he’d chopped down, andhow his cutting edge had been lost. It mattered that God’spresence and the man’s loss occurred within close proximityto the other. Satan would like to convince you that your lackof passion is an indication that God was either never thereat all or has gotten disgusted with you and left. He wantsyou to believe that God has not seen your struggle and isunaware or disinterested in the details of your life. But justbecause you’re feeling at a loss for words and “want-to”—justbecause your “cutting edge” in prayer seems misplaced fornow—does not mean that God isn’t close by.
Number 2: The servant was doing something good whenhe lost his cutting edge. He was being productive, buildinga new dwelling for himself and for those others involved inthe school of the prophets (v. 2). In fact, if he hadn’t beenworking so hard—if he’d just been sitting around doingnothing—there’s little chance the ax would’ve ever becomegradually loosened and ultimately dislodged. This tells methat being engaged in good, even godly, productive things isnot an automatic guard against losing your cutting edge. Infact, one of Satan’s dirtiest little tactics is to sneak in andsteal it while you’re square in the middle of investing yourselfin worthwhile activities. That’s why when you’re sensinga drag in your faith, in your spiritual fire, it can sometimessimply mean you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to bedoing . . . and doing it well, at that.
Number 3: The ax was borrowed (v. 5). The presence ofpassion, faith, and belief in our hearts is a gift. It’s on loanto our souls. Like the man’s ax, our passion and spiritualfervor come from Someone else as a gift to us. If you’ve evercried out passionately to God in faith, fully believing thatHe is able to do more than you ask or think or imagine, it’sonly because He first stirred up that passion within you.
So instead of always feeling guilty—personally responsible—whenever your passion in prayer is weak or missing,realize instead that it is God’s work both to give it and thento fan it into flame inside you. Which means you cannotmanufacture it on your own. Your enemy, however—coyas he is—wants to burden you with blame for not havingsomething that didn’t originate with you in the first place.Don’t fall for that.
Number 4: Only a work of God could retrieve the axhead. “‘Where did it fall’ the man of God asked. Whenhe showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw itinto the water at that spot. Then the ax head floated to thesurface” (v. 6 nlt). Miraculously, by Elisha’s hand, the slabof iron rustled free from the murky riverbed and bobbedup to the surface as if it were nothing but a floating chunkof driftwood. There it was! His cutting edge was back!
Divinely recovered. Elisha’s servant had understandablybeen convinced there was no hope of ever seeing it again.And there wouldn’t have been . . . except that he went toElisha. God, through the prophet, stepped in and made itreappear. If the ax head had just dropped onto the ground,anybody who saw where it went—including the man himself—could’ve picked it up and salvaged it. Instead it wasdeep in the river. Only a miracle could get it back.
Just like you might need a miracle to get yours back, too,if it’s sunk to the bottom—like everyone’s passion for prayerhas done at one time or another.
Listen to me. Nothing—nothing!—is too far gone thatyour God cannot resurrect it. Even your cutting edge. So goto Him to get it back. Don’t try to regain it yourself. Don’tset your hopes on other people or circumstances to fuse itback into the fiber of your being. Trust it into God’s care.Only His miraculous work can make it bubble back up tothe surface where it belongs. And He is more than willingto do it.Call to Prayer
So here we go. Before we tackle and craft prayer strategiesfor the nine other topics in this book, the seminal matterof getting and maintaining our cutting edge so that weeven want to pray again is foundational.
But when we talk about passion in prayer, I sure don’twant to leave the impression that the only prayer God hearsis the kind that’s spoken at high volume, with sweat andtears and shaking fists and extraordinary energy. Prayer canbe silent and still seethe with passion. And on some days, atsometimes, prayer—for any of us—can start out as simplyan obedient appointment, an act of discipline, showing upin that prayer closet because it’s the appointed time that wesaid we’d be there.
Because praying—reaching outward and upward toHim—is the way His passion comes down. Even prayersthat begin with the blunt edge of willpower, dragging yourheart along kicking and screaming, can soon begin toshine with the cutting edge of hope, faith, and passionateconfidence in Christ. Once the wind of God’s Spirit startsblowing, you’re no longer praying rote, innocuous prayers.
Instead, you’re praying deliberate prayers. Prayers that are aspersonalized and devastating as the enemy’s attacks againstyou. Strategic prayers. Powerful prayers. Prayers that tell theenemy his cover has been blown, his number has come up,and his game is done. Prayers built on the promises of Godthat entreat Him to give you back what He was responsiblefor giving you in the first place.
Infuse your first prayer strategy with passages andpromises like these:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps. 51:10)The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,for His compassions never fail.They are new every morning;great is Your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22–23)
I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am theLord; and they will be My people, and I will betheir God, for they will return to Me with theirwhole heart. (Jer. 24:7)
Call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and Iwill listen to you. You will seek Me and find Mewhen you search for Me with all your heart. (Jer.29:12–13)
The Lord your God will circumcise your heart andthe heart of your descendants, to love the Lord yourGod with all your heart and with all your soul, sothat you may live. (Deut. 30:6)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, andwith all your soul, and with all your mind, and withall your strength. (Mark 12:30)
For where your treasure is, there your heart will bealso. (Luke 12:34)
I will give you a new heart and put a new spiritwithin you; I will remove your heart of stone andgive you a heart of flesh. (Ezek. 36:26 hcsb)Don’t read that last one too quickly, OK One moretime. Slowly. Deliberately. Like how you’d sip a glass ofsweet tea on a blazing hot summer day, wanting the refreshmentto last.
Do you see the promise “I will give you.” “I will removeyour heart of stone” and “give you” a heart that’s alive andtender again, one that’s beating and responsive again.Engaged again. Able to believe again.
A prayer that’s seeking passion should not be aboutmanufacturing a better feeling or jostling up a better mood.It’s simply about holding out your open hands—in thanksgivingfirst, in gratitude for God’s faithfulness and His goodnessand His assured, accomplished victory over the enemy.Then asking. Asking for what He already wants to give you.
Then waiting (expecting) to receive the promise of newnessand freshness from His Spirit as you go along, more eachday—praying until, as the prophet Hosea said . . .He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rainwatering the earth. (Hos. 6:3)
How does a person receive rain Not by prying it loosefrom the sky but just by watching it fall, by standing in thedownpour, by thanking Him for opening up the floodgatesand sending what He knows we need and can’t get for ourselves,yet what He so faithfully, regularly, and graciouslygives.
Let’s get going, then . . . with just these few little versesto get you started. Grab a pen, flip to the pages for prayerin the back of this book, and write your own prayer strategyfor passion—a prayer for God to help you maintain it (ifit’s good) or regain it (if it’s gone). Make it part Praise, partRepentance, part Asking, and a whole lot of Yes.