“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak...Then the man said, 'Let me go, for it is daybreak.' But Jacob replied, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.' Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and humans and have overcome.' So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."- Genesis 32:25-26, 28, 30
Growing up I loved the no-holds barred circus known as "Professional Wrestling". I would watch the weekly telecast, I could mimic the top wrestlers voices and popular sayings, my friends and I would practice the signature move of each wrestler on each other, and for my 13th birthday my stepdad even took me to a match featuring Hulk Hogan versus Randy "The Macho Man" Savage. I was hooked to say the least.
I am relieved to report that I gradually outgrew my wrestling fandom, yet as I write to you today I find myself still a major participant in the wrestling game. I have turned my attention from the ridiculous shorts, masks, and nicknames, to the type of wrestling that is best done on one's knees, with a passionate heart, and with praise lifted beyond the top rope of a ring, but to the throne-room of the King! The type of wrestling that I am speaking of, that we cannot live without, and that brings the most radical, joyful, and hopeful results happens through a life of deep prayer in the glorious presence of God. In Ephesians 5:10-12, the Apostle Paul charges us, "Finally be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, and against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
The more I experience the needs, decisions, challenges, burdens and even attacks that seem to come my direction on a daily basis, I am more and more convinced that I must be persistent in having a "Life of Prayer". The devil recognizes the power in the name of Jesus and the authority the Lord has given us to call on His Name. In James 4:7 we have a glimpse of the immense power that we have as children of God, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Wow, what an amazing instrument of faith, strength, and victory that is afforded us, that we are meant to be fully and constantly equipped with. It is because of the impact that takes place when God's will is invoked, that the devil looks to keep us from prayer at all costs. He is not simply trying to trip you up with temptation, but he is working every dark angle to try to keep you from getting to the doorsteps of God's presence and from living in that place of fullness. The seeds of this world and the ruler of this age, gets our attention off of the Lord and places it solely on our shoulders and on our struggles. We begin to address the tough areas of life on our own, without seeking the Lord's counsel or asking for His resources to be the answer we need. We also fall victim to believing the lie that to ask others for help or to pray for us is actually a sign of weakness and lack of faith. This lie keeps us from sharing our needs to one another and praying for God's strength in our weakness; His light in the darkness; and His joy in the sadness.
This reminder of the importance of prayer and wrestling in the Spirit was never more apparent than this past Sunday. For those who may recall, at the beginning of the message, I stopped and asked for people to come and pray for me as I was feeling a very real, a very heavy "spiritual attack" which was attempting to keep me from bringing a liberating message on moving past the Pit of Betrayal. As I began preaching there was a wrestling happening in the invisible realm. This was not a matter of nerves, anxieties, or fear. This was not me feeling physically unwell or not getting enough sleep the night before. This was an all of a sudden burden that wanted to keep me from doing and saying what God had planned. I could tell immediately and asked for help. What makes this important to point out is that earlier that morning in our Pre-Service worship and prayer time, "Encounter Jesus", I shared the importance of getting alone with God to pray. I shared how we must find ourselves in His presence and asking others to pray for us through the tough areas of life. To me it is no coincidence that the devil would then try to keep me from the very truth I had just shared. In that moment I made a choice not to believe the lie that I would look weak to ask for help or look foolish to stop the message midstream. As I took that step to stop and pray we disarmed the enemy and we continued in His grace and strength.
In the same Spirit and exercise from the past Sunday, I want to encourage each of us to keep on praying, keep on believing, and keep on standing in the Lord. Don't give up when things don't seem to go as you prayed, as you hoped, or as we read how heaven operates. Keep pressing into the Lord and you will possess His perfect answer, His amazing grace, and His complete victory!