Hello and Happy New Year!
It’s January <whatever date you’re reading this>. Do you know where your resolve is?
I’m certain, if you’re as amazing as I am, you are all still holding fast to the resolutions you’ve made for yourself to bring about a successful 2024.
That was a joke.
If you’re as self-aware as I am, you’ve set aside the need to tackle unrealistic goals and merely resolved to continue on the path of human betterment.
God knows us better than we know ourselves, right? So in His omniscience, God has seen fit to push me a little harder and farther than I’m accustomed to pushing myself at the start of this new year. Of course, I resolved to spend more time in the Word on a more consistent basis, but when I prayed, asking God for more of Him, I should’ve buckled my seatbelt first.
God answers our prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, and not right now. But I can assure you, the answer to “Lord, give me more of You” will always, unequivocally be met with a “yes.”
Though I’m not as consistent as I strive to be, I don’t usually struggle with Bible-reading. It may be because I am a voracious reader, and I absolutely love curling up on my couch under a blanket of quietness and getting lost in a good book. God’s book is the best book, so I don’t struggle with that aspect of my time with Him.
No, I find prayer time to be more of a challenge. I just can’t. stay. focused. My mind runs a mile a minute, thinking about all the things. And can someone please tell me why the things I forget when I need to recall them always manage to come to the forefront of my mind when I’m trying to stay in focused conversation with God? More times than I’d like to admit, I end up giving up, apologizing to God, and promising to do better next time.
God loves any and all conversation with us. So I know He doesn’t mind when I choose to talk to Him in my car on my way to work or to run errands. I know He doesn’t mind when I pray for a friend who’s going through a hard time while I’m doing my hair and makeup. I’m sure He doesn’t turn me away when I’m in the checkout line behind someone who’s paying for their groceries in coins, and I decide to occupy my mind with talking to Him instead of impatiently grumbling. I believe He’ll take us any way He can get us as long as our heart is pure.
But friends, there’s something to be said for focused prayer time…hearts and minds battle-ready, prepared to wage all-out war in the spiritual realm. Because here’s what: we ARE in a spiritual battle at all times.
During a conversation with my sister a few months ago, she reminded me that the challenges we face as Christians are not merely physical challenges—they’re spiritual—each and every one of them. They may manifest themselves in the physical realm, but don’t be deceived into thinking there aren’t enemies of our souls wreaking havoc on us spiritually. That irritated tone you took with your child? The enemy. That bad attitude you had with your boss? The enemy. And yes, even that chronic sickness you can’t seem to shake? The enemy.
Satan will do whatever he can to divert our attention elsewhere. Because if we remain frustrated at “life,” if we remain in a constant state of pride, pointing fingers at the other person who’s the reason for our foul mood, we’re too exhausted to fight the actual enemy: him.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.”
This brings me to an amazing story the Holy Spirit revealed to me recently.
Read what takes place in Daniel chapter 10:
1“In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia, a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. The message was true and was about a great conflict. He understood the message and had understanding of the vision.
2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three full weeks. 3 I didn’t eat any rich food, no meat or wine entered my mouth, and I didn’t put any oil on my body until the three weeks were over. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up, and there was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the brilliance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude…
…10 Suddenly, a hand touched me and set me shaking on my hands and knees. 11 He said to me, “Daniel, you are a man treasured by God. Understand the words that I’m saying to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you.” After he said this to me, I stood trembling.
12 “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to help you understand what will happen to your people in the last days, for the vision refers to those days.”
Friends, did you catch it? Daniel was in mourning, the Bible says, for three full weeks. He had prayed but received no answer from God. An angel appears to him and tells him first, “you are a man treasured by God.” (We’ll circle back to that.) He told him that from the moment Daniel first purposed to understand and humble himself (we’ll circle back to that one too), God heard his prayer and sent help by way of an angel to minister to Daniel. But the angel got held up by the prince of the Persian kingdom. Now, I’ve read commentaries on this to gain understanding. It is believed that there was a demonic force in the kingdom of Persia. This force was preventing the angel God had sent to Daniel, causing opposition for twenty-one days—three full weeks—the amount of time Daniel was in mourning.
Still believe we’re only battling against flesh and blood?
Satan uses his ambassadors of darkness to impede the progress of God answering our prayers. There are, indeed, spiritual forces literally fighting each other. This is the stuff Marvel movies are made of, guys. Good versus evil is not just the imagination of Hollywood—it’s real.
Let’s circle back now to that line, “you are a man treasured by God.” Friend, do you know who you are? Do you come to your Heavenly Father, face downcast, feeling like a burden to Him or a waste of His time? That angel said to Daniel, “Get up, man!” Get up! Are you coming boldly to the throne with your head held high as the treasured child of the King you truly are?
Let’s circle back once more to that line, “purposed to understand and to humble yourself.” What is our posture when we come before God with our petitions? Are we indignant? Maybe we aren’t indignant, but do we feel even a little bit of entitlement? Like, how dare God allow us to go through this hard thing, and He’d better answer? Or have we purposed in our hearts to understand the heart of our Father? Do we trust Him? If not, why not? Asking for help from someone we don’t trust seems to be an effort in futility, does it not?
Do we come from a place of humility? Are we willing to concede that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts? Doesn’t it seem just as futile to ask for help from someone of Whom we think we know better?
What would have happened had Daniel given up? Would the angel have made it to him? Would Michael, the archangel, have gone to help this angel, enabling him to make his way to Daniel? I don’t know, and I hesitate to speculate in areas that aren’t perfectly clear.
Here’s what I do know: God is listening. The Bible says God dispatched relief for Daniel the moment Daniel began praying. How often do we pray for things and give up because we haven’t received an answer quickly enough? The army of heaven is fighting on our behalf!! Keep praying, believing.
Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I tell you, everything you pray and ask for—believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have before Him: if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
I have been in such emotional pain and agony, begging God to help me, and I’ve literally cried out to Him, “ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?? WHERE ARE YOU??” Can you relate?
Well, we needn’t even ask that. We can have confidence. We should be praying with confidence that God hears and He will answer.
Then comes the hard part: we must trust His answer.
When the apostle Paul was struggling with his affliction, Paul asked God for relief. God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
This is a scenario when God’s answer was not exactly what Paul asked for but what Paul needed—more of God’s grace and power.
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked that God remove the cup from Him…remove from Him the burden of going to the cross. Then Jesus said, “Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
In this instance, this is an example of us needing to surrender to God in prayer. Yielding our will to His.
Any way you look at it, folks, God answers in the best way possible.
In this year of our Lord, 2024, let’s resolve to know who we are in Christ. Let’s purpose to understand and humble ourselves. Let’s resolve to accept the answer we need and not the answer we want. Let’s resolve to surrender our will to God’s.
But none of that can take place if we give up praying before the angel can get to us. And none of this works if we don’t read the following verses in Ephesians 6.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.
For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything to take your stand. Stand therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.”
Happy New Year! And I’ll see y’all on the battlefield.