The urgent email from my friends was requesting prayer for a trial they were experiencing. “Help!” the message said. “We need relief!” So, I began to intercede—with assumptions.
I assumed God wanted to (immediately) relieve my friends of their difficult circumstances. I assumed His will was for their path to be smooth. And I assumed that their difficulty was the result of spiritual warfare coming against them. Naturally, I picked up my “divinely powerful weapons” (2 Cor. 10:3-5) for a fight!
But oddly, I felt blocked. I couldn’t get any momentum as I prayed. When this happens, I know from experience to check in with the Lord. So I asked, “What’s going on?” Is this warfare?” I didn’t get the sense that it was.
As I meditated on this thought, three scenes came to my mind. The first one was a refiner’s fire, reminding me of 1 Peter 1:7: “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (NLT).
It seemed the Holy Spirit was alerting me to a different perspective, that God was actually allowing these difficult circumstances to purify my friends. He does that sometimes. When Jesus told Peter that Satan had demanded permission to “sift him like wheat,” Jesus didn’t tell Satan no. Instead, He prayed that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail in the midst of the sifting and that, when it was complete, Peter would be better able to carry out the ministry Jesus was calling him to. Peter didn’t need deliverance; he needed refining! And Jesus interceded for him in the process (Lk. 22:31-32).
The second picture I saw in my mind’s eye was clay on a pottery wheel. This reminded me of a lump of clay that the prophet Jeremiah described. The clay was in the potter’s hands, being shaped for a purpose only the master knew (Jer. 18:3-6). Isaiah used a similar analogy, of a clay pot crying out to its maker, “What are you making?” (Is. 45:9). I wondered, could God be shaping my friends to make them fit and useful vessels for His kingdom purposes?
The third scenario I imagined—a vineyard—reminded me of John 15:1-17, where Jesus describes the Vinedresser cutting away all the stray branches that don’t bear fruit. Ouch, I thought. Cutting hurts. Yet this trimming was deliberate and purposeful. The painful circumstances weren’t really damaging my friends, I realized, but pruning them. When it was done, their lives would be more fruitful.
So I began to intercede for them again, now feeling that sense of Holy Spirit momentum I lacked earlier. This time I prayed that:
- the peace of God would guard their hearts and minds and that they wouldn’t be anxious (Phil. 4:6-7)
- their hearts would be undivided and that there would be only integrity and holiness and not anger and resentment (Ps. 86:11)
- they wouldn’t grow weary and lose heart but instead persevere in the race before them, fixing their yes on Jesus and not on their circumstances (Heb. 12:1-2)
- the enemy would not gain access to the situation or to their hearts and minds, and that God’s purposes would prevail (Lk. 22:31-32)
God changed my prayer strategy by giving me His perspective. I learned that what I assume I should pray for isn’t always what the Spirit is praying. At times, I might think I should pray for endurance when what God really wants me to intercede for is deliverance, or vice versa. The bottom line is that I need His direction to look past my assumptions and align myself with His purposes.
That story happened many years ago. Time has proved that God was, in indeed, at work in my friends’ difficulties at that time. I’m happy to say they emerged from their trials with greater maturity, keener spiritual insight, and increasingly fruitful lives—all the work of the Master Refiner, Potter, and Vinedresser. And I learned a valuable lesson about praying from God’s perspective instead of my own.
Is there a situation you are currently praying about where you may be making assumptions? Is it possible God wants you to check in to get His perspective on the situation, and perhaps change your prayer strategy?
(c) 2017 Arlyn Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.