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. – Ephesians 6:12
Last week I wrote about my memories of 9-11, how my perspective had been broadened from my own little world to things greater than myself. At the time my understanding of spiritual warfare was vague, and my prayer life was sporadic. But four years later that began to change.
It was July, 2005, when the news came that four bombs had been detonated in the London subway. People were killed, more were injured, and for the next few days there was talk again of remembering the fallen and praying for the survivors.
I was probably the only one thinking about these things on the beach that beautiful summer day, as my daughter and her friends played on their boogie boards in the fresh-water surf of Lake Michigan. I found myself getting an “attitude” – I was frustrated. Why were we always praying for the grieving after the fact? Why couldn’t we pray before the planned attacks, so this kind of thing wouldn’t happen in the first place?
I’ve long believed there’s power in praying specifically. One of my former pastors likened praying something vague like “God bless America!” to firing a shotgun into the air and hoping to hit something. – How would I know if/when that prayer is answered? But a specific prayer is more like a well-aimed rifle, it will hit its target more often. And of course, a very specific prayer is like a laser beam, which can cut through steel!
I asked the Lord how I could pray specifically against what our enemies had planned, when I didn’t know where or even who they were or what they had planned. The Still, Small Voice seemed to whisper, “Pray against what they have planned today.”
The kids were still playing in the water, so while I watched them, I prayed for anyone planning to be suicide bombers that day, that God would plant enough doubt in their minds to make them hesitant and enough fear in their hearts to change their minds. I prayed He would show them a way of escape and take them to where they would be safe, and where they could hear the gospel.
I prayed for those terrorists who weren’t going to change in the next 24 hours – that their communications would fail, their computers would crash, their cell phones die, their transportation would break down, their calculations would be wrong, their timing would be off, their weapons would malfunction, and their bombs would fail to detonate. I prayed that their whole camp would be thrown into confusion, that every plan would fail, and that they would realize their failure was due to their serving the wrong God. I prayed they would seek the one true God, find Him, and spend the rest of their lives serving Him even more passionately than they were serving the enemy that day.
I prayed for the removal of terrorists who would never change, before they had a chance to drag anyone else down to hell with them.
I prayed for all those who were the targets of terrorism, that they would be shielded and their lives spared, that they would find Christ if they didn’t already know Him, and that they would serve Him gratefully for the rest of their lives.
I prayed for every branch of our military by name, for our nation’s intelligence, security, and law enforcement. I prayed that any terrorists that might have infiltrated their ranks would be rooted out, rendered harmless, even transformed into allies.
As it turned out, there was a lot I could pray about, even not knowing specifics of our enemies’ plans.
The next day a story on the news grabbed my attention: Four more bombs had been planted in the London subway.
All four bombs were duds; no one was hurt.
I was stunned, even realizing I should not be surprised. God had answered my prayers of the day before, possibly the prayers of others who had been led to pray the same way I had. Had I just joined a spiritual army of sorts? Was it possible that in this “war on terror,” prayer was the answer to defeating the invisible enemy?
It occurred to me that if the failure of that bombing was in answer to my prayers the day before, it was because I prayed against what was planned for that day.
But today was another day …
Thus began my journey of broad yet narrow prayers, focusing on one day at a time. I figure I have prayed along the lines of what I prayed that first day over 5,500 times. At one point, I questioned whether this was an example of the “vain repetitions” Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 6:7) But as hard as it may be to believe, I haven’t lost my passion. After all, yesterday I was praying for yesterday, and today I’m praying for today, so it’s a fresh request every day. And I never know when there will be another story on the news about an answer to those prayers, which cause me to believe that whatever “army” I’m a part of is making history. (This is something for me to keep in mind next time the enemy tells me how unimportant I am in the grand scheme of things.)
Has God called you to daily, intensive prayer in a certain area?
Prayer: Lord, the world makes judgments about our importance or lack thereof. Your Word tells us we have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory, so none of us is sufficient in ourselves. And yet, You have numbered the hairs on our head, so none of us is insignificant to You. Help each of us to be faithful in whatever You have called us to do. In Jesus’ name, amen.