(This is the transcript to go along with my talk from 5/23/20 at the LeadHer Online Conference, Lead Her to Still Waters.)
“He leads me beside still waters.” Psalm 23:2b
A gently flowing stream comes to mind when we hear “still waters,” or peaceful or quiet waters, depending on the version of Psalm 23:2 you use. Still waters, as opposed to crashing waves on the seashore. It denotes a place of rest.
Even at the ocean, isn’t it more restful when the water is calm with only small, subtle waves gently breaking on the shore?
We’ve been through some troubled waters lately, haven’t we? Oh, how we need that kind of stillness, peace and rest. Our souls thirst for God’s life-giving water as the deer pants for streams of water (Psalm 142:1-2), whether we recognize it or not.
When I seek calm, I walk the beach. While walking, I always come across lost flip flops. Just one, never a pair. One day as I approached one of those lone flip flops, the Lord spoke to my heart, “That’s like you. You’ve lost your footing.” It certainly was as if busyness had moved into my life and exhaustion had taken over. Even that day was the first in about a year I had even been to the beach, and I only live a few miles away. Maybe you can relate to just not taking the time to be calm. Have you ever felt like you were losing your footing in life? (Read more about that visit here.)
Our lives have become overly busy, with overbooked schedules, few minutes to spare and little free time. Our world has been spinning faster and faster out of control. Who ever takes Sabbath rest anymore? Instead, we’ve become uncomfortable with stillness and rest. We’re awkward with silence. It’s as though we’re addicted to busyness and noise.
Furthermore, we’ve become impatient in the process – just give me the fast past and don’t make me wait for anything. We’re used to instant everything. Consequently, they say our attention span is now that of a goldfish – about 9 seconds.
Let’s think about it: Between being overly busy and impatient, how do you think this affects our relationship with God? How does it affect our prayer lives? Where does God fit into our whirlwinds? (click to tweet)
I think He too often doesn’t. Many of us read a quick devotion and pray on the run, but that’s not enough to fill the emptiness that busyness creates. We become like a car running on spiritual fumes. And so we’re left mostly unfulfilled and frustrated, wondering where God is in it all.
The recently passed, beloved, Ravi Zacharias said,
“I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.”
You see, the result of all our busyness is that our prayer lives become weak. James 5:16 tells us that fervent prayers avail much, or are powerful and effective, in other versions. Fervent. That’s not usually the kind of pop-corn prayers we pray on the run. Those are fine and we need them too; that’s how we stay constant in prayer, or pray continuously…
Be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Pray continuously. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
But we’re talking about fervent prayer. Prayer that’s more like a deep and meaningful conversation, not like a quick text. Do we just want to text our prayers to God because we don’t have time for a real conversation? (click to tweet)
I know there are many who struggle with finding time to spend with God, so if that’s you, you’re not alone. I’ve struggled, too, finding time to pray these kind of fervent prayers. Some may also struggle with unanswered prayer, with doubt, or believing prayer even works.
Or maybe we just don’t know what to pray. Jesus taught us what to pray in Matthew 6 in the Lord’s Prayer. He laid out specific instructions for prayer. Maybe He didn’t intend it to be rote prayer, but was teaching the parts of prayer to include. After all, if we’re going to bake a cake, we don’t recite the recipe. We actively do the steps the recipe says, carefully including all the ingredients. So, shouldn’t we include the elements the Lord taught us in our prayers at some point, beyond just reciting it?
For example, things like confession. It’s one thing to recite, “Forgive us our debts…”, it’s quite another to actually ask God for forgiveness for specific things, or to actually forgive others. If we’re always praying on the go, are we confessing regularly?
And yet, Psalm 66:18 says, “If I cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
This is why we need to be intentional and proactive about our prayer lives. And we need to pray more than just for daily bread, which is the part of prayer we pray the most with no trouble. The truth is, most of us had more than enough daily bread before we hoarded all the bread and toilet paper!
But let’s go back to James 5:16, which talks about confessing sins, and then actually says, ‘the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (NKJV).
What makes a person righteous? Confessing our sins. God’s forgiveness.
(Pursuing Prayer – Being Effective in a Busy World goes into more detail on the elements of prayer Jesus taught and why they’re important today to make our prayers more effective.)
Let’s take it one step further. We need the fervent prayers of a righteous person to fight the unseen spiritual battle that is gong on. We don’t know what goes on in heavens when pray. That’s why Ephesians 6:12 tells us,
“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.”
I love how the Message translation puts it:
“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to-the-finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.”
“Still be on your feet”? It sounds like you won’t lose your footing. For sure, if we regularly visited still waters, we wouldn’t lose our footing.
So, the Bible makes it clear there is a spiritual battle going on. There are dozens of references in the Bible about the “God of Heaven’s Armies” or the “Lord of Hosts.” There’s even songs about it, like the popular “The God of Angel Armies” by Chris Tomlin.
I don’t claim to know or understand it all, but I believe God has His angels doing his bidding, as it says in Psalm 103:20-21:
“Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.”
(You can read about my 13 years of praying for my addicted son and the part God’s warrior angels played in his story here: https://www1.cbn.com/angel-warriors-respond-to-desperate-prayers)
Why do we pray? Because prayer is what moves the hand of God. Prayer is powerful because God is powerful.
No one can measure his greatness. Psalm 145:3
The thunder of His power who can understand. Job 26:14
We will never fully understand it all this side of Heaven, but I have known the peace, comfort, assurance, guidance – and the answers – that come thru prayer. We may never understand why some prayers are not answered the way we pray them, but I know this: When we pray, his power is released.
And for some reason, it takes our prayers to do that. Sometimes lots of praying. Sometimes years of praying. Maybe some spiritual battles are bigger and take longer.
And when we don’t pray? James 4:2 says, “You have not because you ask not.”
We women don’t usually like the thought of war. We don’t typically choose war movies to watch. We’d rather watch a chick flick on Hallmark Channel.
But when we became a Christian, we entered the spiritual military, and we must engage in ongoing training or we will not be prepared for the inevitable battles involved with spiritual warfare, which is real and happening. If it wasn’t, Ephesians 6 wouldn’t talk about fighting against darkness. The Bible wouldn’t talk repeatedly about the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Preparation and training is constant in the military, and it’s necessary in the Christian life as well. That’s why Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10–18 to put on the full armor of God – the full armor. All the items in that armor are found in Word of God—truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation… And then Paul wraps it up with:
And pray in the Spirit [fervently] on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying… (emphasis mine)
Do you think people are alert? Or are we too busy to pay attention or fight the spiritual battle that is raging all around us? Has the enemy gained ground because people have been too busy to take him on? Have we been too busy and distracted to notice what the enemy has been doing to families and our country?
I think some of us don’t realize we have the power through the Holy Spirit to push back the darkness with our prayers. And so the enemy advances, and the darkness blinds us.
Just because we know how this story ends – that we win – doesn’t mean we don’t have to fight in meantime. We cannot let down or guard or remove our armor.
And we can’t leave it up to others to fight all the battles. We’re all part of this spiritual army. We can’t sit on sidelines and leave it up to MVP’s of team to score all the points. We’re all needed on the “praying” field.
Praying fervently is how we fight this spiritual battle, whether for our families, the church, the world, or our personal circumstances.
So, what does all this spiritual war talk have to do with being led to still waters? Aren’t they the opposite?
The still waters are where we get our training! Stillness is where we suit up with our armor. When we neglect still waters, we neglect to put our armor on and are unprepared for and unprotected against the enemy’s attacks.
The military has extensive classroom training as well as rigorous physical training. They are also trained to know their weapons inside and out. Furthermore, they study enemies in order to be one step ahead of their moves.
Our classroom training is the Word of God!
Our physical training is prayer!
Our weapons are the pieces of armor in Ephesians 6!
Just like the military, we need all three to defend ourselves against the enemy’s schemes.
And where is this done? Beside still waters.
We simply must step out of the troubled waters of our whirlwinds and find the time to spend in the Word and in prayer. In stillness. In fervency. Intentionally. Proactively.
The first half of Psalm 23:2 starts, “He makes me lie down…” Did God have to make us lie down? Did He send us all to our proverbial rooms to think it over? Maybe to help us find our spiritual footing?
“Pain is the megaphone God uses to rouse a deaf world.” C. S. Lewis
We certainly do need our soul restored (Psalm 23:3) in the green pastures of His Word and the still waters of prayer. And then? Verse 5 tells us we’ll be overflowing – with comfort, peace and no fear of evil, and with goodness and mercy.
Jesus regularly had his soul restored by the still waters of His Father’s love, His Father’s strength, peace and wisdom. How much more do we?
If going back to “normal” means the kind of busy life I’ve described, I want no part of it. I don’t want to pray as though it’s a game and not a war. I don’t want to show up to a gun fight with only a knife.
I want to help push back the darkness!
We have an opportunity to push the reset button. What will we do different?
We need an army of pray-ers. We need revivial.
Will you be part of this prayerdemic? Not just as being part of a group, but will you commit to fight in prayer – fervently and unceasingly? Will you resolve to pray every day for our country, our world and our families?
Imagine what our fervently prayers could do. Our world needs our prayers. Our prayers matter. Your prayers count.
Because God is able!
God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 NKJV
He sure did abundantly beyond in my addicted son’s life. He’s a pastor now.
We may have no idea what goes on in the spiritual realm when we pray, and we have no idea what doesn’t happen if we don’t pray. So, can we afford to not pray? (click to tweet)
Let’s let Him lead us every day beside those still waters that empower us for the battle that is fought on our knees.
Let’s start a prayerdemic!!
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Romans 13:11-12
Read about my 13 years of praying for my addicted son and God’s warrior angels here: https://www1.cbn.com/angel-warriors-respond-to-desperate-prayers
Parts of this blog is based on my book, Pursuing Prayer – Being Effective in a Busy World.
Let’s have a revival of prayer that brings on revival in our land. Let’s start a prayerdemic!
To learn more, click here.
And as things open up and we get back to our busy lives, download “Ten Prayer Tips for Busy Days” here (scroll down to see FREE download).