The Mosquito

Lying in bed, you hear the sound, that high pitched whine, announcing the presence of a mosquito in the room. A tiny little insect, but it’s buzz can keep you awake wondering, if and when it will land and attack! Frequently, that high pitched whine means that the lights go on and there is no peace until the little pest is found and disposed of. How can something so small cause so much trouble?
The image of a mosquito is helpful for us when we think about our adversary, the devil. It is easy to think of the devil al all powerful leading us to be scared and fearful. There is a danger that we can think of God and the devil as equally opposing powers. In fact, this is what the enemy would like us to believe. The reality is that God, the creator of all things, is far more powerful. As the kid’s song reminds us. “Our God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there is nothing our God cannot do!” In contrast, Satan is like a little mosquito, buzzing around, they are a pain for sure but not all powerful. Nevertheless, we do need to be aware of mosquitos. They can carry malaria or West Nile virus and can make us very sick.

We have an enemy who is out to cause us harm. But in comparison to God he is like a tiny mosquito. Satan is a created being, he has limitations. His is not all powerful and is forced to work within the limits and confines of a created being. He lacks originality, his plans and schemes utilize the same tactics again and again. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that “we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11) but he also warns us not to be outwitted. We cannot underestimate this adversary, we need to be on guard because he will use the same tactic again and again against us. But if we know his schemes, then it becomes far easier to recognize and avoid the traps which he sets for us. We can hear the high pitched whine and be on alert ready to squish Satan’s schemes.

Satan has to use the principles which God Almighty has established. For example, God has chosen to limit himself and work through the prayers of his people. Why would God limit himself to being reliant upon our prayers in order to move his will forward? This is a mystery of God, which we shall only fully understand in glory. But I wonder if part of the answer is that by limiting himself he has also limited the devil, who has to operate along the same spiritual principles. So Satan needs to work with and through humans (who he hates) in order to accomplish his evil plans. He cannot just do what he wants, he must manipulate humans into moving his plans forward. The brokenness and depravity of humanity’s fallen condition makes this a fertile field to work within. But it is still limiting and God is able to work powerfully.

We have an enemy who is out to get us. But when compared to God, our Heavenly Father, he is merely a whining mosquito. He is still dangerous, but we are not unaware of what his plans are. As we draw near to God, in prayer, and resist the devil he will flee from us (James 4:7).


Praying God’s Word

The Apostle Paul describes the Word of God as a sword (Ephesians 6:17). If that is so how are we to wield this sword in prayer? For his birthday my son got a Nintendo Wii game which includes a swordplay game. By waving the Wii remote wildly it is possible to defeat your opponent at the beginning level but very quickly that becomes harder to do and instead some technique and skill is needed. In the same way, when it comes to Scripture and prayer there is some technique which is needed in order to wield the sword of the Spirit effectively.

Prayer using God’s Word is powerful because when you pray it you know that you are praying God’s will. But that does not mean you can just pick any verse you want for a situation. Praying Isaiah 55:12 (KJV) is not a guarantee of a date on Saturday night! We have to understand the context and the meaning of the verse. “For ye shall go out with joy” is not talking about dating a girl named Joy! We need to do our best “to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). 

But if we have a passage like Isaiah 64, we can use that passage to praise God for his awesome power which can rend the heavens. We can pray that the Lord would make himself known to those who stand as enemies before him and that the nations would know that it is the Lord who is at work. (v. 1-2) We can pray in confidence that God will act on behalf of those who wait upon him (v 4) and in light of that truth we can become still and listen for specific directions the Lord will give us.

The Psalms are full of prayers which we can pray back to the Lord. These are prayers which cover the complete range of human emotion, from the intense pain of the confession of sin to the raw anger and desire for the Lord to enact revenge on people. They provide us with expression for our emotion. As we use God’s Word more and more as the source for our prayers we become better sword bearers, wielding the Word accurately and powerfully in prayer.

Prayer is like going to the gym.

I went to the gym once. I spent an hour working out. But when I had finished I did not look any different! You can’t get in shape by going to the gym once, it takes regular visits. You could go to the gym once a week and it would help, but to really achieve impressive results it takes a daily schedule of exercise. Getting to the gym regularly is only the beginning. Understanding and planning the various exercises is also necessary if an exercise program is going to be effective.

It is the same when it comes to developing a vibrant prayer life. You can pray once and it will do you good. God hears and answers our prayers. The psalmist tells us: “He will call on me, and I will answer him;” (Psalm 91:15). But if we really want to grow in our understanding of prayer and our relationship with God, we need to develop a regular pattern or habit of prayer. The old adage “practice makes perfect” certainly has application when it comes to our prayer lives.

Just like going to the gym, a regular schedule of prayer is going to result in a definite development of our prayer muscles. We need the regular spiritual workout. Just showing up is not going to mean automatic results. We need to do some planning and have to decide on an approach to our time of prayer. We need to think through what elements need to be included. This will vary for each of us. These elements could include a time of praising God, a time of reading Scripture and praying Scripture, a time for confession and asking for forgiveness, a time of praying for your own personal needs and a time for praying for others. These are just some of the elements we can use.

We can think of these elements as pieces of gym equipment and plan our prayer “workout’ around these pieces of equipment. We don’t have to do the same thing every day either. Just as those who go to the gym may spend a day focusing on just their legs. One day could be spent specifically praying for the children’s ministries in the church.

Getting organized and having a plan allows us to become effective in prayer and will help us to deepen our relationship with the Lord, and like a good workout schedule we end up feeling fit and healthy.

Are you “prayer fit?”

The Holy Spirit said what?

There is a wonderful story in the book of Acts which shows us that just hearing from God not enough we also need to discern it too. Paul was making his way to Jerusalem and in Acts 21 he reached Caesarea. There he visited with Philip, one of the first deacons. During his stay, a prophet, Agabus made an appearance and as prophets sometimes do, he did some strange things…

Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 21:11)

The immediate response of everyone was to tell Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. They took the Spirit’s message as a warning and tell Paul that he must abandon his plans. You can understand why they felt that way, they loved Paul, and the idea of him being arrested and handed over to the Romans did not make sense. They assumed this was a warning from God. So they urged Paul not to go. Paul, rejected their interpretation of what the Spirit had said. He stated that he was ready to be bound and even to die in Jerusalem for the sake of Jesus (Acts 21:13). Two very different reactions and interpretations of what the Holy Spirit said through the prophet.

This is why discernment is so important. For one group, fear led to a warning to avoid Jerusalem. However, for Paul it encouraged a boldness to go to Jerusalem and even die. The first group allowed their own feeling and emotions to colour what the Holy Spirit was saying to them. But, at the same time, Paul’s emotions also blurred his vision. He expected imprisonment and death and while imprisonment took place death would have to wait a few years!

Without his imprisonment a number of the New Testament letters would not have been written, and Paul would not have had the opportunity to share the gospel with so many Roman soldiers. God had a plan and a purpose for what would take place.

As we listen to the Holy Spirit today, it’s important to make sure that we carefully discern not only what the Spirit may be saying to us, but also what it means, and how we are to respond to the directions the Spirit gives. Those directions may not make sense to us, but they may be part of God’s bigger plan and purpose that we have not yet seen.