from Conversations with God: “The Gift of Enduring Intercession” by Allison Bown
Everyone has encountered times where challenges remain challenging; where expectations don’t unfold as expected and the prayers we pray don’t seem to have an impact. What is going during those times and how can they possibly be good? It’s a question that I’ve both had and heard from many people.
It was during such a time several years ago, that I found myself reading one of the most familiar stories in scripture — the epic tale of Jericho. Most of us know it. Israel has finally crossed over into the Promised Land and God has given Joshua a rather ridiculous battle plan: march around this massive, walled city once a day for six days with the priest and the ark of the covenant leading the way. On day seven, do it seven times. The horns will blow. The men will shout and the walls will fall. Oh yeah, and no talking. Not until it’s time to shout. (Joshua 6)
Seriously? This is a “plan”? It would be interesting to have seen the thought bubbles over the men’s heads when Joshua made the announcement.
As I contemplated these events with a fresh lens, I began to ask the Holy Spirit: Why was it so important that they didn’t talk? And He pointed out a fact that I had never considered: Jericho’s walls didn’t crumble little by little each day. There were no signs of progress after each lap. Jericho’s walls looked as solid on the morning of Day Seven as they had the very first day. Nothing (it seemed) had changed. Not a single stone or gate had shifted…not even a little.
But what if Day One through the last lap of Day Seven wasn’t about impacting the walls of Jericho? What if it was about shifting the hearts of the army into the mindset of the fighting force they would need for the campaign ahead? What if…?
Very few of these men remembered God’s majesty in annihilating Egypt. They would have been less than 20 years old at the time, since anyone older than that died in the Wilderness during the past 40 years (Numbers 32:11), except for Joshua and Caleb. They had experienced God’s provision of the manna and their clothes that didn’t wear out, but most of the miraculous stories were from long ago. God had parted the Jordan River for them a few days before; they had seen bits and pieces of the majesty of God — but now it was time…
Time for each man to decide for himself: Who is God to me in this place?”
I think it’s possible that with every lap around Jericho, with every opportunity to stare at those massive walls that weren’t changing, each man had to ask that question of himself. He couldn’t chat about it with his buddies or take an opinion poll. In silence, staring at the impossible, he had to determine from his own relationship with “I AM” — Who is God to me and who will He be for me?
Is He really faithful and can His word be trusted?
Is He truly majestic and all-powerful, despite what I see?
There are times in everyone’s life where we circle difficult, even impossible situations that do not seem to change. Our prayers appear to go unanswered and we can be prone to wonder, “What’s really going on here?”
It could be that God is allowing us to go through a process of learning how to pray with Him, not just towards Him. It could be that there’s a better prayer to pray and He’s kindly helping us get closer and closer to the intercession that will be the arrow to the mark. The delays we’re encountering can range from enemy opposition or God graciously allowing in His wisdom what He could easily prevent in His power. All of these are concepts that Graham so excellently describes in his book Crafted Prayer.
But what if during times of extended intercession with seemingly little or no change, it is our hearts that are transforming. While God may not answer the why, how or when questions, He will always answer the classic: “Who do You want to be for me now that You couldn’t be at any other time?”
When we can circle situations and not see outward change, but grow stronger in our personal trust of who God is for us, we take massive strides in growing up into all things in Christ. We soak in His love, kindness and goodness that is His true nature. We’re no longer trying to borrow someone else’s experience with God or relying on old history. We have an opportunity to discover how deeply we personally “know beyond all doubts in whom I have believed and am fully persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)
As the foolish virgins learned, you can’t borrow the oil of Holy Spirit relationship at the last minute from others (Matthew 25:8-9). Just being with spiritually mature people doesn’t automatically transfer into your personal maturity in Christ. Each of us has to cultivate our own journey and story with the One Who Loves Us Best.
And times of enduring intercession are a perfect time to have that Conversation with God.
While circumstances seem to remain unchanged, we have the opportunity to choose worship over worry; thanksgiving over complaining; rejoicing in Who God is for us over seeing only all we are not or lack. If we choose the lesser, we can discover the depths of God’s mercy. When it hurts, we are introduced to The Comforter as never before. When we don’t understand, the door opens to encounter a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Every lap around in prayer can allow us to encounters something more magnificent in Christ. The circumstances may not have changed. But WE have totally transformed because of what we’ve been beholding (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Until He has gotten bigger than anything we face; until we know that nothing really is impossible for Him — and before the challenges crumble, our sound and shout of victory pierces the atmosphere because His majesty has become our reality. The lens of Heaven is more real than our earthly perceptions…and long-standing walls of opposition are reduced to rubble, becoming the stepping stones to our next territory.
Walls that don’t move so often take what is often meant to discourage us and end up empowering us instead with His courage for all that is ahead.
Conversations with God is a 3-disc teaching by Allison Bown that was re-released this April at Brilliant Book House. This article was pulled from disc 3 of the series. If you are interested in hearing more from Allison, check out the remastered Conversations with God, HERE for only $15.