“It’s easy to give up on dreams, give up on miracles, give up on promises. We lose heart, lose patience, lose faith. And like a slow leak, it often happens without us even knowing it until your prayer life gets a flat.” (Batterson)
Last summer, feeling pretty “flat”, I read through a wonderful book that brought familiar scriptures and promises back to life for me. That book was The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. And I thought it’d be a great time to revisit some of what He was teaching me then, cause I need to hear it again now.
RIVERS IN THE DESERT
The first time I can remember God using Isaiah 43 to speak to my heart was in high school. Each year our youth group would take a week-long trip from Arizona to California. And there was one night where we could tangibly feel the Holy Spirit fill the room, and we were singing a song straight out of this chapter. And it stuck with me for years after that.
In college, after I had almost forgotten how God used those verses to call to my heart, He used it again. God used a guy I was co-leading a bible study with to remind me of some promises He had given me through those verses. Being single most of my high school and college life, while most of my friends had significant others, I found a lot of comfort in these verses:
“4 Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other people in exchange for your life. 5 Do not fear, for I am with you…18 Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. 19 Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
And so, because God had been using it so much throughout my life so far, I thought it was fitting to include it in our wedding ceremony. And I’m glad we did, cause it was beautiful. And things haven’t stopped there, God continues to bring this chapter to me time and time again, and continually teaches me new lessons from it.
“One of the primary reasons we don’t pray through is because we run out of things to say. Our lack of persistence is really a lack of conversation pieces. Pray through the Bible. Prayer was meant to be a dialogue, not a monologue.” (Batterson) And one day, I had run out of things to pray, so I figured I’d give that a try, and pray through one of my favorite chapters. I didn’t get past the first verse when God stopped me in my tracks.
“He who CREATED you, O Jacob, He who FORMED you, O Israel.” – Isaiah 43:1
I had never really paid much attention to this verse before, but suddenly it jumped off the page at me. And it might not seem like much at first, but let me show you why it stood out so much…
Knocking until your knuckles are raw
Crying out until you lose your voice
Pleading until your tears run dry
Batterson said, “the phrase used to describe the widow’s persistence, “she is wearing me out,” is a boxing terminology. Praying hard is going 12 rounds with God. A heavy weight prayer bout with God can be excruciating and exhausting, but that is how the greatest prayer victories are won. Praying hard is more than words: it’s blood, sweat, and tears.”
And I loved that imagery and really related to it, the boxer, fighting, being exhausted, battling it out. So I looked up other verses with strong words like “contend”…as in a boxing Contender. These were two of my favorites:
“Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.” Psalm 35:1. Here the Psalmist….or me, if I’m praying through this verse, is asking God to fight for me. And He does. How comforting is that!
“I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and those at Laodicea.” Colossians 2:1. Here Paul is praying hard for others.
So I was quite surprised as I read Isaiah 43, and realized what I was reading in verse 1. I was suddenly reminded of Genesis 32:28, where God changed Jacob’s name to Israel after he wrestled with God/God’s angel. He wanted a blessing, and persistently wrestled (contended) until he was blessed. He was wounded in the process, but he was persistent.
I find it interesting that it says “created” with Jacob and “formed” with Israel…cause he came out different, changed, affected by the battle…renamed and with a limp. And then it goes on to say: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Despite what some would think about “challenging” God like that, and battling in prayer over something, He honored Jacob.
BOLD PRAYERS = BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS
I agree with Batterson, “bold prayers honors God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less.” And I can see that throughout the Bible with the stories He’s chosen to share with us. God honors the “unorthodox”, the cast offs of society, and those who love Him more than they love religion.
Hard times teach us to pray hard. John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me(God). Here on earth YOU WILL HAVE many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” That’s pretty much a promise, although one I’d rather have Him not keep, but it’s saying we WILL have hard times. Life isn’t going to be perfect.
Having a perfect life isn’t the goal, and neither is just getting what I want. That’s not the reason I need to pray hard and pray through. The goal is glorifying and honoring God by continuously praying for the promises, miracle, and dreams He wants for me. And I can only know what those promises, miracles and dreams are by being in His word.