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Category Archives: Prayer in the Spirit

Prayer and Testing

In my last post, I talked about the way Jesus taught, by example, how to pray in times of distress.  How well did the disciples learn this lesson?

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour?  Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Enough!  The hour has come.  Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Mark 14:37-41

Unfortunately, this prayer session was a little past the disciples’ bedtime.  They didn’t last very long before they dropped off to sleep.

The fact that Mark records some of what Jesus prayed shows that they were awake for a little while.  The Lord probably knew what they could take and prayed accordingly.  I personally believe that He spent most of the time praying in the spirit.

In this whole incident, there’s a statement that Christ makes that should really speak to us.  He said to His disciples, watch and pray so that you will not enter temptation.  This is an important truth.

First of all, we must understand what temptation is.  It’s a test of whether or not our faith is genuine.  This same Greek word is translated by both temptation and testing throughout the New Testament.  The translators use one or the other word based upon the context of the verse.  It’s this testing that proves if we really believe the Word.

Jesus tells us that some testing can be avoided by prayer.  I only wish that all testing could be avoided.  But that’s just not the case.

If anyone could have avoided all testing, it would have been the Lord.  Yet, even He was tempted while He was fasting in the wilderness.

From my study of the Scriptures, I believe that there are at least 4 different kinds of testing.  The first is the trials that are common to all humans.  These cannot be stopped.  They’re used by God to show His power working in us.

Next are the ones that come as a result of what we desire.  These desires are not necessarily bad things.  Paul talks about those who desire monetary wealth having more tests than the normal person (1Timothy 6:9-10).  That’s because wealth comes with a trap, such that if your character isn’t strong enough, it could destroy you.

Another kind of testing comes from the sinful desires of our flesh.  When we allow ourselves to focus on them, we are pulled down the road of temptation.  Through watching and praying, this is one type of testing we can avoid.  As we renew our minds, it protects us from falling into these traps.

The fourth kind is the tests that we blindly walk into because we’re not being watchful.  Again, through prayer and having a listening ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit, these tests can be sidestepped.  Sometimes we find ourselves in the same test again and again because we don’t learn the lessons that only come through time spent with the Lord.

That’s why a deep prayer life is so important to the believer.  While it can’t stop all testing, it will give you a straighter and clearer path into the place God has called you to be.

Question: When have you found that prayer helped you to avoid a problem in your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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The Calling to Pray

As believers, we’re all called to pray.  However, the question often arises; are we all called to a warfare or intercessory type of ministry?

It’s clear from Scripture that we need to be a praying people.  We should be praying daily for ourselves and our family.  Also, we need to pray for others in the body of Christ.  Then, we should be praying for our friends, neighbors, community, and nation.

In order to fulfill this, Jesus gave His disciples a teaching on prayer.  As a part of this lesson, the Lord showed them an outline of what a prayer to God should include.  (Mark 6:9-13)  We call this the Lord’s Prayer.

We all should be praying – that’s beyond question.  But there’s a deeper level of prayer that needs to be addressed.  This is a powerful type of prayer that involves our whole being – body, soul, and spirit.  It could express itself in warfare, intercession, or a combination of both.

I believe that this is the kind of prayer that Jesus entered into, while in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Look at how the Gospel of Mark describes it.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
Mark 14:32

I think it’s interesting that this place of prayer Jesus chose was called Gethsemane.  That was an Aramaic word that meant olive-press.  It was going to be a place of great pressure for Christ.

What I want you to notice is that most of the disciples simply got the instruction to sit here.  Jesus told them that He was going to pray.  But He didn’t ask them to do anything in particular during that time.

There were, however, three disciples who got a different set of instructions.

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mark 14:33-34

Peter, James, and John – the three leaders of the group – were told to go with the Lord.  As they approached the place, Jesus began to be overwhelmed by the weight of what He was about to endure.  He expressed this to the three and told them to remain with Him and watch.

The Lord obviously wanted these particular disciples to watch and learn from what was happening in that garden of prayer.  They needed to learn the deeper issues of intense, Spirit-led prayer.

Most of the disciples would have had no understanding of what was going on in that garden.  It was these three that had a grasp of some of the things that take place in the spiritual realm.  After all, they were with Him when the Lord raised a dead girl back to life (Mark 5:37-43) and they witnessed His transfiguration (Mark 9:2).

We need to see that intense, intercessory prayer is not for everyone.  It’s only for those who have obtained to a mature level of spiritual understanding.  Even then, this kind of prayer is only learned by watching those who are already walking in it.

Are you called to this type of prayer?  The only way of knowing is for you to continue to pursue Christ.  Make it your goal to walk in everything that the Lord has for you.

Question: Why is intercessory prayer so important in the body of Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Do You Know What You’re Asking?

So often we go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him for things.  Many times, in our asking, we don’t really think about what it will take for God to answer us.  There are even some times when we don’t want God to answer it in His way.

The people of Jerusalem are a good example of this.  They were very excited when Jesus entered their city in triumph the week before His crucifixion.

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.  Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
Mark 11:7-10

This is a perfect example of people coming to God in prayer with their own thoughts on how they should be answered.  How often do we come before God in this way?

It all sounds very holy and good.  Hosanna!  It’s a cry for help to God.  It literally means “Save us now!!!”

What they wanted to be saved from and God’s desire were worlds apart.

They wanted to be freed from the oppression of the Roman Empire.  God wanted to set them free from the power of sin.  They wanted God to change their environment while God wanted to change them.

Then there’s the word blessed.  That’s a real churchy word.  It means to be worthy of praise.  In our society, we use the word Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!

In other words, they were saying, “Yaaaaay!  He’s coming in the name of the Lord!”  That should have been a clue to them.  Coming in the name of the Lord means that He’s not going to do what I want, but what God wants.

The next line shows us that they were expecting God to fulfill what they wanted to be done.  “Yaaaay!  The kingdom of David is coming!”  In their minds, it meant, “Down with Rome and up with Israel.”

They were not looking for the Messiah to change them the way God wanted to.  They were expecting Him to make their lives easier.  It’s sort of the same things that we like to pray.

“Lord, give me a better life without actually changing me.”

Of course, we would never use those exact words, but it’s what we mean sometimes.  Fortunately, the Lord knows what we need better than we do.

That last phrase they were chanting is the most telling.  Hosanna – save us now – in the highest.  What would it take for God to bring this about?  What were they really asking for?  They had no idea what would be needed for this to be accomplished.

In order for this salvation to take place, Christ had to go to the cross and shed His blood.  Then it had to be offered before God the Father.

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
Hebrews 9:24

I’m so glad that God doesn’t always give us what we ask for, but what we need.  That’s a great reason why we not only pray in our native language, but also in our heavenly language.  In that way, the deepest needs of our lives can be met.

Question: What are the greatest needs of your life that God has provided for you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Asking in God’s Will

As we continue to look at the Gospel of Mark, opposition to the ministry of Jesus is growing.  There are many who are trying to take His life.  But in spite of this, the Lord continues His mission.

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.  Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.  “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.  They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.  Three days later he will rise.”
Mark 10:32-34

The disciples still didn’t understand that the Lord was talking literally at this point.  But they did know that “rising” was a good thing.  They probably thought it meant that He was going to rise, as the King, to the throne of Israel.

This gave a few of them the incentive to move forward.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him.  “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
Mark 10:35-37

That’s an interesting thing to ask.  Even the way they asked it was specifically the way they were taught.

Jesus told them that He would do whatever they asked in prayer (John 14:13-14).  So now they were asking.

But that brings up an important point.  Some people think that just because they can quote a Bible verse in their prayer, it automatically qualifies them to receive whatever they ask God for.  But is that what the Word teaches?

Look at the Lord’s answer to them.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said.  “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.  These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
Mark 10:38-40

The first problem was that they really didn’t understand what they were asking.  Of course, that’s why we need to pray in the spirit.  There are many areas that we don’t understand the scope of our need.

But even more than that, they had yet to understand God’s will for their lives.  Before I can pray effectively, I need to know God’s plan intimately.

The more time I spend in the Lord’s presence, the more I understand His will for my life.  Then, as I pray with this understanding, I see a greater amount of answered prayer.  John, himself, understood this later on in his ministry.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14

John learned the lesson.  Prayer according to His will is answered positively.  Let the understanding of God’s will be your goal in His presence.

Question: What part of God’s plan have you understood recently?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Mountaintop Experience

So many people are hungering to see a manifestation of the power of God.  That’s the Lord’s will for us as well.  It’s something that you have to seek and pursue.  Jesus told His disciples about it.

And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”
Mark 9:1

Three of the disciples were about to witness the power and glory of the kingdom of God.  The Lord was taking them on a special trip.

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.  There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Mark 9:2-4

Many times during His ministry, Jesus would go off by Himself to a remote location and pray.  He would spend time in the Father’s presence, hearing what His next assignment would be.

Now, the Lord takes His three closest disciples with Him up a mountain.  They are about to learn from a mountaintop experience.  It should speak to us as well.

The first key to a mountaintop experience is the fact that they were all alone.  There were no distractions.  They could concentrate on what was happening with Jesus.  We need to get to that place of an unhindered focus on the Lord and what He’s speaking to us.

It was in that place that they had a revelation of the glory which Christ possessed from eternity past.  That’s the defining characteristic of a mountaintop, at least in Scripture.  It’s all about clarity of vision.  You can suddenly see clearly what God wants you to see.

When you’re on top of a mountain, above the tree line, you have an unobstructed view in all directions.  You can see clearly both where you came from, and where you’re going to.  And even more than that, you get a fresh revelation of Christ.

In that place, you have a greater understanding of who Jesus is and what He wants to accomplish in you.  It’s a place of spiritual clarity.

The disciples didn’t know how to handle it.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Mark 9:5-6

Here we see one of the biggest problems of our flesh in the Lord’s presence.  Why do we always think that we need to say or do something?  Why can’t we just stay quiet, listen for His voice, and drink in His Spirit?

We need to learn to just be still in the Holy Spirit’s presence.  It’s what the Father told the disciples.

Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
Mark 9:7-8

If we will quiet our hearts before God, we could have this type of mountaintop experience.  Not with our physical eyes, but in the spirit.

The results are well worth it.  We will “no longer see anyone but Jesus.”  That’s the change that can only happen in the spirit.

Question: Have you ever had a mountaintop experience and what did you learn from it?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Getting Behind Christ

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we see the Lord bringing His disciples to a deeper level of knowledge about Himself.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Mark 8:31-32

Jesus began to explain to the disciples that the Messiah must undergo rejection by Israel.  Then, He needed to die on the cross, be buried and three days later, rise from the dead.

Peter was obviously upset by this.  He was so taken back by hearing about the Lord’s death that he totally missed the part about rising from the dead.  He began to rebuke Jesus for His “negative confession.”

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Get behind me, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Mark 8:33

No, Peter was not possessed by the devil at this time.  The Greek word, satan, means accuser.  Jesus was not calling Peter the devil, but describing his actions.  (Actually, the devil would have enjoyed seeing Jesus die.)

In his statement, Peter was accusing Jesus of being out of the will of God for his life.  Peter was placing himself on the same level as Christ, telling Him what He should be doing.

That’s why the Lord told him to get behind me.  In other words, you’re not my peer; get back in line following me where you belong.  He explained that Peter was not thinking like God thinks, but like men think.

Jesus took this as a teachable moment.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:34-38

Christ makes it clear that in following Him, we have to give up our fleshly, human way of thinking.  Ministry in the kingdom of God is not based on what I think is best for God.  It’s about what He thinks is best.

Too often we’re guilty of giving God our opinion of what should be done.  Then, we run off with our plans and seek God’s blessing on it.  We then get frustrated wondering why it has no effect.

Instead, we need to seek the Holy Spirit to change the way we think.  We need our minds to be renewed.  Because if I can think the way God does, then I’m going to want His perfect will.

This is important.  I won’t need to seek His will; I’ll know it because I want what He wants.  Then it will be blessed – not because I prayed for God to bless it, but because it’s already anointed by God.

That’s why we need to spend quality time in the Lord’s presence.  But not spending all our time seeking things and answers to problems.  We must desire to know Him better – His thoughts, His will, and His heartbeat.

Question: What’s the difference between seeking God’s will and seeking God’s heart?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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There’s No Convincing a Hard Heart

As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, we come to a point where Jesus is met by some Pharisees.  They start to discuss theology with Him.  But they have an ulterior purpose.

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus.  To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.
Mark 8:11-12

The Pharisees were the spiritual authorities in Israel.  They were the ones who the people looked up to for guidance and counsel.

In the natural, you could say that there was a lot riding on this meeting.  If the Pharisees accepted Jesus as their Messiah, then the people would follow.  If they rejected Him, it would be harder for the people to be convinced.

On the surface, it seemed pretty innocent.  A group of spiritual leaders looking for more information upon which to base their decision.  That’s not what’s happening here.

We’re dealing with a group of self-righteous leaders, who don’t want to lose their power base.  The appearance of the Messiah would make them step down a rung on the ladder of authority.  It was in their best interest to find a reason to reject Christ.

Of course, that’s always the reasoning of the self-righteous.  They put up a smoke-screen of seeming to want to accept you.

“Show us a sign from Heaven, so that we can follow you.”

This isn’t how self-righteousness works.  In my experience, self-righteous people are looking for signs that you’re not truly a believer.

“You can’t possibly be a strong Christian.  I saw you dance and drink the champagne toast at the wedding.”

These Pharisees had already concluded that Jesus wasn’t on their level.  After all, He heals on the Sabbath.  He doesn’t even make His disciples perform the religious rituals, like fasting and hour-long ceremonial hand washings.

How do you convince someone whose mind is already made up?  It requires supernatural wisdom.

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?  I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.”  Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Mark 8:12-13

This is the key to walking in the wisdom of God.  The original Greek version of this verse specifically says that the Lord groaned deeply in His spirit.  Most people don’t realize that Jesus had a rich prayer life in the spirit.  For a more detailed look at this, click here.

This is why we need to cultivate our spiritual prayer language.  It’s how we tap into the mind of Christ.  It’s the channel for the wisdom of God to flow through us.

We think that we always need to defend ourselves.  We get into arguments trying to convince people that we’re right.  The truth is, even though we’re right, God’s wisdom might be to simply not answer them and walk away.

That’s what the Holy Spirit led Jesus to do in this instance.  The Pharisees had already made up their minds about Him.  Nothing He did would change them.

This is a reason we need to pray regularly in the spirit.  We must be prepared to face the challenges ahead.  It doesn’t matter if it’s people who are challenging us or the enemy’s kingdom.  It’s the wisdom of God that will ultimately bring the victory.

Question: When have you received supernatural wisdom as a result of your prayers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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