"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Ephesians 6:18-20 (NIV).
Just before this exhortation to pray, the apostle Paul explained to the Ephesians that we do not struggle against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities of the spiritual world.
So much of the spiritual life is invisible. We pray for God to transform people's hearts. And sometimes we can see the fruit of that, in the transformation of a person's actions, but the primary work is done inside, where we can never go. We experience spiritual oppression and resistance, but that too often shows up only in our hearts or our emotions or our minds.
I know that I've written to you before about spiritual darkness and times of absolute travail and how deeply I have sensed the spiritual warfare over the past five years, since I started talking about emotional barriers to faith and how to be an ambassador of Jesus in everyday life. But this week I've been reminded again of the need for prayer. And not just prayers of personal deliverance, but community prayers that God would break through into the lives of the others in our spiritual community.
These past weeks, since my near car accident, have been times of incredible spiritual oppression for me. For me, this often looks like an emotional apathy, questions about what I am doing and what I am writing and where it's all going, if anywhere. It's the inability to see God at work. It's a complete exhaustion and a desire to withdraw from relationships and activities.
But at the same time, God has provided. He's provided a community of people who will pray with me and for me. He's provided good friends who will speak truth to me. He's provided the encouragement of a random dear friend writing to tell me that she was praying for me this week as she was trying to go to sleep. He's provided the encouragement of a glimmer of where things might be going and what God is longing to accomplish through my life and ministry.
I don't know how you live life in the kingdom, praying and laboring to see the Kingdom of God come and people re-made into true followers to Christ, without a community of believers who will pray for you and support you. You have to expect that you will face spiritual resistance. And you need to be meeting that resistance the spiritual weapon of prayer. But you can't do it alone. You need to find others who will walk alongside you.
Who do you have in your life who will pray with you and for you as you seek the Kingdom of God? Who are you walking beside and praying for as they learn to follow Jesus? Where can you go to find the spiritual support that you need to survive?