David King – Tunbridge Wells, UK.
Noah reached out his hand from a window in the ark to receive the returning dove which had a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak. That leaf from the tree of oil was the tangible promise of a new future, of a new and washed creation. Jesus is of course the greater Noah. He is the window to heaven. He received the dove of the Holy Spirit into his own being as he stood in those rushing waters of baptism. He did this to reunite us with the Father, and to reunite us with our future destiny. But what did Jesus do as he stood there? He prayed. What did he do immediately afterwards? He went into the wilderness for 40 days and nights to pray and fast. This is the life the Spirit draws us into. It is the only route to life and fruitfulness.
That is how I think of prayer – we are sticking our hands out through the torn veil of Christ’s body as we reach into heaven itself. We are reaching out to take hold of the powers of the age to come. God comes to us from the divine future, where Jesus is enthroned. He comes in the person and power of the eternal Spirit to meet our needs.
Nothing of lasting worth is going to take place for us that isn’t born of persistent, believing prayer. It doesn’t matter how gifted we are, or how determined we are, or how well connected we are. It is prayer that pulls heaven down. It is the vehicle of faith and the means of pursuing our relationship with the God of love.
Having said all this, prayer is not to be thought of as a light and fluffy thing. If we think prayer is going to be easy and not fiercely contested by the powers of darkness, we are going to be very disappointed. This is why Paul, whilst exhorting us, in Ephesians chapter 6, to ‘pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests,’ also explains that we need to ‘be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.’ He tells us to put on the full armour of God so that we may ‘take our stand against the devil’s schemes.’ In other words, we need to take prayer very very seriously, for prayer is spiritual warfare. The devil attended Jesus’ prayer meeting in the wilderness. He opposes prayer because, despite all evidence to the contrary, prayer terrifies him.
Don’t be surprised then if things appear to sometimes get worse and not better when you pray. It might be that your mind might wander, or that you feel drowsy. Your thoughts may be beset with fears, doubts, and temptations as you seek to draw near to your Father in heaven. Despite all this, let us never forget that as we pray: the devil trembles, and the dove will never come to us with an empty beak.