“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
By John David Hicks
In the last issue I used the illustration of breaking the sound barrier to show that God must put you into situations you can’t handle. At times you must go through failure and defeat—that’s what moves you up. I also talked about how God took me to the next level in healing with Kara Blankenship, the girl with spina bifida who was paralyzed below her waist, who is now walking and jumping.
At the start of the healing service for Kara, I knew the church people were struggling in their faith for a miracle. From the human side there was no hope or help for Kara. Doctors had given up. So I asked the people: “If you needed ten dollars, could you trust God to provide it for you? What if you needed five hundred dollars by tomorrow? Could you believe God to provide it for you? What if you needed a hundred thousand dollars or five million dollars? Could you believe God to provide it for you by tomorrow?
“Notice what is happening to your faith,” I said. “You had no problem with ten dollars, but five million you struggle with. We do the same thing with healing. We have no problem with a small problem like a headache—that’s a ten-dollar prayer. But spina bifida with paralysis is a five-million-dollar prayer. However, James 5:15 says, ‘The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.’ Jesus said that nothing is impossible with God and with you” (Matthew 17:20; 19:26).
Unbelief is a mindset that comes from the world, the flesh, or the devil. This mindset is sin and needs to be overcome by repentance. “Repent” means you change your way of thinking; you are going in one direction and you turn around and go in another direction. Jesus said, “The world’s sin is unbelief in me” (John 16:9 NLT). Sadly, unbelief is a “stumbling block” in the church as well (Hebrews 12:1). “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
Jesus did not do many miracles in Nazareth “because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:58). He “was amazed at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6). Is Jesus amazed at your unbelief? “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen” (Mark 16:14). Then Jesus goes on to say in verse 17, “And these signs will accompany those who believe…they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
When a father brought his son to Jesus to be healed, Jesus said to him, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately he exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24). For you to see your miracle, you may have to pray that prayer too. It starts with repentance—changing your mindset. After Jesus helped the father, He addressed the disciples’ unbelief. They had been powerless to cast out the demon. There are some things that can happen only through “prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29 NKJV), said Jesus. He had given His disciples power and authority over “all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19), but their unbelief (no faith level) overwhelmed them. Fasting does not change God, but it will certainly change you.
For the disciples to break through to the next level spiritually with this boy they had to be desperate enough to fast. Only in intercession to the “throne of grace” can you change the course of history and accelerate the purposes of God. Through the discipline of fasting, God reveals His will and ways and His kingdom goes forward, and people are saved, healed, and delivered.
Fasting was practiced throughout the Bible—from Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel. Jesus was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1) before His 40-day fast. But He returned “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14) after the fast and declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). That is why the church in the book of Acts fasted. Even the apostle Paul prayed and fasted for every church he planted. Is your spiritual hunger, burden, or concern for a breakthrough strong enough to drive you to fasting?
Fasting is a form of self-denial. It calls for a deep level of commitment and sacrifice. When you fast, you abstain from food to give yourself to prayer.
Why must we fast? We are spiritual people engaged in spiritual warfare. Fasting combined with prayer and faith releases remarkable spiritual resources. Our enemy will not give up ground without a fight. He will contest every step you take. But God has promised: “I will give you every place where you set your foot…. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life” (Joshua 1:3, 5). The spiritual warfare at times is so demanding that you set aside your fleshly desire to wait before God. You are praying for “God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
In fasting you humble yourself before God, like you can in no other way. That is why fasting is often associated with repentance and brokenness and examining yourself with the Word of God. As a result, fasting becomes an act of worship to the sovereign of the universe. Fasting is a gift of yourself to God. You are seeking God’s face more fully. Your expectation is in God. Jesus said when God sees the motive of your heart He will reward you before men.
Fasting is self-discipline and not legalism; but for fasting not to be legalistic or become pious it must be done out of love and devotion to the Lord. The most common fast is to give up a meal or two. But don’t be discouraged if you can’t give up some eating times. You can fast in many ways. Jesus gave up sleep for prayer. You can withdraw from friends and family for more time in intercession. Others fast by giving up something they like to do—for example, watching TV or surfing the Internet—or by giving up leisure time or some recreation to spend in prayer.
Your attitude behind the fast is more important than the fast. The sharing of your burdens, concerns, hurts, and battles helps move you to the next level spiritually, and that is what fasting is all about. The purpose of fasting is to draw closer to God, not just for a solution to your problem! He is the answer and the solution. Fasting helps you experience God in an intimate way.
Intercession and travailing prayer is the immune system of the body of Christ. Through prayer you fight off the attacks of Satan as he seeks to afflict and cripple the body of Christ with conflict, sickness, and death. The cry of intercession is a response to the pain for God to send the solution. Here are five basic principles that may help you discover the reason travailing prayer takes you to the next level spiritually.
1. Before you ask anything, examine your motive. Is your motive for the glory of God? “God knows and judges your motives. He keeps watch on you; he knows. And he will reward you according to what you do” (Proverbs 24:12 TEV). For most people not all their prayers are answered. James says it’s because you ask with the wrong motives (James 4:3). Sometimes in hindsight we can understand why prayer is not answered. For example, some have prayed for a special girl to fall in love with them. Later, they are glad that special girl found another special someone. At times our prayers are motivated by our selfish ambitions. Praying to win the lottery is probably motivated by selfish desires rather than faith in God’s provision and glory.
Satan inhabits pride just as God inhabits praise. Until you are humble enough to ask God for help, the devil will control the situation. If pride is involved, God will oppose you, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). God wants to show you your pride, your love for man’s approval. The only way for the branch to bear fruit is through the vine. “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Our earnestness and travail can be a subtle form of pious self-idolatry, if we are obsessed with the method and not with God. It is a mistake to think that God will hear anyone who is wrapped up in self-righteousness or his performance. Jesus defines the glory of God in your life by your motives. “Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him” (John 7:18 NRSV).
Jesus said at the tomb of Lazarus, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). Paul declared, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
The manifested glory of God depends on your motive and asking.
In Hebrew the glory of God means weight or heaviness. In Greek it means appearance, manifestation, splendor, radiance. God’s glory has substance and splendor. To Moses God manifested His glory in His presence by His attributes (Exodus 33:22-23). Paul speaks of the eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). Thus, the glory of God is manifested in His presence and power.
In John 17:4, 10, 22-23, Jesus prayed that His glory would be manifested through you: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do…. All I have is yours (Father), and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them…. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.” At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit (His presence and attributes) came upon His disciples with power (to manifest God’s glory).
When you go with the glory of God, you move in His presence and power. Mark 16:17 declares, “And these signs (His power) shall follow those who believe in My Name (His presence).” “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Through your motive, the glory of God manifests God’s presence and power. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Your motive is for God’s glory.
2. Brokenness is second in the process. The American Heritage Dictionary defines brokenness: “Subdued totally.” It is an attitude of humility that comes from the recognition of our powerlessness to meet God’s standards in ourselves. It is a submission to God’s viewpoint, a transparency before God and man. You are broken when you recognize your total dependency on God. Thus, brokenness is humility before God with meekness, modesty, and unselfishness. But from God’s viewpoint, a humble person is completely dependent upon Him; he has surrendered his rights, possessions, and his very self totally to God.
Only when you are broken will you come under the Father’s discipline. Until then you will be like the prodigal sons. One would not come under parental control and went to the far country; the other in pride stayed home and did his own thing but never understood the father’s love.
True humility is not thinking that you are something wonderful; it’s not thinking about yourself at all. It is not self-denial you need but self-forgetfulness. Humility causes you to bypass your self and step into the Lord’s mind, desires, and priorities.
The Scripture pronounces a blessing on the humble: “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NKJV). If you want to be near to God, then you must come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit that is grieving and penitent for sin and your deficiency. Only when you are dissatisfied with your present condition will you move up spiritually. Brokenness starts when you reach the end of yourself and feel that you cannot go on anymore. That bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil is no longer acceptable to you. When brokenness has done its job, deliverance is possible. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). “For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
Humility is a good sign that selfishness is broken. The way the Lord weans you away from self dependency to total dependence on Him is through the very effective means of failure!
Most Christians will go to any length to hide, ignore, or rationalize their failures. Few realize that failure is God’s most effective instrument in teaching you to trust and depend on Him. Not only does God allow failure, but He engineers and maneuvers you into places, situations, and problems to break your self centeredness and show you that while you said you were doing it for God’s glory, it was really for your own glory.
This lesson on total dependence on God can only be learned when you are doing your best, but not taking God’s strength or trusting in Him. He must let you fail. In your brokenness, in your time of need, in your troubles or problems, will you cry out to God? “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). In your brokenness you see clearly your need for God’s help, and humility is achieved with all its benefits.
3. Third in the process of travailing is pleading the promises of God by praying the Scriptures: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5 NKJV). “As soon as Zion was in labor she delivered her children” (Isaiah 66:8 NRSV). Abraham pleaded for Sodom (Genesis 18), Moses pleaded for Israel (Exodus 32), and Hezekiah pleaded for Judah (2 Kings 19). This pleading presents to God a biblical reason He should answer your prayer. God will answer your plea because He cannot deny Himself or His Word. Prayer is the supreme weapon to use “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
After pleading the promises, make sure you pray the Scriptures. This is nothing more than claiming what God has already promised. But it is more than just repeating back to God what the Bible says. You must allow His Word to permeate your heart. That is where faith is kindled. As you read God’s Word, certain words, phrases, or sentences will come alive. Thank God for His revelation and then apply those promises to your prayer. Your prayers will then take on a new life, power, and authority. Pleading the promises and praying the Scriptures gives you a fresh anointing, boldness, and confidence in God.
As God’s Word enters your heart, it will move your faith into actions with expressions of praise, thanksgiving, adoration, worship, contemplation, intercession, and shouts of joy. “For the word of God is living and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV). You now have the assurance that you are praying according to the will of God and “we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:15). When you pray Scripture, you are praying the will of God into your life.
4. Patience is fourth in the process. This is a requirement for walking with God. Without patience you will run ahead of God and miss His timing. Without patience most people will crash before they go through the “barrier.” Hebrews 6:12 tells us why this is so important. “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” Patience with faith causes you to inherit the promises. These two forces will move mountains. So if you have faith but no patience you won’t inherit what has been promised.
When hope is added to patience, faith is complete. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). Without materials, or substance, a house can’t be built. Faith must start with the material of hope before it can become the substance of faith. Hope is the substance of faith.
So how do you get into faith? As you patiently meditate on the promises, the Holy Spirit creates hope. When you confess and claim the promises, faith is developed and built up in you. Substance is formed.
Paul describes this in 2 Corinthians 12:12, “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.” It is easy to see the signs, wonders, and miracles and overlook perseverance. Paul is saying that if he didn’t have patience to keep obeying God the miracles would not have happened. He continued to pray and minister even when it looked like nothing was happening, knowing that God was faithful to His Word. Paul says patience was required.
Without patience your faith will be aborted! In a spiritual pregnancy, when you are not patient you lose faith and abort the fetus. A lot of “signs, wonders and miracles” have been aborted because of lack of perseverance. This is the tragedy of impatience. The closer you get to God, the more you understand that God is not in a hurry. “Whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isaiah 28:16 NKJV). To experience the next level of anointing, it is required that you persevere.
James encourages us, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (1:4). Compare that to Hebrews 6:12: “through faith and patience (we) inherit what has been promised.” The reward of patience is inheriting the promises.
You inherit the promises only by waiting on the Lord. Isaiah 64:4 declares this: “No one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV).
5. Fifth in the process of travailing in prayer is desperation with perseverance: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12). Satan tries to make the circumstances look so impossible that you will get discouraged and quit praying. Prayer is warfare. At times persistent prayer with desperation is required. A drowning man has only one thought—how to get air. Nothing else matters! His life’s priorities are plain. He is desperate because his survival is at stake.
This desperation is wrapped up in two Bible words: fervency and importunity. “Fervent” is “very hot; glowing; exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling.” In the Greek, “fervently” is translated “eagerly, earnestly, continually without ceasing and intently.” Without fervency, it’s hard to “pray continually”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17). Fervency gives passion, zeal, a crying out in your prayer. Even Jesus “offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7 NASB).
Scripture defines travailing prayer as “importunity”—in the Greek “shamelessness and boldness.” It’s refusing to go away and boldly refusing to take a denial. Importunity in prayer will overcome apathy. This desperation will change the hearts and minds of those who are praying and examine the sincerity of your request.
Stories abound from Christians who were sick, in trouble, imprisoned, or mistreated who cried out to God and experienced intimacy with God as a result. After the conflict, they missed the intimacy. They were no longer desperate. While none of us want hardships, it’s hard to deny the fact that hardships produce desperation, which in turn gives birth to intimacy. That is why some fast only when they are desperate.
Your faith must be tried and tested to go to the next level! You can have bold faith in various areas but be weak in others. Like the muscles of your body, spiritual muscles that aren’t used become weak. You may be exercising your faith muscle for money but not for souls, for evangelism but not for healing. Your faith must be exercised if you want spiritual growth and no weak areas.
Faith is more than getting a logos (from the Word of God) or rhema (a personal word) from the Lord for a specific thing. Your belief structure may not be capable of receiving it yet. For instance, a pastor told me that he believes in divine healing and has seen many healed under his ministry, but he struggles to believe God for his own eye illness. Why? The law of the kingdom is: “According to your faith will it be done to you” (Matthew 9:29). And “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Yet, in each of us there are many areas where our faith has not yet been released or matured.
But a word of caution must be given to those who go to the next level and have gained new territory in the Spirit. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). To keep what you have received requires nurturing and follow through. “And as for you, brethren, do not become weary or lose heart in doing right [but continue in well-doing without weakening]” (2 Thessalonians 3:13 AB). Don’t lose your zeal for intimacy or God’s kingdom. Many older Christians who have had breakthroughs are now just sitting in church, content with no ministry.
For a truth to be real you must experience it. The anointing follows the struggle. If you look at your life, each time you have moved up spiritually, God put you into impossible situations that stretched you and made you trust Him more. You did not know what to do or even how to pray. But the groaning, travailing, and perseverance moved you higher. As both Abraham’s and Sarah’s faith was tested, yours will be also. The question Satan presents is, “Will God be faithful to keep His promises?”
The Word of God declares: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). And “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). God’s Word is the only true anchor for your soul when you are tossed by the waves of doubt, uncertainty, and bewilderment—God is faithful to keep His Word! He is faithful in the midst of the doubt of Abraham and Sarah. He is faithful in the affliction of Job. He is faithful to Joseph in prison. He is faithful to Paul in the storms at sea. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
However, experience shows that there must be a travailing of faith to receive what God has promised. At times it is a painful and difficult process. But the deepening work of faith more than compensates for the groaning, travailing, weeping, and fasting you had to go through. “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6 NKJV). Here is a travail of faith that resulted in the Lord delivering him! God is true to His Word, which proclaims that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).