Day 4 of covid-19 lock-down here in Aotearoa New Zealand. If
someone had suggested this scenario six months ago, how many of us would have
thought it was possible that our world be taken hostage by a virus. Our
economies brought to their knees. Our personal freedoms’ freely surrendered. So
here I am sitting in lock-down.
This morning I did a little complaining to God, saying while
I was at rest and sure of my place in Him, I wasn’t sure of my specific
assignment on earth. I heard the Spirit say to me: C’mon Paul, what’s so hard
about this? Prayer, worship, and the ministry of the word are your assignment.
Thankyou Holy Spirit for you patient discipline. Therefore, lock-down has increased
the time I spend in word and prayer in the morning, and I have scheduled prayer
with Grace my wife in early evening.
Today prayer took a more specific sound as the Holy Spirit began to speak as I asked: What do I pray? I asked this because while I’ve been revealing some of my immaturity in complaining, I am mature enough to know that I want to pray prayers that begin in heaven, not in me.
So here is what I heard the Spirit saying:
“Pray for my church to arise and shine.”
For clarity, when I write ‘church’, I am not talking of the
institutions we call church. I’m seeing the ‘church’ of Jesus Christ that is
scattered throughout these institutions.
Three scriptures that I consider the Spirit is leading many to pray in these days:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Many know these verses, and I encourage reading them in
their context; make sure you begin in Isaiah 59, and see how the Spirit through
Peter referred to Isaiah 59:21 in Acts 2:39.
Now read Isaiah 60:1-3 slowly, listening in your heart for what the Spirit is saying. “Arise Shine, for your light has come” – that light is Jesus; and “the glory of the Lord has risen on you”- is this referring to the Holy Spirit filling our hearts and resting on us? I think so, and the context suggests so. Now we read “Darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples”. Can you see covid-19 here? A fear filled darkness covering the earth. I’m not belittling the threat, but I refuse to give into fear, and have purposefully used lowercase of covid-19; it does not have capital status for us who begin with our Father in heaven.
Besides this, you know that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then, let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:11-14
We can see the correlation of these verses with Isaiah 60.
They give some understanding as to what ‘arise shine’ looks like. We arise and
shine when we choose to put on Jesus Christ as our salvation and Lord; while
making no provision for our flesh. Our flesh being the entirety of the person
we were, when we first put our faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation.
Pray to wake up
There’s too much mixture of flesh and Spirit within us, and it makes us sleepy. Often our flesh is putting off until tomorrow what the Spirit is leading us to do today. It’s time to repent of our sleepy flesh weakened faith, and to put on Christ alone. Take off all your own stuff and put on Christ, and this includes our religious stuff, and our visions and dreams, and the passions we think are from God. They may be from God, but they don’t replace Jesus as Lord and the Spirit as our leader. Stop being deceived and following a path that you think God has given you.
Have you ever felt completely stripped naked before God? That you have nothing left but a seed of faith to offer him? And even then, you’re aware that he gave you the seed. Is this what the Spirit is leading us to pray for – A church stripped naked of its own stuff and clothed in Christ alone? This is the prayer of 2 Chronicles 7:14; it’s not for someone else, it’s for the person praying it.
A church stripped naked of its own stuff and clothed in Christ alone
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Link this verse to Isaiah 60. We see a thick cloud of darkness was about to descend as Jesus was arrested and crucified. In this cloud the Spirit of God is willing us to watch Jesus and pray with him. You know that Jesus is praying for all people to come into the salvation he has won for them. The Spirit of God in us is willing us to pray. Therefore, our weakness in prayer is choosing our flesh over the Spirit. And now lock-down has provided an opportunity to ‘watch and pray’ with Jesus. Thankyou Jesus for giving me this opportunity.
Fasting the flesh
Lock-down enables giving
up things my flesh would normally be preoccupied with, from work to recreation.
And we give up things of the flesh to focus on things of the Spirit. This is
our opportunity to ‘watch and pray’. I’m praying for believers across Aotearoa and
the world to grasp this opportunity with eagerness and expectation and to allow
the Spirit to lead and teach them how to watch Jesus and pray with him like
they never have before. As many of the activities that keep our flesh
busy and often suppress the Spirit’s leading have gone, will we choose to
replace them with increased watching Jesus and praying with Him? The Spirit in
us is willing, are we?
If God is calling his people to arise and shine in the thick
cloud of darkness, will he let the darkness remain until the remnant of his
people wake up, arise and shine in the darkness?
Please don’t make excuses that you don’t think or feel you
know how to pray, none of us are expert pray-ers. This is about arising and
shining, as ‘sons of God’ (Romans 8:19) in midst of darkness and fear. This is
not begging God to remove covid-19, but crying out for his church to wake up,
get up, and shine in their watching and praying as the Spirit leads. And we can all start by scheduling
appointments in our day to watch and pray.
Just do this more than you have been doing, please!