The Power of Our Words and Prayers

altar_of_incense

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door were shaken at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged. (Isaiah 6:1-7 KJ2000)

I was in fellowship with a dear saint recently and we started to talk about prayer and how important it was for those of us who are in unity as members of Christ’s body to pray for one another. This person felt the power of God when we prayed together and saw results in their life. Words are a wondrous thing. With our words we have the power to move heaven to act, bless those dear to us, or to do them harm. Really getting to know others in close relationships is wonderful, but the closer and more open we are with each other, the easier it is to wound one another with our words. I’ve apologized numerous times to people I’ve hurt without intending to. Each time I’ve wounded a dear saint, I’ve been reminded of Jesus’ words that it would be better for a millstone to be hung around my neck and be cast into the depth of the sea than offend one of His little ones. In this last year God has put me in relationships with people who are serious about the kingdom of God and what it means to walk together in the light as He is in the light. We know that unless we are walking in this kind of transparency with the ones He has placed us with, we are not having real fellowship (see 1 John 1:5-9).

After seeing both the negative and positive effects of my words, I was reminded of some verses in the Bible that God has given me in the past.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote:

Dead flies cause the ointment of the perfumer to send forth a foul odor: so does a little folly to him that is respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1 KJ2000)

Paul wrote:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God…Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:1-4 ESV– emphasis added)

As I experienced both blessing and wounding coming out of my mouth more recently, He reminded me of what James wrote.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. (James 3:10 RSVA)

For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:2 KJ2000)

Yes, brethren, this ought not to be so! I started asking God to do a miracle in my life in this matter of the tongue. He started answering my prayer by letting me feel in my own heart the pain others were feeling. A couple of times it was so intense I had to go lie down because I couldn’t function any longer.

Fourteen years ago, while watching the movie, “The Green Mile,” I started weeping and praying that God would use me to take some of the suffering out of this world. I was inspired by the empathy of the main character in the movie, John Koffey. I had no idea what I was asking when I prayed that God would use me this way. As is so often the case, He starts answering our prayers by dealing with us first! He wanted me to deal with the pain I was causing others in this world! I soon found that the closer these people were to me, the greater the pain I felt when I offended one of them. Pain is a great teacher. C. S. Lewis wrote,

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ~ C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

At this same time, God started talking to me about really seeking His face. God told Moses, “You can not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20 KJ2000). There had to be somewhere else that God said to seek His face, and I found it in Psalms where David prayed:

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When you said, Seek my face; my heart said unto you, your face, LORD, will I seek. Hide not your face far from me; put not your servant away in anger: you have been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Psalms 27:7-10 KJ2000)

David was a man after God’s own heart and a prophetic type of Christ. Man might not have been able to see God’s face and live in the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant we are called to boldly enter into the Father’s presence as we abide in His Son, Jesus.

 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 RSVA)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. (Ephesians 2:13-16 RSVA)

About four months ago as I pleaded to see our Father’s face, He gave me Isaiah 6:1-7 and this was the part He wanted me to feel:“Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Father told me, “If you want to see me, you must be undone.” I knew that something must be done about my unclean lips. Since then, I have never been so conscious of the words that come out of my mouth and the effect they have on others! I have never felt so much heart pain either! I have cried more in the last four months than I had in my whole life as He has let me experience the pain in the hearts of others. I have become “unhinged”… undone and cry at the drop of a hat. He was answering another longstanding prayer of mine. He was letting me in close to His heart and experience the fellowship of His sufferings.

I have become so sick of the damage my uninspired words were cause others that I have started praying He would take a coal from His altar and put it in my mouth as He did with Isaiah. I am tired of hurting others with my words, especially His “little ones,” those who walk in humility before Him.

To become sons and daughters of God it takes a miraculous work. We must be made into a new creation, and that is what He does. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJ2000)

There is nothing of that old Adam in us He can use. Paul wrote,

 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:49-50 RSVA)

Over the last ten months God has gone deep in my heart after some bitter root judgments (see Heb. 12:14-15) I have held on to from old wounds in the past. These wounds have kept His love from flowing through me. The process of dealing with this has required the constant working of death in me. I have been going from death to death so that He can spring forth with new life unto life in me. Paul wrote:

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient [capable] for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 RSVA – emphasis added)

Who is sufficient for these things? God is!

 And such trust have we through Christ toward God: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (2 Corinthians 3:4-5 KJ2000)

Paul went on to say that we are:

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:10-12 KJ2000)

Are we willing to let death work in us so that life might abound through us to others? I’ve had to go though a lot of pain and tears, yet I have never felt such intense love for others in my heart as well. I never knew that love could be so painful, yet so rewarding at the same time.

This Thing Called Prayer

Today Father showed me something new about prayer. Luke tells us about Zachariah, John the Baptist’s father.

According to the custom of the priest’s office, his [Zachariah’s] lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the time of incense. (Luke 1:9-10 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

It is interesting that here we see a passage speaking about prayer and incense at the same time. For 35 years my prayer life was in the tank. In 1980 God removed any sense of His presence from me and put me out into a spiritual wilderness. As a result, I quit praying on any regular basis. Prayer that had once been personable, powerful and fulfilling was lost in that wilderness. When I tried to pray the words seem to fall off my lower lip and hit the floor like a “sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.”

But today something happened. He spoke to me about prayer and let me see that our prayers are not just mere waves of energy that go flying by God’s ear at the speed of sound, never to be seen or heard from again. No, just like faith, prayers have substance and are gathered at His altar just as our tears are gathered in His bottle (see Psalm 56:8). A strong sense of peace came over me as He showed me this passage in Revelation:

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire from the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1-5 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

At first I thought prayer and incense were two different things, but then I read David’s words,

Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalms 141:2-3 KJ2000)

Here we not only see prayer as incense before the Lord, but we also have an admonition about every idle word that comes out of our mouths. God tied both of these issues together in the same passage of scripture! In Revelation we see those prayers as incense being hurled back down to the earth to do a work as God has intended. We might not see an answer to our prayers come in the form we had expected, but they are still valuable to Him. When the time is right, He sends them out with His power to accomplish His will.

He had taken me full circle –from the idle words of my mouth that smote my heart as I felt the pain they caused in the hearts of others, to how our prayers are incense to God and something He uses to accomplish His divine will. As I meditated on this fresh revelation, my tears flowed! Prayer has taken on new meaning to me and I feel that its importance has finally been restored to me after 35 years. So Father I pray that you will…

 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 KJ2000)

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He Gives Beauty for Our Ashes

Beauty for ashes

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound… to comfort all that mourn… to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3 KJ2000)

Jesus read from this passage in His home town synagogue in Nazareth and after reading them he closed the scroll and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted, to set us free, open our prison doors, unbind and comfort us, but we also have a part in this.

It is hard to love someone when the things they say or do trigger bad memories of former abusive situations we have been through. Some of these offenses include child abuse, sexual assaults, trauma from wars, physical assaults, divorces, and abuse by authorities in the church. Sometimes someone close keeps rubbing salt in the wound that they may have caused and we become more and more reactive and closed off to them and others as a result.

God has had to go deep into my heart and show me areas in my life that were not healed and why each of them made it impossible for me to love certain kinds of people. He took on one offense at a time, showed me the past event in my life that caused it and how it formed a “trigger” in me that was reactive to that thing or type of person. Jesus also told me that He would never be able to use me in their lives until I was healed of those offenses (this, by the way, included over half the world’s population for I had a bitterness in my heart against women). I then had a choice to make–to let the Lord heal me or continue on in my bitterness, striking out at everyone that tripped my triggers. I had to face my own hardened heart and unforgiveness in each of these areas and call out for Him to heal me of all the baggage I was carrying from those old offenses.

As I though about these things I saw a picture of a hotel lobby from above with a main entrance at one end. All around its perimeter were doors that opened in to the rooms in the hotel. In the middle of the lobby Jesus stood, asking to be let into one of the rooms. The hotel was my heart. Years ago I had let Him in (see Revelations 3:20), but that was as far as He had gotten. The lobby was His but not all the rooms, because I had not given Him permission to enter most of them and take possession of those areas in my life. The New Testament says that we who believe are the house or temple of God (see 2 Cor. 6:16). With this vision and verse in mind, the following passage took on scope for me:

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3 RSVA)

Jesus has come to the Father’s house, and we who are His are that house! He is preparing a place for us and Father to dwell. It is a house made of living stones. “You also, as living stones, are built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5 KJ2000)

Bitter Roots

In Hebrews we read:

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:13-15 KJ2000)

Speaking of the coming Messiah John the Baptist prophesied:

And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3:9-10 KJ2000)

Our bitter roots that spring up from past offenses have to go. Jesus is after them. They are good for nothing in His kingdom or in His Father’s house. They defile everyone they touch. Each of our locked rooms has a bitter root behind the door that is festering, and its tentacles extend under the door and trip up anyone who comes near. Instead of the lame being healed, we trip them up with our open wounds.

This is the process God has been working in me. Jesus asked me to open my heart’s door to Him in 1970, and He came in at that time. In 1978, after dealing with a couple of my festering rooms, He asked if I would be made whole, or would I be content to be like the lame man at the pool, being able to walk. I could go on without my deeper heart issues dealt with and risk falling right back on my pallet by the pool, looking for a man to help me (read John 5:7-14). At that time, I had more faith in my ability to be lame than I had in His grace to cleanse me, make me whole, and keep me that way.

So, for years I continued to carry many bitter root judgments in my heart that defiled those around me and kept Him from using me as part of their healing. I did not strive for peace with all men and women, but subconsciously I often looked for buttons to push in a vindictive way. The wounded became the wound-er instead of an instrument of healing, and many became defiled. In the last eight months the Lord has been going after the other shut doors in my heart and it has been painful, but worth it. People who have come to know me have been praising God for the healing that is going on and the fruit that is coming from it. Praise His name. I know that He is not finished yet for He also showed me that there are more rooms that have yet to be opened and cleaned out, but the more freedom I experience, the more I want Him to leave nothing in me that is not of Him.

So often the abused become the next generation of abusers when we are not healed… and the beat goes on. In Exodus we read,

“… I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me..” (Exodus 20:5-6 RSVA)

With generation after generation, sin begets sin. But wholeness also begets wholeness. It is in our holiness (God’s healed wholeness in us) that men see the Lord and as we are healed we break the cycle of handing on our sin to others.

When Jesus touches the latch on one of our doors asking enter and heal us, all the pain of the wound behind the door comes flooding up to the surface, and we bolt the door against Him as we have bolted it against everyone else in our lives who touched our door. It is up to us to not fail to obtain the grace that God has for each one of us, and to call out to Him like blind Bartimaeus who refused to be silenced, “Jesus, you son of David, have mercy on me!” In short, we have to become sick and tired of being sick and tired and sick and tired of wounding other people.

God has a new heart, a new spirit and even the mind of Christ that He wants us to have in us so we can be extensions of His Son on this earth. Jesus said, “I will not leave you alone. I will come again to you.” He comes to us again and asks to be let in so we can be healed. As Christ has freedom to heal us, He also gains the freedom to act and speak through us, and then we start bearing His fruit instead of our own. As His healthy body, we become a manifestation of who He is on this earth to everyone who wants to be healed. Jesus prayed for this just before went to the cross He prayed saying

“That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:21-24 KJ2000)

How can we be where Jesus is? Where was He when He said these words? He was in unity with the Father and could rightly say, “The prince of this world is come and has found nothing in me.” This is where Jesus also wants us to be. He had no locked rooms that the devil had the key to. We don’t have to live in a house divided against itself. We don’t have to live with all manner of dead things behind the locked doors in our hearts. All He asks is that we open up to Him and let Him come in and heal us. He loves each of us, knows our end from the beginning, and knows that when He appears we shall be like Him for we shall finally be able to see Him as He is without our vision clouded by our former hurts and wounds. He does truly give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for our mourning and the garment of praise for our spirit of heaviness.

Out of the Same Mouth!

Exposed_tree_rootsFor every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With this bless we God, even the Father; and with this curse we men, who are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (James 3:7-11 KJ2000)

Today, I had something happen that my heart is still smiting over many hours later. I got too comfortable in a conversation with this dear sister in Christ and the next thing I knew I offended her with the words of my mouth and if she had not felt the freedom to tell me so, I would still be ignorant of it! Well, after I saw what I had done and asked her forgiveness (which she did grant) I turned right around about 15 minutes later and did it again! God only knows how often I have wounded my own wife over the years!

There is a saying that familiarity breeds contempt. I was not trying to hurt this sister, but I just got too comfortable with our relationship and forgot that she is a tender child of our Father and that I needed to respect that and be sensitive to her for this reason. Out of my mouth was coming both sweet water and bitter. In one moment I was blessing her and unwittingly in the next I was hurting her. “My brethren, these things ought not to be so!” The conversation ended on a positive note with tears shed, but these things aren’t easily forgotten even by the best of hearts.

As I later prayed about it the Lord showed me that at the root of what I said was a reaction to things I had suffered as a young man… rejection by the young ladies I grew up with, especially the pretty ones. I had not forgiven them and that bitter root was still down in there putting forth its fruit even with one who has never rejected me in any way! Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). But we know that God looks upon the hearts of men, and HE knows them! He just wants us to see our hearts as HE sees them and times like these happen for a reason.

In Hebrews we read,

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; (Hebrews 12:13-15)

“Lord show us our bitter root judgments that we still harbor in our hearts from old wounds, that we may truly repent and be healed before many become defiled by them. Father, make straight paths for our feet and let us follow after peace and holiness (wholeness) with all men and women, least out of our fleshly ways the weak and the lame become offended and are turned away from You by our words and deeds. My Father, continue to do a deep work in my heart and let your Son’s ax be laid to the root of everything that is still down in me that is not of you. Amen.”