Seven days with Jesus: Day 7 -- Pray for Hope

“While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into Heaven.” Luke 24:51

 Mel Gibson’s epic film, “The Passion,” provided a powerful portrayal of the events swirling around and ending with the crucifixion of Jesus. To his credit, Mr. Gibson put his heart and soul into this project, leaving very little to the viewers’ imagination. Every detail of the sights and sounds of that brutal experience was included. Nothing appeared edited or sanitized to make it more acceptable to the audience. It was riveting, and repulsive.

 Anyone who views “The Passion” will be confronted with the mind-numbing cruelty poured out upon Jesus. It is impossible for even the most calloused-hearted cynic to leave without a deeper appreciation for the price The Savior paid on the cross.

Like “Titanic” and “Gettysburg” there is no secret about how “The Passion” ends. Jesus died. Though the closing scenes hinted at the rest of the story, some may have missed it. Wait for it. SPOILER ALERT: Jesus is alive!

 Following His resurrection, The Risen Christ gathered His discouraged and defeated disciples around Him. For 40 days, He walked and talked with His disciples, sharing with them His vision about The Kingdom.

 “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what The Father had promised.” Acts 1:3-4

November 10, 1942, Winston Churchill delivered a speech to the mayors of England, entitled, “The Bright Gleam of Victory.”

During the darkest days of World War II, Churchill took the stage to give hope to the leaders of his nation. After a great victory in North Africa, he celebrated with them, but reminded them the final victory was still ahead.  Filling his nation’s leaders with hope, Churchill rallied them to finish the fight against a relentless enemy.  

 “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Winston Churchill

After saying a blessing over His disciples, Jesus ascended into Heaven. He had told them it was to their advantage for Him to go way, but He would not leave them helpless or hopeless. He would provide them power of the resurrection through the promise ofThe Person of The Holy Spirit.

 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away the Helper shall not come to you, but if I go I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

“This promise is no lullaby for the faint-hearted. It is a blood transfusion for courageous living.” E. P. Hovey

 The sight of The Risen Christ rising into Heaven must have heart thrilling and bone chilling. Peter, the strongest among them, had a dismal track record of failure, and in their own strength, the rest of the disciples had very little prospect of victory. While they were looking into Heaven, angels were sent to deliver a message of hope.
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into Heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

Peter led the disciples back to the upper room to obey the last command of Jesus.  For ten days the disciples would pray for The Promise of The Father.

 “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer.” Acts 1:14

 Peter never led with more purpose and was never more on point than when he led a ten-day prayer meeting. The contemporary church needs no less of the power of the resurrection. The Spirit’s power is always found by obeying the command of The Savior to pray and to wait for the promise of God.  Anything less will not call down the power of Heaven so desperately needed for victory on earth. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus were all a prelude to the Acts of The Holy Spirit. The victory Jesus won over death, hell and the grave was a prelude to the same victory the Spirit of the living Christ provides for His obedient followers today. Celebrating the crucifixion of Jesus without appropriating the power of His resurrection leads to defeat, not victory. A praying church reveals the power of the resurrection.

NOTE TO SELF: Jesus is praying for you. Can you hear Him?  Prayer opens your eyes to see Jesus seated at the right hand of The Father, and prayer tunes your ears to hear the sound of His voice. The power of the resurrection is a breath away. Pray your way into His Presence with a fresh breath of obedience.


Seven days with Jesus: Day 6 -- Pray for Discernment

“He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.”
Luke 24:31

After His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus confronted two discouraged disciples. He found them leaving Jerusalem and heading down the Road to Emmaus. They had experienced a tidal wave of chaos and confusion, as they witnessed the death of the man they loved.  The Liar had used the crucifixion to crush their faith. They discerned that all they had believed was only another dead end street. Nothing could have been further from “The Way, The Truth and The Life.”   

After waiting three days in Jerusalem, these two disciples lost hope in the resurrection of Jesus and started a seven-mile journey downhill back home to try and pick up the pieces of their lives. They were walking and talking about a crippling crisis in their lives without praying for the discernment they needed to make sense of it. It simply didn’t matter how blinded they were to Him. Jesus came to their rescue anyway.

“While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.”
v. 16

Approaching these dazed and confused disciples, Jesus interrupted their intimate conversation. Refusing to be ignored, He asked them what they were discussing.

“What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?”
v. 17

Both stopped in their tracks. One remained speechless, but the other reacted with harsh words bordering on anger dripping with sarcasm.

“And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas answered and said, ‘Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”
v. 17b -18

Responding in kindness, rather than reacting in kind, Jesus asked, “What things?” Prayer doesn’t inform Jesus of your crisis. Prayer releases your crisis into His hands. Holding onto to your problem with a white-knuckled grip is not courageous. It is foolish.

Jesus didn’t interrupt their discussion about Him to gather information. He encountered these disciples to stop their conversation about Him and turn it towards Him. Jesus knew first hand about all “The Things” that had happened. Jesus needed no information from them. The disciples needed an explanation from Him. This is the power and purpose of prayer. Praying in the name of Jesus brings you face to face with God. Talking is consumed with delivering information to God. He doesn’t need it. Praying is focused on receiving God’s explanation to you. You need it. Stop talking. Start praying.

“He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
v. 27

For seven miles, Jesus unpacked the Scriptures, from Genesis to Malachi, explaining everything they had seen was foretold in the past, necessary in the present, and provided hope for the future.

“It is amazing what God can do with a broken heart, if you give Him all the pieces.” Samuel Chadwick

“And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying ‘Stay with us.’ “
v. 28-29

The disciples made the wisest decision of their lives when they urged Jesus to stay with them. The mutual experience of a burning heart drew them closer to Him and to one another. They invited Jesus to share a meal with them. As He prayed over their food, and they received it from His hands, they immediately discerned His Presence.

“He took the bread and blessed it...Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.”
v. 30-31

When Jesus prayed “Then” the disciples discerned His Presence. The powerful prayers of Jesus continue to open the eyes of those who choose to have fellowship with Him and linger in His Presence. Rather than blindly walk down a dark road, trying to wrap their heads around what had happened, they followed their hearts. Wise men still listen to the prayers of Jesus, and with burning hearts find courage to tell others about Him. This is the power of the resurrection.

“They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”
v. 32

The disciples mutually discerned their hearts burned with The Truth of Christ’s explanation from the Scriptures. They not only felt the heat. They shared The Light. They headed back up hill to Jerusalem, walking seven miles in the dark to deliver The Light to people in need of hope. Jesus is alive!

“And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The LORD has really risen…”
v. 33-34

NOTE TO SELF: Prayer releases the power of the resurrection

in you. It is not a nightlight to comfort you in the dark. Prayer enables you to discern the Presence of the Risen Christ in the middle of the endless mundane and the senseless insane crises of your life. Prayer doesn’t inform Jesus of your crisis. Prayer makes sense out of it. Jesus calls you to prayer to discern what His Father is doing in the middle of your crisis. Pray to Jesus, “Stay with us!” He always does.


Seven days with Jesus: Day 5 -- Pray for Release

Luke 23:46

When Jesus prayed to His Father, he drew strength from praying the Word of God. You will too. Consider the context of His prayer..

“In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed. In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit.”
Psalms 31:1-5

Praying the Word of God honored the character of God, and released His will into the hand of God. It will do the same for you.

The 21st Century understanding of commit is more associated with a white-knuckled grip than a complete release. In the 1st Century the word did not mean an intensified effort to a difficult task. It meant releasing an impossible task into the hands of someone else. Commit referred to letting go of one’s life and property and placing it before another person who could be trusted to keep it and invest it. Letting go led to freedom. Holding on led to prison. Jesus held on long enough to the cross to complete the task God had given Him, but He let go of it when God said, “Enough is enough.”

“Our greatest contribution to that (revival) is to recognize the difference between what we can do and what God alone can do, so we pray. But as we wait and pray and work,”
OS Guinness

Praying and releasing Himself into the hand of His LORD, Jesus trusted the character of His Father to be His keeper. Praying the Word of God affirmed God’s character as Jesus endured the worst trials of His life. His last agonizing moments upon the cross were filled thoughts of God as His refuge, deliverer, listening ear, strength, stronghold, savior, rock, fortress, leader and guide who would pull him out of the net set for Him.

Jesus turned to the Word of God in prayer to focus upon The Truth. Satan remains the father of lies. Praying the Word of God affirms The Truth, and exposes the liar. Pray!

Jesus prayed His way to the cross, and stayed on the cross to complete the redemptive plan of God. Jesus told His followers they must take up their own cross and follow Him. The power of the resurrection is unleashed in you by your own obedience to a very personal crucifixion.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

The Apostle Paul didn’t just point the early church down this path to a personal Calvary. He led the way.

“I affirm, brethren, the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”
1 Corinthians 15:31

Self-denial doesn’t mean denying yourself certain things. It means embracing your certain death.  Denying yourself the right to live is not an inconvenient fast. It is a permanent death. Dying to self should not be confused with a one-time event. It is an ongoing exercise. Paul said he died daily. It may take more. Don’t settle for anything less.

Paul refused to underestimate his capacity to try and escape the cross of Christ by claiming his own rights. He prayed his way to the cross, and prayer kept him there until Jesus completed His work in him.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it, until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:6

In the early 1990’s before the fall of the communist regime in Romania, I remember listening to Pastor Tson speak on “The Theology of Martyrdom.” Exiled from his home country for preaching the gospel, he expressed concern about the use of the word “commitment” to describe the life of faith in the American church. He was unfamiliar with it, and distrusted it.

In Romania the only commentaries available to him were printed prior to The 1917 Revolution. He knew the life of faith as “absolute surrender,” not personal commitment. He warned 10,000 Texas pastors gathered before him not to put their trust in their commitment. He told us to release ourselves to the cross of Christ and die. Commitment increases personal effort. Surrender releases the power of the resurrection.

“And when you do yield yourself in absolute surrender, let it be in the faith that God does now accept of it. That is the great point, and that is what we so often miss... be occupied with God... lookup to God... remember there is a God present that takes note of it, and writes it down in His book...” Andrew Murray

NOTE TO SELF: There is a big difference between increasing your own effort and releasing yourself into the hand of God. When you pray, Release Every Single Thing into the hands of Jesus. Find R.E.S.T. upon the cross, and die to self. Trust in the power of the resurrection to release in you the courage and the character of Christ, only God can provide.



Seven days with Jesus: Day 4 -- Pray for Forgiveness

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Moments after concluding His prayer in The Garden of Gethsemane, and yielding His will to The Father’s will, Jesus was attacked. His disciples were swept away in a swirling series of chaotic events. Everything they had believed appeared to be lost, and out of control. It wasn’t true.

Never forget this. Appearances can be deceiving. You will need persistent prayer to make sense out of life even in the best of times. During the worst of times, the forces of darkness will rob you of your capacity to place your confidence in a Sovereign God who has promised you that He has the power to bring the best of things out of what appears to be the worst of things.
Holding my 93 year-old father’s hand, during his final days in hospice, I heard him whisper words that had carried him through many trials and tests. The power of the resurrection was on his lips. Smiling in triumph he kept repeating,

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28

Allow the events surrounding The Crucifixion and The Resurrection of The Savior to be a vivid reminder of God’s power over the enemy’s deceit. When you are staring into the face of a demonic, intimidating, double-barreled weapon of chaos and confusion, draw your sword of The Spirit and call out to God in prayer. Christ is your Champion in the battle.

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless work, prayerless study or prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but He trembles when we pray.”
Samuel Chadwick

Praying His way into complete alignment with The Father’s will prepared Jesus to be a victor, not a victim. While He was praying, His ancient enemy entered into the hearts of witless, but willing men to conspire against the redemptive plan of God. They still do. Keep praying.
Soldiers seized Jesus under the cover of darkness, and led Him into chaotic and confusing collisions with the leaders of the religious and the political establishments. Jesus was not caught off-guard. Prayer had prepared Him to be a ready and willing participant in God’s plan. Men conspired their worst. God planned His best. He delivered forgiveness through His Son.

Prayer prepared Jesus for God’s redemptive plan, no matter whose hands God used or the consequences it carried. With His last prayer fresh upon His lips, Jesus experienced His betrayal by a false friend, false accusations and arrest, a rigged trial, abuse and mockery by political and religious leaders, the denial by a real friend, a near fatal beating by Roman soldiers, mocking humiliation before a mob, and an agonizing death upon The Cross. Through it all, Jesus stayed on His mission. He chose to forgive.

The body of Jesus would be beaten, bruised and broken by tough men, but prayer kept His heart tender to the hand of God. After His enemies had done their worst to Him, Jesus did God’s best for them. He forgave. Through the power of the resurrection, you can too.
The Apostle Paul was a willing participant and an eye- witness to Stephen’s death. While being stoned to death, Stephen prayed and echoed the words of His Savior on the cross. Looking into the face of The Risen Christ, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Paul would never be able to forget what he saw the day Stephen died, interceding for his enemies.

“Then falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ " Acts 7:60

The Assassin Saul became The Apostle Paul when he encountered The Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus. He appropriated the power of the resurrection he had witnessed in Stephen, by maintaining daily dependence upon and consistent companionship with The Risen Christ. He lived…

”That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death; that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Philippians 3:10-11

The essential evidence of the fullness of the Spirit is the power of the resurrection. It was this power that filled Stephen with the grace to forgive his enemies. Paul found the power of the resurrection in embracing the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. He did not stiff-arm the trials, tears, tests and terrible people that came his way.

From a dark prison cell Paul kept his perspective through prayer and praise. “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25
Paul prayed for the grace to release what was in his hands into the nail-scarred hands of The Risen Christ. Prayer released his white-knuckled grip on resentment towards his enemies, and empowered him to let it go. The Risen Christ transformed Paul’s resentment into contentment as Paul embraced the fellowship of His suffering.

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:11

NOTE TO SELF: If you are still trying to punish a person you have not forgiven them. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean being a victim. It means you are a victor. Forgiving someone does not mean you are letting them get away with hurting you. Forgiveness means letting go of your right to get even with them for what they did to you. Forgiveness is not about denying the hurt. It is about releasing the pain. Jesus died to forgive you. You received His forgiveness by praying for Him to release you from your debts. You will never be more like Jesus than when you live to forgive. You will never be less like Jesus than when you can’t wait to get even. Stop saying to people, “I owe you one.” Collecting IOU’s will never let you live debt free.


Seven days with Jesus: Day 3 -- Pray for Brokenness

"Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."
Luke 22:42

After warning His disciples to pray, Jesus withdrew from them and began top pray to His Father. Jesus never allowed His love for the ministry to exceed His love for His Father. Jesus maintained a personal, private and persistent prayer life.

“And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray.”
Luke 22:41

How close does your walk with Jesus need to be? The answer may be found in your response to a very personal question, “How far can you throw a rock?” The distance is different for everyone, but make sure your prayer life never wanders farther away from Jesus than a stone’s throw. Why? The farther the disciples drifted from the personal Presence of Jesus, the more vulnerable they became to an attack of the enemy. The same thing will happen to you.

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” is a song that came from the heart and pen of gospel singer and songwriter Helen Lemmel, She produced a hymnal used by evangelist Billy Sunday for over a decade. She led a women’s choral group that was an integral part of the great evangelist’s ministry. A hundred years later, her words provide a sense of direction for the contemporary church.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Helen Lemmel, 1863-1961

The private prayer life of Jesus sustained His personal intimacy with The Father, and it maintained the integrity of His public ministry for The Father. It will do the same for you. The turning point? Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Brokenness is not caused, by colliding with the enemy. It is the result of aligning yourself with the will of God. When Jesus came into The Presence of His Father, He prayed to align His will with His Father’s will.

Prayer is a weapon of spiritual warfare and Jesus used it against the schemes of the enemy. Prayer is not the hidden trick of an escape artist. Prayer prepared Jesus to face what was coming His way, not to escape from it. Still, never be hesitant to bring your requests to The Father in prayer. Jesus did. You can too.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me.”
v. 42a

Prayer doesn’t lead you to brokenness until your personal pride and preferences die. “MY” will must die before it is resurrected into “THY” will. This is the power of the resurrection. You will never experience the power of the resurrection without entering into a life of brokenness. Jesus described it as,

“Yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
v. 42b

Brokenness is a painful, purifying process. Don’t avoid it. Embrace it. Getting your own way looks like an open highway, but it is a dead end street. It brings pain without gain.

King Solomon was the wisest, the richest, and the most gratified man the world has ever known. When he came to the end of His life, he was pained, and drained, poisoned by a lifetime of guzzling the saltwater of self-gratification. He summed his life of pampered preferences with words of utter futility.

“So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living you are still living.” Ecclesiastes 4:2

Solomon said more than he knew when he congratulated the dead. Prayer breaks a man fighting for personal survival, until he falls at the threshold of personal revival. Prayerful people discover dying to self is painful but is required for brokenness. Prideful people discover living for self isn’t painless. It is just pointless.

The crucifixion was designed by the Romans to exert prolonged pain as long as possible and to postpone certain death until the last possible moment. Praying prepared Jesus to die to His will before He got to the cross. Jesus yielded His will to The Father’s will. Prayer focused His eyes upon the gain of the cross, not the pain of the cross. Brave men had been placed upon the cross before, but none of them had raced to it. Jesus embraced the pain of the crucifixion to release the power of the resurrection.

The power of the resurrection is released by the crucifixion of self. Dying to self is painful to your pride and preferences. Genuine, sustained brokenness hurts, but there is a purpose to the pain. It prepares you for intimacy with Jesus. Prayer conformed the will of Jesus to the will of His Father. Let it do the same for you.

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” A.W. Tozer

NOTE TO SELF: More than Jesus wants you to do something for Him, He desires for you to spend time with Him. Never let your spirit of independence exceed the limits of your dependence. If you have wandered beyond the distance of a stone’s throw, you are in a dark place. Prayer moves you towards The Light.


Seven days with Jesus: Day 2 -- Pray for Resistance

"Pray that you may not enter into temptation." Luke 22: 40

After Jesus concluded the celebration of The Passover, He left The Upper Room, and led His disciples to The Mount of Olives. He invited them to accompany Him into a familiar, secluded garden overlooking the city of Jerusalem.

The Garden of Gethsemane was not just secluded. It was sacred. Jesus often withdrew to this place to pray. Prayer was not His way of escaping from people, but His way of running to God. Prayer sustained His unbroken intimacy with His Father.

Jesus was not too proud to pray. He knew the power of resistance over the enemy was in direct proportion to His dependence upon The Father. Jesus was devoted to prayer and to the Word of God. Those seeking resistance to temptation would be wise to follow His lead into The Garden.

Prayerless people fail to resist temptation, because they place their trust in their own strength to deal with it. Prayerless people, puffed up with pride in their own personal strengths or a list of their own accomplishments are easy targets for a relentless enemy. Don’t be one of them.
The Garden was a place where Jesus often went, not just to get away from the cares of people, but to place His cares into the hands of God.

“And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.”
v. 39

Weary in well-doing, reflecting upon the great events of the day, the disciples were relieved to find some solitude from the press of the crowds. Expecting to get some much-needed rest, little did these tired men know that the real work of the ministry was about to begin. Jesus tried to warn them.

“When He arrived at the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:40

The disciples must have thought it a strange remark for Jesus to make to them as they settled into this safe, secluded haven. After a great day of ministry, and a powerful Passover celebration, everything appeared to be going their way. Actually, it was coming their way. Temptation always is.

WARNING: Satan loves to attack after a great victory. He knows the capacity of people to rest on their laurels and to let their guard down after getting a win under their belts. Pray without ceasing because the enemy never stops attacking.

God’s plan of redemption was right on schedule. Nothing was going to happen to Jesus that would be a surprise God or catch Jesus off guard. Still, the enemy was going to tempt the disciples to panic in the face of the battle of redemption in order to steal, kill and destroy all their fondest dreams. His battle plan remains the same.

Jesus gathered the disciples to pray for the power to resist the unexpected attack of the enemy. Warning and withdrawing from His disciples, Jesus began to pray. His disciples promptly fell asleep. They followed him into The Garden, but they failed to join Him in the fight.
Remember this one thing. Prayer is war! Fight to win.

The Reformer, Martin Luther, is often attributed with a very clever, but incomplete perspective on temptation.

“I can’t stop birds from flying over my head, but I can stop them from building nests in my hair.”
Resisting temptation is more than seeing what is wrong. Prayer empowers a disciple to see what was right.

Jesus offered prayer to His disciples to prepare them to face any trial, or test the enemy would throw against them. Satan had asked permission to sift Peter, but all the disciples were going to have their faith pounded.

The enemy still loves to attack at night to leave prayerless people in the dark, wondering what hit them. Prayer serves as a pair of night vision goggles to enable alert warriors to see what the enemy is doing in the dark. Prayer also reveals the hand of God. When it appears the enemy is winning, prayer will enable you to see God is always working. Watch and pray!

Note to Self: It is always too early to panic, and never too late to pray. Prayer prepares you for the pounding and the purifying of your faith. Prayerlessness leaves you vulnerable to temptation. Prayerfulness empowers you to resist temptation. Never trust in your own power to resist an attack on your faith. Run into The Presence of Almighty God for His direction, protection and correction. Never doubt in the dark what you know to be true in the light.


Seven days with Jesus: Day 1 -- Pray for Strength

"Satan has asked permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you , when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:32

Following the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem, He gathered His disciples in the upper room to celebrate The Passover. As evening drew near, the disciples faithfully observed this time-honored tradition of the Hebrew people.

As they celebrated their ancestors deliverance from their slavery in Egypt, the disciples were unaware of the gathering storm of spiritual warfare that was approaching them. Jesus was not caught off guard by what was coming. He was prepared to meet the conflict, not avoid it. His mission was to confront and defeat the enemy. Prayer was his mighty weapon of warfare. He wielded it against the evil one, as He interceded for His disciples to conquer their temptation to run in the face of the enemy.

Jesus said to Peter, the natural born leader of The Twelve, "Satan has asked permission to sift you like wheat; "
Luke 22:31

Any success in the battle between good and evil swings on the hinges of Christ's permission and His intercession. Some politically correct preachers find it hard to believe, but Jesus believed in Satan. Jesus did not believe Satan was omnipotent, but he was real. He still is, but he also has real limitations. He has to seek permission from Jesus to test the strength of Peter.

Never forget. Faith is revealed when you first believe in Jesus. Faith is strengthened when you understand Jesus believes in you. Satan's mission is to steal, kill and destroy. Because he is a liar, he believes everyone else is a liar too. In the case of Peter, Satan was confident he could destroy Peter's witness by attacking his faith. Jesus understands that a person's faith is strengthened by these attacks. Satan is a slow learner. He will come after your faith too. Be ready for it.
Jesus told Peter, "but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:3

"But" is the conjunction that marks the junction where the prayers of Jesus meet Satan's attack on your faith. Personal strength is needed for a relentless struggle against evil. Jesus prayed for

Peter to place his confidence in God, not in himself. Jesus was aware of Peter's capacity for either fear or faith. He could see where Peter's pride was going to take Him. He warned him failure was coming, but he encouraged him to fail forward, and strengthen his brothers with what he would learn from his fall.

"If I could hear Jesus praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. But the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me."
Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Jesus knew Peter's arrogant, self-confidence was based upon an inflated assessment of his own strength. Personal pride was Peter's greatest hindrance to his battle against evil. He relied too heavily on his own opinion and he valued his own courage to highly. When he heard Jesus say He was praying for him, he didn't thank Him for it. He boasted to Jesus, and shamed the other disciples by boldly claiming.

"Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death."
v. 33

Peter didn't know what he was saying, but his words were filled with truth. Deaf to the words of Jesus, he took strength in the sound of his own voice. Rather than taking the words of Jesus to heart, he relied upon his past track record. Peter had no idea his pride was setting the pace in a race to disgrace.

Peter was exactly right. Pay attention to his words, "Lord, with You I am ready..." When Peter was with Jesus he was full of faith, not fear. Peter was in the habit of taking credit for his past successes, without recognizing Jesus was the source of his strength. When Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he was capable of great faith. When he lost sight of Jesus, he was capable of great fear. Independence doesn't strengthen you for the battle against evil. Dependence does. Are you ready for the battle? PRAY!

NOTE TO SELF: Pray for strength. You don't have what you need to face what the forces of evil can put in your path. No matter how hard you try to see into the dark, you just never see it coming without the eyes of faith. Jesus is the source of all you need for the challenges you face. Prayer enables you to hear Jesus praying for you, and to experience His Spirit filling you with His courage. Boasting of your own strength only reveals your weakness to the enemy. Humbling yourself before God invites The Strengthener to fill you with His Presence. The battle is coming. Get ready.