The best time to pray about a crisis or problem might be before it happens; praying ahead of it. By anticipating a situation, prayer can block its arrival or influence its outcome.
Our prayer licence includes an authority to preempt – prayer that anticipates something, then permits or prohibits it. This has just set off a mental replay for me: a Thai farmer, a follower of Jesus, pointing at a distant approaching storm and forbidding it from destroying his rice harvest. He looked unsurprised when the angry storm parted and made a wide arc around his property. To his simple, new faith, if prayer could receive what he needed it could also block what he didn’t.
There can be various emotional triggers for praying ahead, but one high motive: desire to blend our praying with the Lord’s plans to work ALL things for his Glory. Advance prayer won’t always avert a life-storm, but can affect its outcome. And whatever serves Glory is connected wonderfully to our good.
There are times when our praying doesn’t block the problem’s arrival, but prepares us to face it.
Not limited to obvious
Often the trouble-on-the-way is known (through news, a diagnosis, a prayer request…), so plans can be made to pray ahead of it. The bigger challenge, however, is the less obvious trouble, the one that isn’t broadcast beforehand. The one that creeps in, or suddenly crashes into our life space.
Thankfully our prayer licence isn’t limited to what is obvious to us. Our asking is empowered by the Lord’s all-knowing. He makes praying ahead possible.
There’s a prophetic edge to praying ahead. The testimony of Jesus and the Spirit of prophecy are inseparable (Rev 19:10). It’s the Spirit’s joy to talk to us about things that Jesus is witness to (John 16:14-15), both what is and is to come. That empowers us to pray for a present crisis, but also makes it possible to preempt one on the way.
However, we can become so accustomed to praying in catch-up mode that we miss the God-given opportunities to intercept.
Jesus shows how
Jesus modelled this type of praying. He anticipated that, after his ascension, his followers would be harassed by the evil one. So he prayed ahead of it happening, asking the Father to do three things: protect, purify and unify them. (John 17:6-23)
Another time, Jesus told Peter exactly how he had been praying for him. Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32). He was aware that Satan planned to harm Peter, so he prayed ahead of it. Not to avert the attack but to influence its outcome. He asked the Father for an unfailing faith and a maturing that would turn Peter into a strengthener of others.
Being awake to alerts
It’s not unusual to receive requests to pray ahead, for things that will or might happen. Handling them is important (read Filtering Prayer Requests). But can we explore that part of our prayer licence that gives us the right to pray ahead into the less obvious? That is, being awake to the Lord’s alerts about an approaching crisis or assault… his inner nudge to pray before it happens. Either to prevent it or affect its outcome.
It’s good to regularly use prayers of enquiry. Ask the Lord whether there is a danger or difficulty headed for the person, team, community or nation you are praying for, something he wants you to pray ahead of.
- The initial ‘sense of something’ might be faint. Pray into it; either it will disappear or deepen as an alert.
- Pray your desire for the Lord’s GLORY in and through them. Frequently, it’s while doing this that we are sensitized to Enemy schemes.
- Ask the Lord (in that frame of desire for Glory) to BLOCK the path of the trouble. As you ask, is there a growing inner witness of being on target with the Lord’s plans for Glory?
- If no witness on the above, change the asking point from blocking the path to influencing the OUTCOME of the trouble. Ask the Lord to use it for Glory. Be specific, as was Jesus when praying for Peter.
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