SCRIPTURE REFERENCE: GENESIS 32:24-30 (AMP).
The Bible Teaches a sixth level of prevailing prayer. Which is WRESTLING!
Jesus wrestled in prayer in Gethsemane (Luke22:44). Epaphras was "always wrestling in prayer" for the Colossian Church (Col. 4:12). In both cases the Greek Word used is related to the agonizing wrestling in the Greek Olympic-type games. From it we get our English word agonize. Wrestling prayer is agonizing in prayer. It is prayer effort so strenuous that it becomes an agony. Agonizing prayer is always for a limited period of time. When Jesus agonized in the garden, it was for a period of about three hours. Epaphras agonized again and again as he prayed for his beloved Christians in Colosse (Col.4:12-13).
Prayer burden may be experienced in varying degrees. But an agonizing prayer burden, a strenuous wrestling in prayer, is perhaps the highest level of prayer intensity of which man is capable. No one ever wrestled in prayer like Jesus, whose sweat became like great drops or clots (Greek) of blood. Ours will not be unto blood, but blessed are those of His followers who have followed their Lord into mighty prayer wrestlings. These efforts are often used by God to bring great victories. There's an interrelation between prayer burden, wrestling in prayer, and prayer warfare. Prayer burden is a heaviness of concern but does not necessarily include agonizing in prayer. Wrestling in prayer is a very intense prayer burden, a spiritual form of all-out attack on the strongholds of Satan, or a costly agony of Spirit-given holy desire. Prayer warfare is a more long-term earnest prayer endeavor, which may include prayer burden and prayer wrestlings from time to time. It continues day after day until Satan is dislodged from lives or situations that he is determined to control.
E.M.Bounds, writing about wrestling in prayer "until the fire falls and the blessing descends," added, "This wrestling in prayer may not be boisterous nor vehement, but quiet, tenacious, and urgent."
Wrestling in prayer may be done silently, even in bed, with those around you unaware. Or it may involve strong crying and tears. The wrestling is done primarily in your spirit, though it may affect your body.
Let me emphasize that these three levels of intense intercession are not self-induced. They are Spirit-given. You do not work up your emotions but instead yield to the Spirit's mighty prevailings in you. All the Spirit's workings within you are dependent on your yielding yourself to His leading, to your deep life in the Spirit, so that He can impart to you His own holy longings and passion. You strive and toil, but you do so because within you is a heart-cry that reflects the heart-cry of our Lord.
God knows your body and it's limits. It would be too much for you physically and nervously to share a burden every moment, to agonize in wrestling prayer for long periods of time, and to be constantly involved in prayer warfare. God wants you to have times of joyous prayer communion, deep resting in God's faithfulness, and basking in His peace. The Holy Spirit exercises good stewardship of your body, for it is His temple. You do not lose the spirit of prevailing prayer at such times. When you are living in the Spirit, praying in the Spirit, and guided by the Spirit, you are instantly available for the Spirit's assignments of intensified prevailing when He needs that level of prayer from you.
WRESTLING PRAYER IS SPIRITUAL LABOR
All intercession is real and serious communication with God. It is not casual, even when beautifully simple. It is sacred and important to God and to us. It is Kingdom action, Kingdom ministry. But prevailing prayer, especially in it's more intense form, includes labor, effort, and perseverance.
Prayer------prevailing, wrestling prayer can be most difficult work you can do. It demands total sincerity, intense desire, full concentration, and whole-souled determination. It requires self-discipline to give full priority to your seeking God's answer. It does not make you a recluse but does cause you to choose between what is good and what is best. It's holy worth and potential can separate you from the trivial, the purely secular, and the transient and momentary.
Coleridge called prayer the "highest energy of which the human heart is capable." Prayer can be the most intense form of Christian warfare. Prayer is so simple, so natural, that even a child can pray. But prevailing prayer can draw upon and avail itself of all one's spiritual experience and spiritual and physical energy, and all one's mental, emotional, and spiritual resources.
Probably one reason so few wrestle in prayer is that so few are prepared for it's arduous demands. It can be very spiritually exhausting and physically demanding. You recognize that the success of an urgent endeavor, the life of a sick one, the eternal destiny of an unsaved one, the honor of the name of God, and the welfare of the Kingdom of God may be at stake.
Wrestling in prayer enlists all the powers of the soul, marshals your deepest holy desire, and uses all the perseverance of your holy determination. You push through a host of difficulties. You push back the heavy threatening clouds of darkness. You reach beyond the visible to the very throne of God. With all your strength and tenacity you lay hold of God's grace and power. It becomes a passion of your soul. Samuel Chadwick wrote, "There is always the sweat of blood in prevailing intercession."
Wrestling in prayer has a spiritual importunity that refuses to be denied. It has a humble, submissive, yet holy boldness that dares to remind God of His divine responsibilities, dares to quote to God His unbreakable promises, and ventures to hold God accountable to His Holy Word.
Was Jacob impertinent when he dared to continue wrestling with the supernatural being during his night of prayer (Genesis 32:22-31)? How dare he say to God, "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (verse26)? Jacob has wrestled all night, refusing to stop until he prevailed. God was doing a transforming work in his nature. He was being brought to the end of himself, but this position made him bold in faith. A new Jacob prevails with God because God has prevailed over him. No, Jacob was not impertinent. He was now on prevailing ground.
E.M.Bounds writes, "The wrestling quality of importunate prayer does not spring from physical vehemence or fleshly energy. It is not an impulse of energy, not a mere earnestness of soul; it is an inwrought force, a faculty implanted and aroused by the Holy Spirit. Virtually, it is the intercession of the Spirit of God in us." You do not wrestle apart from the Holy Spirit. Only He can give you the holy boldness that is at the same time submissive to God yet bold to insist on God's promise, bold in the very face of God.
Jesus, as Son of Man, was filled with the Spirit at His baptism, returned from Jordan "full of the Holy Spirit," returned to Galilee "in the power of the Spirit," announced that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, and healed because "the power of the Lord was present for Him to heal" (Luke 5:17). He spoke and people were healed, spoke and demons were cast out, spoke and water was turned into wine, spoke and wind and wave obeyed Him, spoke and the dead were raised to life. But when it came to prayer, He prayed for hours, at times all night. He wrestled, agonized, and cried out with loud cries and tears. It may take more of God's power to wrestle in prayer than to perform a miracle.
Samuel Chadwick bemoaned the lack of wrestling prayer:
There is a marked absence of travail. There is much phrasing, but little pleading. Prayer has become a soliloquy instead of a passion. The powerlessness of the church needs no other explanation...... To be prayer-less is to be both passionless and powerless.
Martin Luther was a man of constant prayer. He prayed morning and evening and often during the day-----even during meals. He repeated memorized prayers again and again, especially the Lord's prayer, and prayed the psalms. But when he had a prayer burden, "his prayer became a storm, a wrestling with God, the power, the greatness, and holy simplicity of which it is difficult to compare with other human emotions," says Freytag, his biographer. He poured out his soul in holy emotion and bold complaint and even seriously exhorted God.
Such mighty prevailings in prayer have been described as "battering the gates of heaven with the storms of prayer."
In the Olympic-type games in ancient Greek, each wrestler sought to throw his antagonist on the ground and PUT HIS FOOT UPON THE NECK OF THE OTHER WRESTLER. It involved mighty unrelenting agonizing until victory. This is the term Paul used for this level of prevailing prayer, calling it both agonizing (Colossians 4:12 Greek) and wrestling (Ephesians 6:12). Paul reminds us of the reason----- we are not just wrestling with stubborn or prejudiced human beings. Behind them are rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces of darkness from the spirit world fulfilling Satan's deceptive strategies (Ephesians 6:11-12).
IT IS AN UNRELENTING CONFLICT. Satan's dark forces are ever on the offensive against the Church of Christ, ever seeking to deceive, dominate, destroy, and rout the forces of Christ.
WHY DO WE WRESTLE?
Why has God planned for us to wrestle? The overarching purposes of God include developing us spiritually and making us partners and warriors now so we can share in the triumph and rewards of victory in eternity. It's of God's grace and love that He has ordained that His most faithful servants wrestle in prayer.
(1) TO HELP US REALIZE OUR DEPENDENCE UPON GOD. The more deeply we sense our own impotence and helplessness, the more fully we can cast ourselves upon God. Humility is always the first step to God's grace and power.
(2) TO HELP US SHARE CHRIST'S HEART.
Christ is the great Wrestler. He wrestled in prayer with the powers of darkness while on earth. The day of wrestling is not over until Satan is bound and cast out. Now Christ must wrestle through us, but He on the throne must share His heartbeat with us so we can see the world, the lost, and the opposing demonic forces from His perspective. Wrestling helps us share His vision, His hatred of sin, and His holy determination to oust Satan.
(3) TO TEACH US SPIRITUAL ALERTNESS.
Paul recognized that Satan constantly tries to deceive and outwit us. We must beware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). He tries to sift us like wheat (Luke 22:31). He masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He prowls around like a roaring lion (1Peter 5:8-9). Wrestling in prayer teaches us to "BE ALERT AND ALWAYS KEEP ON PRAYING" (Ephesians 6:18). Just as a wrestler must be alert to every move his opponent makes, wrestling teaches us to keep awake and alert for God.
(4) TO TEACH US SPIRITUAL PASSION AND VEHEMENCE.
The more we wrestle in prayer, the more deeply the Holy Spirit is able to fire us with His passion and His holy but vehement opposition to Satan and all Satan's deceits, strategies, and forces.
(5) TO TEACH US THE SECRETS OF TRIUMPHANT OVERCOMING.
We learn to triumph by the Spirit's helping us triumph. This is no textbook mock battle. We learn the deceits of Satan by confronting them. We learn the use and power of our spiritual weapons by using them. We learn spiritual warfare by confronting the powers of darkness in prayer. VICTORY REQUIRES SKILL AS WELL AS MIGHT. The Spirit teaches us spiritual skill as we wrestle.
(6) TO STRENGTHEN OUR FAITH.
Faith is made purer and stronger by our overcoming the resistance we face in prayer and the obstacles to the answers of prayer. Faith is strengthened by exercise. We must feed on the Word and live in the Spirit, but only as we put faith in practice do we move from theoretical faith to faith as God's means of victory. Faith seems mightiest in the simple trust of the new believer and in the mature, militant faith of the battle-tested warrior. Faith must become more than a confidence in Jesus. It must become a strong shield in battle and a mighty spiritual weapon of attack. Like a spiritual muscle, the more we use faith, the more it becomes TOUGH AND POWERFUL.
(7) TO ENABLE US TO AMASS PRAYER RESOURCES.
Intensive prayer and, in particular, prayer wrestling and prayer warfare can be amassed as if it were a bank reserve or a spiritual treasure. Just as an army needs to amass weapons, munitions, and reserves before an all-out attack, so God prepares for spiritual breakthrough. WE SEE THIS LAW OF PRAYER AT WORK EVEN WITH THE ANGELS.
Daniel prayed and Gabriel fought with the demons representing Satan for three weeks before God amassed the divine power of prayer and had Michael join Gabriel in the spiritual warfare (Daniel 10:2-3, 12-13). This whole incident is a mystery, but it is clearly revealed in the Word of God. The disciples failed because they had not been praying enough. They had not been amassing sufficient prayer (Mark 9:29).