More and more I find the way the Lord teaches us is by experience. Have you ever looked at the Bible with its 66 books and thought – how on earth am I supposed to learn about all THAT? Growing up as a Christian that was certainly one of my questions. An entire read-through doesn’t exactly fill you with the confidence that this is going to be an easy ride either – by the time you get to the end you probably realise you need to go back because you forgot some things!
Thank goodness then that the Lord teaches us to understand His ways and His Word in the context of day-to-day life, rather than requiring us to be locked away in a study somewhere poring over pages with no idea what they mean. His book was written to give spirit and life, not simply lawful letters which kill and frustrate.
He knows each one of us and the path we take, and so I find He teaches us according to our experience. So while I may have a grasp on some aspects of what He is like, another brother or sister may have some revelation in a different area. Obviously combined this becomes more powerful and blesses me when I see a new perspective.
This begins already to touch on the area that the Lord has been teaching me about in my experience of late.
I am beginning to witness in my own life and in the lives of others the power that there is in numbers. A Scripture that has been encouraging me is found in the book of Ecclesiastes which says:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Through events in my own life and through fresh observation of the church and various ministries, I have come to be impressed by the importance of this Scripture. It has over the last two months had some direct consequences in my own life where when I have stood in agreements in prayer with another individual, we have seen the answer come almost instantaneously. It provides striking contrast for me when compared with my years of earnest striving for breakthrough over matters which have taken those years to win for the Lord.
This is not to give up praying on your own! I believe in cultivating an intimate place with the Lord where there are secrets of the heart shared between only you and Him, which no one else knows. We can even go for breakthrough. But come the time that there is a matter which requires something to turn around, I know now to seek my brothers and sisters, my close friends, those I am agreed with in spirit, to join with me in prayer. Some of the recent fruit I’ve seen has been amazing, and it comes completely in conjunction with the prayers that I have prayed with others.
Jesus believed in this! He said:
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
He couldn’t be clearer, and right now this couldn’t be a better description of my experience. I’m so excited to see that the word He spoke two thousand years ago have not aged a day, because He is the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
This has implications also I believe when it comes to ministry, not just prayer agreements. A sad example of when this can go wrong is the awful and confusing mess up that happened famously just over a year ago with Todd Bentley at the time of the Lakeland outpouring. (Note – I like to be distinct about the man as separate from the move.) Yes, apostolic leaders gathered around him in one famous meeting during the outpouring but records have shown that it was probably ‘too late’ by that point. They gathered around him because they realised he was an individual away from home, and his ministry base, far out on a limb conducting pretty much the whole revival, with massive world-wide influence – clearly therefore not in a place of substantial apostolic covering. Bill Johnson was most lucid in this area when he was on stage, announcing the danger of sending a man out into battle and then withdrawing the troops from around him – it’s a foolish action reminiscent of David actually seeking to bring death to Uriah. Perhaps this is why some of the critical voices of the revival will sneer when the ‘apostolic alignment’ meeting is mentioned.
For those not in the know there is too much to explain and it is best left as things are moving on a year later. The point is this, that Todd did not have anything like sufficient covering, likely because of the initial golden success of the revival seemingly unmarred by any great affliction, and Todd’s on-the-whole clean record of endurance and integrity. (Again there are elements to explain which can be given if people respond asking for them.) The precaution wasn’t taken soon enough.
Let us learn from history. When one is out on their own, they might well be overpowered, as the Scripture from Ecclesiastes makes clear. But two can resist. We must never allow our soldiers to go out onto the field alone. Jesus sent His disciples in twos. He gave us principles like the one quoted above. How critically important are His words!
Let’s not forget this, especially in the UK, where we can often succumb to the influence of Western culture which is, of course, very much centered on the individual in its (highly flawed) value system. Even some church models and ministries push individuals into the limelight where they can become the centre and focus of our attention. While individuals do have a ministry, the ones to note are the ones that have taken conscious steps to surround themselves with prayer covering and accountability. Billy Graham made pacts with two other ministers whereby they kept accountable in their finances, relationships, and so on. The success of the ministry – and its endurance – is evident.
Bill Johnson again, on the latest podcast refers to a time of great transition in their church when the initiative was taken to surround his family with intercessors – and then to surround those intercessors with intercessors – and then to create a third circle of intercessors again. And he witnesses that the transition season referred to was, despite incredible and challenging circumstances, one of the easiest seasons to ride through.
There are many situations that I believe this principle can apply in. I’ve even been thinking about my small music business which consists of just me – and what might happen if I sought to work in partnership! This is an exciting journey and something that I believe we all need to grasp at some point if we’re going to live fruitful lives for the Lord and see His kingdom come!