How often do we pray for a situation and the results of that prayer seem elusive? It seems as though nothing is happening nothing is changing, and we are stuck in difficulty. There are other times when we pray, and the situation seems to worsen, and we wonder whether God has heard us at all. The reality is that conflict happens when we pray. We might not be able to see it, or understand what is happening, but our prayers are powerful and precious to God, and this attracts spiritual opposition. The enemy does not want us to receive the goodness of God and uses tactics to put us off praying. We know that prayer is so powerful that it attracts antagonism. 

Praying to God was made illegal. In Daniel 6, we learn that praying to God was outlawed and that you could only pray to the King. If you were caught, the act was punishable by death notably in the lions’ den. But let’s think about this for a moment: praying was so powerful that it was made illegal. The effect of those prayers was bringing an outcome different to human agenda, and it was noticed by those who wanted to keep control of society and they attempted to block it. Most of us don’t realise how effective our petitions are, and that we can change the course of history through just one heartfelt conversation with God. But in Daniel’s era, the government knew what a relationship with God could do on earth, so they tried to get rid of it.  Because the Lord wanted to bring glory to his name, he placed an angel in the lions’ den with Daniel, and as a result Daniel was unharmed and the edict to stop prayer was overturned. There are occasions when we make prayer illegal in our own lives. We can shut down our communication with God because we believe that we can solve the problem ourselves. We refuse to deal with our sin and unforgiveness and as a result our prayer life and walk with God becomes weak. There are also times when we believe that God isn’t all powerful and can’t fix the situation, and we sink into despair that he has abandoned us and that the situation won’t change.  

Prayer can be delayed. The opposition can delay the answer. In Daniel 10, the answer to prayer is delayed by 21 days as the angel is detained by spiritual opposition. Daniel’s prayer was so powerful that the enemy tried to stop it, but it didn’t work. No matter how bad our situation is, the answer to our prayer is always on the way, it can’t be blocked or held back for long as God is more powerful than any obstacle. This should encourage us to keep praying and seeking God’s answer! It is quite incredible to think that a small prayer could cause conflict in the unseen spiritual world; it’s almost beyond our comprehension. Sometimes that conflict is visible to us as we experience pain and difficulty in our situations, other times it is happening behind the scenes and we can’t see it.  

All of these things are direct assaults on our communication with God. All designed to induce fear, weariness and to stop us from praying. The Biblical passages tell us that none of the attacks succeeded in stopping prayer; God was victorious every time.  If we can learn anything from these passages, it’s that our conversations with God are so effective that the enemy wants to take them out.  Prayer is to be highly valued and protected; we should make the most of it at every opportunity. Why would satan attack something that is ineffective? There would be no point in doing that. We can take hope in knowing that we are taking part in petitions that are making waves, bringing change and inspiring hope.  

The waiting time before the answer arrives may test our faith and resolve, but we become stronger from seeing the creative ways that the Lord answers our requests. And the Lord always answers us; it may be yes, no or wait, but he always answers. The sign of conflict in our situations should give us a clue to the size of the blessing on the other side of our prayer. If our prayers are being contested, that should encourage us that we are on the right lines and to keep going. In the passages from Daniel, the Lord always shows himself strong and is victorious on every occasion. One of the best ways to remind yourself of past victories with God, is to keep a prayer journal and note the answers you receive. When we remind ourselves of what God has done, we are encouraged to keep going and pursue God more. So don’t be alarmed by the way that a circumstance looks, or the opposition you are receiving to your prayers, or if you feel like quitting. Rest assured that God is at work to bring solutions to your life. Just keep praying.  

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We’re in a season where many of us are waiting for breakthrough in certain areas of our lives; the hardest part of breakthrough is the waiting period. While we wait, there’s often a series of events that bring the problem to a point of death. The seeming possibility of change disappears, and we realise that our only hope is God intervening; that is a good place to be! The waiting period can be far longer than we anticipate, but the waiting season is there to create a story far greater than we can imagine. The greater the waiting period, the greater the miracle. It’s as though the Lord waits for human reason, logic and possibility to die so that he can bring a supernatural answer to our situation. Something that we could never foresee in the natural. Something that blows us away with his goodness.  

We believe that our miracle is just about us and what we need or want in our lives. We get caught up in how our lives would improve if God would just act when we want him to and we become self-absorbed by focusing on our own needs. However, our miracle story has much wider implications than we realise. Family, friends, those that walk with us in our daily lives also benefit from our breakthrough. They need our story just as much as we do; it feeds them, ignites hope and germinates the seed of faith in them. As God shows off what he can do, it draws the attention of others and in age of social media, testimonies of God’s goodness influence a much wider audience than we ever realise.  

The delay in receiving your miracle could be so that as many people as possible can be reached with your testimony. 2 Peter 3:9 shows us that the Lord doesn’t want anyone to miss out on knowing him, and that he waits for everyone to come into a relationship with him. 

 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 

We know from Jesus’ ministry that every time he performed a miracle for someone, it attracted the attention of the people around him and boosted their faith. His name became known through the life changing acts he performed, and his reputation spread far and wide. The Lord is all about mercy and wants everyone to be in a relationship with him. Your miracle might be just the very thing that brings someone to Jesus. It may also give someone hope that their situation can change too.  

We are currently in two spiritual seasons that celebrate miracles: Hanukkah and Advent. Both celebrate the expectancy that God will breakthrough into impossible situations with a miracle, and the very fact that 2000 years later we still commemorate both these amazing events shows us that God’s intervening power wasn’t meant just for those involved at the time. The stories of these events have been preserved for generations so that they may benefit from it. As we persevere through the waiting period, remember that your situation will help and develop others as well as you. Your miracle is so much bigger than you! So stand back and let the Lord do what he needs to do in your life to get the maximum glory, and the greatest benefit for you and for others too. 

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We talk a lot about the joy of open doors, fresh opportunities and a sense of a new direction but we don’t always mention the joy that comes from closed doors. In the last month two doors have closed for me, one unexpectedly, the other was not surprising in the slightest. As with all beginnings and endings, there are mixed emotions and more questions than answers. Confusion is normal in these circumstances but once we have come to terms with the decision, it can be a great release to have one less option to think about.  

Although these closed doors have different outcomes for me, they have both given me a sense of relief and a “what now?” question with them. We live in a society that actively promotes open doors and Christianity also shares this positive outlook for opportunity. However, the Bible is also clear that closed doors are a positive movement in our lives. The provision of the brook and ravens dried up for Elijah, so he moved on to the next calling which was helping the widow at Zarephath. Elijah was taken into heaven which released Elisha into a ministry that was far more powerful than his mentor’s ministry. Paul was shipwrecked and landed up preaching in places that he never would have travelled to otherwise. Ruth was widowed at young age but landed up remarrying and running a successful business.  

So what can we learn from a closed door? Although it may be disappointing, it’s not always denial. God is simply removing the choices that aren’t profitable or helpful for where you are going next. He refines our vision by narrowing down the choices. I always think that it is quite exciting when a door closes as it means the Lord is preparing the way to a greater door, the door of opportunity. He is refocusing our attention on what he wants to do next, this could be something we have been praying about for a long time or a surprise from the Lord.  

The hardest part of this journey is the corridor of “in-between”. Sometimes we can stand in the corridor waiting for a long time before another door opens.  We are happy to receive an open door, but the waiting period between a closed door and the next one opening, is where our faith is tested. The “in-between” is the place where we most feel like we want to give up; the pressure of believing for more can push our faith to the limits. This is an important part of the process, the growth and depth our of faith is more valuable to the Lord than reaching our destination. If we are to go through the open door, we must have the strength, wisdom and character to steward what is on the other side of it. These qualities develop best in unsettled times as the uncertainly helps us to cling to the Lord and develop the deep roots needed to support the growth. The waiting time is not wasted or fruitless, but an adventure in developing ourselves and our relationship with God.  

So when encountering closed doors, it helps to remember that they are closed to protect us from bad decisions, wasting time and paths that weren’t meant for us. They also indicate that there is something much greater and more exciting waiting for us, and that the preparation time is essential. If we wait patiently, a new door will open and our greatest moments will arrive.

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