Luke 21:34-36 (AMP)
“34 But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life, and [lest] that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose; 35 For it will come upon all who live upon the face of the entire earth. 36 Keep awake then and watch at all times [be discreet, attentive, and ready], praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things [taken together] that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.”
It doesn’t take a very spiritually perceptive person to know that we are living in a generation like no other. From a Christian perspective, we are seeing biblical prophecy that is thousands of years old possibly being fulfilled right before our eyes. For those who have read the Olivet discourse that Jesus preached (recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21), current events seem to parallel the things foretold by our Lord. For instance, Jesus predicted a time where there would be an increase in wars, earthquakes, famines, disease, fearful events, false teachers and prophets, apostasy, and persecution of believers. He also prophesied that the gospel of the kingdom would go out to every tribe, tongue, and people around the world. I do not have the time to go through building the case that many of those predictions point to trends that have dramatically increased in the last 40-50 years, but I will touch on one point.
Matthew 24:14 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Nearly all Christians would agree that a major component necessary for the fulfillment of this prophecy would be to have Scripture translated into all languages. Back in 1999, the Wycliff Bible Translation Organization estimated that they would be able to translate the Bible in every known language in the earth by the year 2150. This past year, Wycliff recalculated the timing of the fulfillment of this endeavor. Due to the dramatic increase in technological advances, they predict that they will now be able to meet their goal by– are you ready for this?? The year 2025.
Now, is the translation of the New Testament in every language the equivalent of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom throughout the whole world? Does it fulfill the Matthew 24:14 prophecy completely? This is a great question, and my personal take on it is: maybe. That discussion deserves its own post. I will say, however, that this is the first time in history that there has been any possibility of that prophecy being fulfilled. Which begs the question: if the “end” is near (not the end of the world, but the end of this age and the return of Jesus to the earth to usher in a new age), what do we do?
The call to pray is one that everything in our flesh despises because it is humbling and typically does not produce the microwave-like results we have come to demand from everything in life. It is only through responding to the call to pray that our hearts are actually united with God’s desires, God’s will, and God’s purpose for the earth in this generation. With such great and terrible events culminating to the second coming of Jesus (known as the Day of the Lord), how then shall we pray?
Before I address a few key points on how we should pray as the return of Jesus draws near I would like to make mention of some things we should avoid in prayer:
1. We should avoid praying with an attitude of fatalism and pessimism. Usually due to the nature and intensity of events described in the scriptures at the end of the age, many believers can adopt a pessimistic view of end-time events. The Bible doesn’t only describe doom and gloom in the end times; it also tells of a victorious, beautiful Church that is mature in love, and of a great revival in which multitudes are secured in the family of God. Also, it is important to note that the severe judgments released by God are against an empire of wickedness which God must systematically remove from the earth in order to restore the paradise He desires His creation to be. We must always keep the big picture in mind instead of fixating on the negative details outside of the larger context; God is restoring all things, and He is wiping out sin, evil, death, and the devil forever. This is awesome!
2. We shouldn’t pray for future prophecy of God’s judgments to be released outside of God’s sovereign timing. There are some well meaning believers who, in their zeal to “hasten the Day of the Lord”, pray for specific biblical judgments to be released on the earth. For instance, in the book of Revelation God tells of 21 globally catastrophic judgments that will be released on the earth during a 7-year period of tribulation known as the seals, trumpets, and bowl judgments. God has a day in His heart when He will work His righteous justice in the form of those 21 judgments, but it seems that, from other prophetic indicators, now is not the time for those particular events to occur. Additionally, in our passion to understand prophetic scriptures and apply them to our lives, we must do so from a place of humility. God is not going to release the 21 book of Revelation judgments simply because a few people in a handful of different prayer meetings asked Him to. He will release those judgments when He is good and ready to do so, and it will be evident when the Global Church comes into corporate unity in prayer for those judgments to be released.
3. Don’t pray for persecution. When I read Fox’s Book of Martyrs over a decade ago, I initially romanticized Christian persecution. That missionaries would lay down their lives to share Jesus for a only few minutes before being murdered by the tribes to whom they were preaching made me think to myself, “Wow! Those missionaries are the example of faithful Christians.” I thought legitimate Christians needed to suffer bloodshed in some way to prove the authenticity of their faith. Although it is true that Jesus promised His followers persecution, nowhere in the Bible are believers encouraged to pray for it. The Bible instructs us to pray that we would be strengthened to escape temptations that often accompany persecution (Luke 21:36; Matthew 6:13 and reference point #2 on how to pray later in this article). Also, we see in Scripture that it is appropriate to pray for deliverance from persecution (Psalm 143; Philippians 1:19). It is simply weird and misguided to pray that evil would happen against you or other believers, so don’t do it.
4. Avoid praying from humanistic sentiment. It can be difficult at times to discern the difference between godly compassion and worldly compassion, yet there is a difference. It can seem so subtle that many miss it, but the consequences of following worldly compassion can be eternally devastating. Godly compassion draws men to Christ for the glory of God, while worldly compassion promotes empty humanistic sentiment founded on an ambiguous moral code separate from Christ and God’s glory. In other words, we pray and take action so that the hungry person would be fed, but we do so knowing that the deepest need of every human being on the planet is to be reconciled to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Food in the stomach does not equal eternal life. We are commanded to do good deeds so that people may glorify God (Matthew 5:16). We fall terribly short in our mission if in our good deeds and prayer for the hurting that we don’t make our ultimate aim for Christ and the glory of God. “For what would it profit a man if he gained the whole world [had his stomach filled… had clean water to drink… and shelter over his head…] and yet lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
5. Don’t pray from an attitude of self preservation. There are a small number of Christians who believe they were born to suffer martyrdom; there are multitudes more (at least, in our country) who believe they were born to live the American Dream. It is a foreign thought to them that a loving God could possibly allow– or worse yet– will, for them to endure difficulty. When they read or hear of the great and terrible events of the last days, they may be so bothered or unbelieving by it that they deceive themselves into thinking there is no way to truly understand future prophecy, so why should they be worried about it today? Then there are others who may accept that God allows times of great trial in the lives of His saints, but such trials are only fearful and void of joy or victory. On the contrary, we must pray from a place of faith rooted in biblical truth, not from a place of fear. As end times events recorded in the Bible unfold, we must accept that we are in a part of our Christian journey where we may quite literally have to take up our cross [put the noose around our neck, strap in the electric chair, take our place in front of the firing squad] and deny that we have any life to live, except to follow Jesus wherever He might lead, to safety or death. The point of life isn’t to not die. We are all going to die! The point of the Christian life is to be faithful.
Now that I have covered a few points of ways that we shouldn’t pray I would like to share a few thoughts about how we should pray as we see the day of Jesus’ return drawing nearer.
1. Pray for mercy. God is so rich in mercy! This is so important to understand as we see an increase of shaking on the earth. Before Christ returns, the whole world finds itself in a window of mercy. The Bible says, “…God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) The prophet Joel declares to the nation of Israel that if they would declare a solemn prayer assembly, confess their sins, and cry out for God’s mercy, that God might relent from bringing disaster on them. (Joel 2:14) We always pray for mercy; it is the desire of God’s heart. James declares that “…mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13). Only God knows the level of severity needed to produce the greatest level of love in the hearts of the most people possible. However, we can believe that God loves all of His creation, and desires mercy, so we pray for the release of mercy on people, cities, nations, and situations.
2. Pray that you would escape the snare of temptation as the Day of the Lord draws near. Jesus said that no one on the face of the earth will be hidden from the trap that is coming at the Day of His return (Luke 21:34-35). He lists off a handful of “traps” that will ensnare many people at the end of the age and then instructs us to pray that we would have strength to escape its grip, so that we may be found ready to stand in His presence at His coming.
– Pray that you would not be deceived. In Matthew 24, Jesus’ first and most urgent warning to His disciples is to “…take heed that no on deceive you…” The deception we are warned of surrounds understanding rightly the identity of who Jesus is. Some speculate that this warning is only for people to watch out for “false christs”, or people who claim to be Jesus, but truly are not. I personally believe the greater warning is related to knowing who Jesus is by what He loves and also by what He hates. It is common for the media and various other voices in our culture to paint a picture of Jesus that has zero basis in biblical truth. If we end up being deceived into believing in a “jesus” that is other than who He has declared Himself to be, we will find ourselves loving the things He hates, hating the things He loves, and He will fight against us when He returns.
– Pray that you would not be offended. As the end time drama begins to unfold, there will be many opportunities to become offended at God. The fourth seal judgment in the book of Revelation explains that God gives a spiritual being named Death the power to kill 1/4 of the earth’s population in the period of only a month or two. If the fourth seal happened now, at current global population estimates, this means nearly 2 billion people would die, and we would have nowhere to put their bodies! When this many people die at once, it will impact everyone. Would you still believe in God’s goodness and love in the midst of His judgment– and believe that His judgement is right– or would you be reeling in doubt and offense? Only by the grace of God we will have unoffended hearts. We must pray to be free from offense.
– Pray that you would not indulge in sinful desires. The opportunities to conveniently indulge our selfish, sinful desires are increasing by the millisecond. Internet pornography, human sex- trafficking, gluttony, substance abuse, greed, destruction of marriage and family… the list goes on. Matthew 24:12 connects acts of sin and lawlessness to the decrease of love for God and others, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we want to be found ready and full of love for Jesus, we must pray for grace to flee from the increase of self-indulgence and lawlessness that will trap many.
– Pray that the cares of life (legitimate distractions) keep you from being alert. To me, this is probably the most disconcerting of all the warnings Jesus gave. The cares of life are things that are not clearly sin– many are actually legitimate cares– but the abundance of them increases the busyness of life and causes us to become spiritually dull. It is all too easy to get caught up in projects at work. We must not let the grind of the day in, day out distract us from God’s eternal purpose and timing. Only those found watching will not be ensnared.
– Pray that you would be strengthen to not deny Christ in persecution. I mentioned earlier about a time in my life when I romanticized persecution as being a way to prove the authenticity of a believer’s faith in Jesus. I now see that God definitely has purposes in His saints experiencing persecution, but one thing is for sure: enduring persecution faithfully requires a lot of grace. We don’t know how, when, or in what way persecution will come to us, but we do know that it will certainly come. Let’s pray that no matter what comes, whatever the cost– even if it costs us everything– that we may have the strength to not deny the name of our wonderful savior Jesus.
3. Pray for victorious, faithful, powerful advancement of the kingdom of God. Always remember to view biblical history, Church history, and current events through the big picture lens that God is restoring all things and making His dwelling place with man on the earth forever. When we pray through this lens, we are encouraged with the hope of God’s sovereign plan of redemption. All of the suffering is for only a moment, but the kingdom of God is forever. Jesus told us to pray, “Father… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is advancing, and we will see the convergence of heaven and earth in its fullness when the throne of God descends out of heaven and is set forever in righteousness on the holy hill of Jerusalem.
4. Pray that the Church would be purified and matured in the love of God and patience of Christ. Jesus is returning for a “Bride” [His Church] that is without spot, wrinkle, blemish, or any mark (Ephesians 5:27). As we look over the landscape of the Church today, we see glimpses of her beautified destiny being fulfilled, but largely there are warts, scabs, and body odor proceeding from the Church that Jesus loves. We must contend for the spiritual beauty of the Bride of Christ and pray that she would be mature in love for one another and for her Bridegroom, Jesus. Our prayer for the Church must be even as the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:2 “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”
5. Pray for Israel. I will admit that I know very little about the nation of Israel, or even how to pray for God’s chosen people. I am convinced, however, that God is not done with Israel and that they play a vital role in His redemptive plan. Currently, the Jewish people have been given spiritual blindness in part because they have rejected their Messiah, but God will not forget His people. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15). The body is not complete until both Jew and Gentile come together into “one new man.” When the nation of Israel puts their trust in Christ, the Bible says that the result that proceeds will seem like resurrection from the dead (Romans 11:15). If you are like me and just don’t have a clue how to pray for Israel, the best way to start is to pray that God would share with you what is on His heart concerning the Jewish people and to ask Him how to pray for them.
We are living in great and terrible times. As we respond in prayer God will begin to unfold his master plan of the restoration of all things to our hearts and we will be positioned to partner with Him in releasing this plan. I hope the thoughts that I have shared in this article will be helpful to you as you take your place on the watchtower wall of intercession.