April 28, 1997
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about great conspiracies -- schemes purportedly aimed at destroying both democracy in America and Christianity. These stratagems have included the Trilateral Commission, Communism, the New Age movement, Secular Humanism, the Illuminati and cults. Yet I believe none of these conspiracies has ever troubled the heart of God. With just one tiny whiff of his divine breath, he could blow them all into oblivion!
There is only one conspiracy that concerns our heavenly father -- a scheme aimed directly at Christians who have set their hearts on entering into the fullness of Christ. It is a satanic conspiracy meant to thwart God's plan of raising up an army of sanctified people -- men and women totally devoted to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives!
There Is Rampant Today - A
Conspiracy of Interruptions!
The fact is, the devil is terrified of Christians who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Indeed, he fears praying saints more than he fears a thousand years in chains!
All of hell quivers and quakes at the effectual, fervent prayer of a single believer. And every demonic principality seated in high places cowers upon hearing the cries of a weeping, broken-hearted child of God. The powerful praying of just one intercessor sounds like raging thunder in the caverns of the damned. And there is not one inch of space in hell that isn't affected by a believer who denies himself, takes up his cross and follows Christ with his whole heart.
Yet, we must be aware: The soul that cries out with agonizing yearnings for depth in Christ will become the central focus of Satan's conspiracy of interruptions!
A pastor from Arkansas once wrote to me, saying, "I must be like many other ministers. My greatest battle is not with some secret sin of the flesh -- but with maintaining a consistent life of prayer and study in God's word!
"Satan rarely tempts me with sexual sin. But he has found one thing that works on me time after time. He gets me so busy with the daily affairs of life that my prayer and study time are crowded out!
"I don't allow this to happen intentionally. In fact, I always renew my efforts to get into the prayer closet. But I'm soon caught up again in all kinds of projects and interruptions. And this cycle is repeated over and over. Satan is robbing me of my time with God! Perhaps you could write a message about this problem we all face...."
Like millions of other sincere Christians, this dear pastor is the victim of a demonic conspiracy of interruptions. And the devil's chief target in these attacks is the secret closet of prayer! He knows it is the door into the holy of holies -- the armory out of which saints emerge in full battle dress, ready to withstand all of Satan's fiery arrows.
So, how does the devil keep believers out of this fearsome, secret closet of prayer? Does he parade erotic images through their minds? Does he tempt them with soothing thoughts of escape through alcohol or drugs? Does he lure them with dreams of fame and prosperity?
No, never! The devil knows that the person in union with Christ will not be tempted by any such vulgarity. And the truth is, these obvious temptations are not necessary for him to accomplish his work. Instead, the old fox seeks to interrupt a believer's every attempt to enter the presence of God. He uses every device in hell to hinder that Christian's efforts to spend time in prayer and in the study of God's word!
Let Me Tell You About
My Experience With
I've often promised myself I would spend the entire day in prayer and Bible study -- to little avail. On those occasions I would instruct my wife or secretary, "Let no one -- nothing -- disturb me. This day belongs to the Lord. I don't care if the President of the United States calls. I can't be interrupted!"
Of course, it's never the President who calls. Instead, it's a teenager saying she is about to commit suicide. When this comes up, I gladly answer the telephone. But within just a few minutes of talking with the young woman, I discern she is not in despair at all. Rather, she just wants to boast to her friends that she has talked to me.
As I hang up the phone, a knock comes on my office door -- and in steps a visitor from overseas who insists on meeting with me for just ten minutes. Half an hour later, my secretary tells me other important calls are awaiting me. Before I know it, several hours have flown by, and it is now late afternoon. I've been hit with a plague of interruptions. I realize the day is gone -- and my master has been robbed of my best time!
Please don't misunderstand me. I want to be available to people. But I cannot deny the tremendous tug I feel on my heart by the Holy Spirit. It is a spiritual pull -- something that makes me long to run to my secret closet and hide away in Christ's precious bosom!
The devil's conspiracy of interruptions in my life is most ferocious whenever I am most determined to get alone with the Lord. Recently, after making a great resolve to let nothing hinder me from a day of prayer, I was again swamped suddenly with unexpected interruptions. It was so overwhelming -- and so obvious -- I cried aloud, "This is supernatural interference! The devil himself is behind these interruptions. He is conspiring to keep me away from my beloved!"
From that day on, I have become more aware of Satan's subtle devices to hinder my prayer and study time. Of course, the interruptions themselves are not intrinsically evil -- but the force behind their timing often is. Think about it: If Satan can delay an archangel who's on his way to deliver a message to Daniel, he can also delay our visitors and callers -- just long enough to coincide with our trip to the prayer closet!
One young minister told me of his experience with a conspiracy of interruptions. It seemed all his interruptions had to do with human need. There was always someone who needed help -- his help -- just at the time he felt he needed to pray and seek the Lord. After a while, he recognized a conflict in his soul: He was torn between his call to prayer and his compassion for hurting people.
While in prayer one day, the young man wept out all his pent-up confusion. He prayed, "Lord, how can I turn down anyone in need? How can I neglect those who are hurting?"
The answer came to him clearly but firmly: "Son, how can you neglect me?"
I ask you: Isn't this the crux of the issue? Could anyone or anything ever be more important to us than our Lord? Is there any need or hurt that could ever be more important to us than Christ himself? Of course, we have to make time for family and for others, as God's word commands. But Christ must always come first!
Jesus himself withdrew from the massive human need all around him, so he could quietly communicate with his heavenly father. And a time has to come, in every Christian's life when he looks at all the hurting, troubled people making demands on him -- including his family -- and say, "You'll have to wait! I'll be back -- but first I have to pray. My soul is hungry, and I have to feed on God's word. I need time alone with the Lord -- or else I'll have nothing to offer you but my feeble human compassion!"
Our Flesh Is in
League With Satan!
I've never believed that Satan could enter the secret closet of prayer -- a place hallowed by the very presence of God, where he meets the cries of every devoted intercessor. But the devil doesn't have to enter the secret closet to accomplish his purposes. And that's because he already has our flesh in cahoots with him!
You see, our flesh is at constant enmity against the Spirit of God -- and it always will be. Only by trusting in the glorious power of the Holy Spirit can we take full dominion over our flesh.
Yet, all too often, we allow our flesh to rise up whenever we finally do get time alone with God. And we're all well aware of what follows: Constant yawning. Wild, fluctuating thoughts. Short attention spans. Our minds wander off, unchecked, in many different directions. And after a while, we're too weary to keep trying to pray.
The flesh has won the battle. Whereas the Spirit sought to bring us into a much-needed place of victory, weariness has stolen our hearts away. I wonder: In such times, does Jesus stand over us, as he did his disciples, asking, "Could you not watch with me one hour?"
Think about it for a moment: Paul would not have commanded us to bring every thought captive to obey Christ, if it were not within our power to do so. We are to go into our prayer closet determined to reckon our flesh totally dead to Christ, stripping it of all authority and dominion. We have the power to bring every yawn, every roving thought, every physical and mental interruption into obedience to the Holy Spirit within us.
Of course, physical exhaustion is another matter. God deserves our best time, our most productive hours. And yet, that is the one thing he hardly ever gets from us -- quality time!
If we've spent the day in energy-draining activities, we'll enter his presence weary and worn. Beloved, whenever that's the case, the best thing to do is simply to go to bed. God is not a hard taskmaster; he gives his children sleep. Prayer was never meant to be a burden, or the cause of guilt trips. On the contrary, prayer -- the very life of our communion with the Lord -- should be done when we are alert, mentally and physically.
Even the Early Church
Fathers Faced This Conspiracy!
In the first-century church at Jerusalem, the Jewish widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. Naturally, they sought the help of the leaders in the church.
But the apostles didn't feel right about giving up their study of God's word and time in prayer just to oversee this administrative task. So they called together the church body and said, "...It is not reason (good) that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables" (Acts 6:2).
As a result, seven men of "good report" were appointed to handle all the church's business affairs. In the meantime, the apostles pledged, "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (verse 4).
This arrangement resulted in "...the word of God increas(ing); and the number of the disciples multipl(ying)..." (verse 7). The church grew, because these men refused to neglect their primary task!
Yet very few pastors today will make this kind of sacrifice. One minister looked me in the eye and said, straight-faced, "I simply don't have time to pray. I'm too busy. There are too many demands on my time." Another pastor confessed to me, "I haven't prayed in months. I meditate and have quick devotions every so often. But I can't bring myself into the discipline of prayer."
I frequently receive pitiful letters from Christians who complain of the lack of spiritual life and depth in their churches. Many write, "Our pastor is dry. His messages are light, without any kind of conviction. Most of the time he seems preoccupied."
I don't want to condemn any hardworking, devoted minister of God. But the fact is, every servant rises and falls to his own master. And many preachers of the gospel today are not aware that they have become victims of a satanic conspiracy of interruptions!
These men are constantly on the run, bogged down under an avalanche of duties and details. And if their church is in the midst of a building project, their dilemma only grows worse. They feel compelled to flit about the construction site, keeping on top of everything.
Such running about can become an addictive way of life for many pastors. (My grandfather called such ministers "preachers with sand in their shoes.") And in the process of running around, trying to stay on top of things, they neglect the Lord and cheat their congregation.
I believe this is one of the main reasons many Christians are falling away from the faith -- especially young people. Dead, dry preachers have become so preoccupied with business affairs that they have no time to pray and get a fresh word from heaven. I cringed when the pastor of one of America's largest evangelical churches told me, "I just can't get away to pray. My congregation can't get along without me. I have too many things going on in the church."
This man doesn't realize that congregations actually prefer their ministers to shut themselves away with God -- and let the elders and associates deal with everyday business matters. No minister of God is to act as a corporate president. His time is to be given to prayer and the study of God's word!
Now, I thank God for every minister who is faithful to his family and to his congregation. Such men are righteous, conscientious, and their lives are an open book. Yet it is possible for any godly minister to come under the dominion of Satan's conspiracy of interruptions -- and be kept from a deeper walk with the Lord!
Any congregation that loves its pastor should pray for him continually: "Oh, God -- deliver our pastor from a gadabout spirit. Keep him from the devil's conspiracy. Let him know he must avoid Satan's trap -- and flee like an escaped bird to your heavenly refuge!"
There Is Also a Great
Conspiracy in the Home!
Satan's conspiracy of interruptions has been most effective in Christian homes. The myriad interruptions that keep husbands and wives from praying together is not accidental. And those who do finally make it to prayer discover that the harassment of interruptions has intensified!
The devil knows he doesn't have to break up Christian homes to reach his main objective. All he has to do is divert godly people from prayer and God's word. He knows if he can interrupt their Bible study and intercessory time, they will falter in their faith.
After all, prayerless parents are weak parents. They have no spiritual authority to keep the spirit of the world out of their homes. They represent no threat to the devil's kingdom or to any of his strongholds. And the result is, their children become prey to demonic seductions.
Most prayerless parents eventually end up parked in front of their TV -- wasting hours at a time, growing spiritually dull and hard. And that is the real evil of having a TV: It becomes the greatest interruption of time that rightfully belongs to God!
Consider this fact: By the time he's eighteen, the average teenager has watched six years of TV. Yet in that same period, he has spent only four months in church. The tragedy is that most Christians can hardly sit through a one-hour worship service -- yet they can easily sit through a three-hour TV special, without a trace of impatience!
There was a time not long ago when sold-out believers were sensitive to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, calling them to the secret closet to pray. But after spending weeks and months idling away precious hours in front of the TV, they no longer hear the still, small voice of God. His voice has become drowned out by all the worldly voices emanating from the tube!
You may say, "But we all need balance. And every TV does have an 'Off' button, you know. All anyone ever needs to do is just turn it off." But how many Christians are actually doing that? How many have the self-restraint to shut off the clamoring voices of the world, and get alone to hear the voice of God? Where are Christian parents who have the courage to take authority over the conspiracy in their living room -- and turn off their TV long enough to hear the Lord in prayer?
Beyond all the nudity, filth and godless immorality, the real issue with TV is that it absorbs too much time, keeping us away from much-needed communion with the Lord. We simply have to take godly authority over its misuse. And the time we save by not watching it must be given to the Lord, in the secret closet of prayer. Otherwise, we won't be prepared for the great shaking about to fall on all humanity -- because our homes will be without God's protective wall of fire!
What Is the Solution?
The Lord has led me take the following steps to guard my prayer time and withstand all satanic conspiracies. I believe these steps are meant for you as well:
Only when prayer becomes important enough will you make the time to do it. Yet, most Christians -- including pastors -- neglect prayer simply because they don't recognize its importance and effectiveness. I know that as a pastor, I dare not minister to people until I first minister to the Lord; otherwise, I will be an unprofitable servant.
The truth is, it is impossible to waste time when you are in prayer, seeking God. And furthermore, outside the secret closet, the praying man or woman accomplishes more in less time, with less hurry and sweat.
But the most effective work for God we'll ever do is on our knees, anyway. While the prayerless run helter skelter, to and fro, attempting great things, the praying Christian is hard at work moving kingdoms, shattering strongholds -- and, in the process, becoming a giant with God!
Can you imagine someone keeping the creator God of the universe waiting, while that person lingers to view his favorite TV program? Yet that is what most of us do! Even worse is that we often don't bother to show up in God's presence at all. It's not that we forget our appointment with him -- but that we willfully refuse to appear before him!
Isaiah lamented, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3). When I allow interruptions to come between me and my appointments with the Lord, I am hiding my face from him -- and not appreciating him!
Yet, I thank God that we are never at the mercy of Satan or any of his devices. We can expose his tactics, speak the word of faith, and in Christ's name stop every single interruption. And by the power of God's Spirit within us, we can clear our path to the Lord's gates -- and come boldly to his throne of grace, to receive help in our time of need. That is what the Lord desires for all of us.
Will you mortify your flesh today, and return to the secret closet of communion? Will you give up wasteful, worldly hours in front of your TV, in order to gain what nothing on this earth can give you?
Cry out to Jesus to deliver you today, by the power of his Spirit. Take authority over Satan's conspiracy of interruptions in your life, which is meant to shipwreck your faith. And enter into the fullness of your walk with Christ, as God has planned for you.
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