Catch the Little Foxes that Destroy

Song of Songs 2:15

“Catch us the foxes,

the little foxes,

that ruin the vineyards—

for our vineyards are in blossom.”

In the Song of Songs, the Bible presents before us a story of two people in relationship. There are many ways of viewing this book of the Bible, which we won’t go into. What I want to share with you today is taken from chapter 2:15. Some scholars say this verse is an enigma because of the voicing change that occurs in the middle of the invitation by the “Bride.” Also, there are some different ways of translating some of the words that might impact the meaning. However we will follow the NRSV translation and briefly look at the verse.

The “Bride” invites the “Groom” to draw close to her. The two are growing in their love for one another and the seeds of intimacy have sprouted and are finally flowering. Yet, before they move forward, little things arise that are at work to destroy the blossoms of their love. We don’t know exactly what they are but the tenderness, the newness, and the beauty of their flowering relationship is under attack. It requires decisive action.

If we take this metaphorically and apply this to our own lives we are faced with this question:

What are the little things in your life that are attacking the intimacy with Jesus that you are beginning to experience?

We all have them. They work behind the scenes to hinder growth and fruitfulness. They hinder the community of God from progressing as one in the corporate relationship with and surrender to Jesus. They are the little things that we don’t spend time on or notice or think about that always seem to undermine our passion and desire for intimacy with Jesus.

What are yours?

What are mine?

What about in our community of Christ-followers?

As love blossoms in us and in our community that takes us deeper in our walk with Jesus, we must begin to take notice of the “foxes” that try to destroy this. As we learn to walk more in the fullness of Jesus, we have to be more vigilant to catch these “foxes” that want to destroy us and we must destroy them. We, individually, need to take time to discover the “foxes” that plague us, in our personal walk with Jesus, before we talk about or engage the “foxes” that we think plague others in our community.

Practical Steps:

—Put on the full armor of God and take your stand

—Take a quiet moment today and pray Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my thoughts.

See if there is any wicked way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

—If and when God reveals something to you about the “destroying foxes” in your own life, confess them as wrong, repent of them, renounce them and surrender to Jesus asking for a filling of the Holy Spirit in those areas.

—Ask God to help you understand how these “foxes” got into your life and what their root is. The more you understand how and why you do something, the more you can surrender it, find freedom and fullness of the Holy Spirit in that area of your life.

—Ask God to show you throughout the day when those foxes want to come back and to help you remain vigilant in your surrender and commitment to not let those “foxes” into the garden.

—Share with a trusted prayer partner what foxes you have and ask them to pray for you that you’d remain lovingly faithful in surrender to Jesus.

Waiting in silence is difficult.

We want to join God in His ministry and so we spend time trying to listen into the conversation He is having. We turn off the distractions. We get comfortable in our chair or we take a walk outside. And we wait in silence. We wait in expectation. We hear the clock ticking or the trucks driving by. The buzzing of flies or the chirping of birds form an interesting backdrop to what we long to be a holy and an intimate moment. So we continue waiting. And we wait. And we wait some more. Participating in the ministry of Jesus involves being at His disposition. It is, in part, a realization that His love language is time spent with us and Him. The silence of waiting is a part of the ministry of intercession. The silence of waiting is an act of surrender and of love. It is an act of surrender because as we join Jesus in His ministry, we understand that His prayer is more important than our prayer. His will for those for whom He intercedes is of far greater value than our will or desire for those for whom we intercede. So, true intercession requires silent, humble, loving waiting in surrender for Jesus to share with us His heart and thoughts. It is an act of love because the experience of waiting on Jesus is not a duty to be accomplished. Rather, it is an experience of being in the presence of one who is infinitely greater than us yet has, as the same time, invited us to be in His presence. Waiting for Jesus to share with us His thoughts and heart and to lead us in prayer is an act that begins with enjoying being with Him. To sit with Him in the heavenly places knowing Him and being known by Him is critical to waiting. We wait on Him because we love being with Him in conversation or in silence. We are still and silent because the present moment needs more being and enjoying then it needs our talking. The urgency or passion of our desires will never top God’s. Knowing this, we can find freedom to allow the urgency to surrender to the timeline of God’s goodness and control. In enjoying the moment, we will find a deeper level of passion through meeting and being consumed by His heart. We love others best by loving Jesus and His timeline most. We give Jesus preeminence in the conversation because of His rule and grandeur. We also wait on Him because we love the gift of His presence. When He bids us to speak, we will pour out all our heart to Him. When He asks us to listen, we wait for every word. When He says to watch, we keep our eyes peeled on His every move. Intercession begins with savoring. It begins with being awestruck by God’s glorious face. Intercession is maintained and we persevere because we have found what we have always sought and we are absolutely convinced that when others discover what God revealed to us, they will want to join us in the joyful fullness of His presence. They will want to join us in the ministry of Jesus, just as He has called us into His ministry. So we wait…and we love every moment of it. Practical Steps:

  1. Take a Bible passage that speaks to one of the characteristics of God and as you wait for Him to lead you into intercession, think deeply about what that passage says about God. Trust God to bring you to that passage and trust that God will illuminate to you who He is in that passage. Allow that Bible verse to fill your mind and heart.
  2. Ask God to help you love Him and to love that particular aspect of God’s character as you wait for Him. Don’t talk too much, just a quick ask in faith so that you can let that aspect of God’s character fill your heart and mind.
  3. Be content to dwell on that characteristic/Bible verse knowing that God will lead you into intercession at the right time.
  4. When God puts a person or situation in your mind as you wait on Him, ask Him to give you the words He wants you speak. Don’t be surprised if you find that the Bible verse/characteristic of God that He lead you to and in which you have been soaking forms the basis of what He wants you to pray about.
  5. Rest…wait…listen…respond….rest…wait…listen…respond…and ENJOY!

What is Effective Prayer

I am sure you have heard these statements before:   “Prayer works.” Or “I need more prayers.” Or “Sending up prayers.” I want to talk today about an aspect of how we view the prayer life and efficacy in prayer.

Is prayer effective when we have the answer to our prayer? God tells us “Yes” or “No” or “Wait.” Is prayer effective when we have the result of prayer? God heals after we have prayed. God provides when we ask Him to provide. Do these responses mean that we prayed effectively? Is prayer effective because we prayed so many times with so much emotion? Is prayer effective because we had a group of at least two to three praying in agreement? Is this what makes prayer effective?

What is effective prayer?

I’d like to answer this question differently. I am coming to see prayer as “effective” not based upon the answer or in obtaining the result of prayer but upon the one who prayed having intimately connected with God’s heart. Effective prayer is the prayer that by faith approaches God to dialogue with Him, to listen and to speak. In other words, effective prayer is not about obtaining or causing something to happen. Effective prayer is, at its heart, loving God and enjoying His love as one listens to His thoughts and heart about the situation at hand and responding back to Him.

Richard Foster says in Streams of Living Water (1998) that the prayer life is “the steady gaze of the soul upon the God who loves us” (p. 49). Why is this important? The goal will determine how we pray. The goal reveals how we view our relationship with God. It reveals to us what we ultimately believe about God. If my goal is to gaze upon God in love then I will pray in greater trust, consistency, and in joy. He already knows what I am going to ask (Matt 6:8). He already knows what is best and he will accomplish all that is on His heart (Jn 5:17). He invites me into prayer to share His heart, to be drawn into His thought processes, and to embrace the glory of His reign. I can steadily approach the throne of grace in all my times of need (Heb 4:16) and for those around me not simply to procure a desired result but to enjoy God in the praying even as He answers my prayers. 

If my goal is to get results, then I open the door for frustration, I might struggle with faith, and I might turn God into a “genie-in-a-bottle.” Results-oriented prayer life can be revealed, at times, in the statements, “I need to pray more. I need to pray harder. I need to believe more. I need to get more people to pray with me.” While Jesus told a parable to teach the disciples to persevere in prayer for a desired result, namely for justice (Lk 18:1-8), He centers upon the goodness of God, His approachability, and His timeliness in caring for His people. Jesus ends the parable by asking about faith. The faith aspect of perseverance moves from “faith to acquire a result” to faith that draws the believer to embrace the active, full and joyful presence of God the Father. 

Spending time daring into His Presence to listen and respond does not exclude the urgent prayers, or the “one-off” prayers, or any other kind of praying. God listens to all those prayers and He wants His children to tell Him everything that concerns them (1 Pet 5:7). The life of prayer includes the long drawn out moments of listening and responding as we join Jesus in His ministry of intercession. It also includes stop-and-go prayers and everything in between. However, I firmly believe that a vibrant prayer life flows from the time spent in loving gaze upon God who loves us. The hallmark of our prayer life is learning to enter into the Presence of our good and holy Father by the mediation of the Son and the enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is cultivating a walk with God in such that at any given moment the eyes of our heart can look up and see the face of God looking back at us in love. It is in this that prayer becomes effective for it begins to consume and transform us. This should be our goal in prayer.

Practical steps:

  1. Carve out time each day to think deeply, earnestly, hungrily upon the love of God as revealed in the Scriptures. As your hunger grows for savoring the love of God, increase your time spent dwelling upon His love.
    1. Jeremiah 31:3
    2. Romans 5:5, 8
    3. John 3:16
    4. 1 John 4:10
  2. As you continue to experience the love of God through thinking deeply upon His Word, ask God to let you listen in on Jesus’ intercession. This might seem weird, but you are a special guest/adopted child seated with Jesus in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6). Jesus is always praying (Heb 7:25). Therefore, in recognizing whose you are, and where you are, and because of the great love with which God has loved you, ask Him to let you listen to His heart. Ask Him to let you hear how and for whom so that you might join Him in Spirit and in truth. Be quiet and listen. It might take a while if you are not used to listening. But the time spent knowing His love and His Presence will sustain you as you wait for God to help your ears to hear (Matt 11:15, Jn 10:27).
  3. As you spend time gazing upon God who loves you, and as you listen to His voice as He intercedes, when He invites you to join Him, begin praying what you have heard from Him. You will know when He invites you to join Him because you heart begins to cry out “Yes!” and your mouth wants to verbalize your agreement with God’s heart.

Extra thoughts:

  1. What you pray is between you and God. Discernment’s first duty is prayer. When you see and hear with your heart, your first duty is to speak with God. I caution you to be extremely slow to share that with others. If God wants you to share how you are praying with others, He will make it clear to you. Until then, keep your focus on God in loving gaze.
  2. Learning to gaze upon God in love and to listen in to His heart will open you to spiritual warfare. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and put on the full armor of God. Take your stand by keeping your gaze upon God. Take your stand by making each thought bow before the throne and Scripture (2 Cor 10:5). If you think a thought or feel an emotion, even a good thought or good emotion, place it under submission to God. Ask God to fill your heart and mind as you desire to spend time enjoying His Presence and love. 
  3. Learn the difference between conviction and condemnation. Conviction from the Holy Spirit will reveal the vileness of sin in light of the holiness of God and will lead you to want to rid yourself of sin so that you might enjoy more of God’s holiness. Condemnation comes from Satan who bases sin on identity in order to disqualify you before God and to fill you with shame that leads you to want to turn your eyes away from the loving gaze of God.
  4. Lastly, though there are other tips, humility and reconciliation/redemption are signs of having heard from God. When we hear from God we are humbled by His Presence and voice (1 Kings 19:12-13). Hearing from God reminds us of our dependance upon Him and awakens a holy “smallness” in His people that embraces grace and mercy. As we hear from God, we learn that His heart is for reconciliation and redemption (2 Cor 5:20). I won’t say that one will never hear a thought of judgment or wrath, but as Jesus invites us into His ministry, what we hear from God will be geared towards reconciliation and redemption. Jesus’ ministry is to seek and save the lost. Hearing His heart, our hearts will join in that as well. Enjoying His love causes us to long for others to enjoy His love as well.