The view from the top would change his life. The only reason he had to believe this was a distant memory. Long ago, he had been on top of the mountain, indeed he had camped there for a while, savouring the view, enjoying all that the fresh perspective brought. For too long he had been in the valley. It was time to make some changes, to step out.
Packing some provisions in a backpack, he shut and locked the door of the cabin which had been his home for so long. Looking upwards he set off, into the unknown, but full of expectation and promise. Along the way he stopped to look at the view. For miles around all he saw was beauty. There was none of the dirt and distress that one experiences when one is close up to something. Everything looked clean and new. Tempted to stop here, the man turned and pressed on. As he progressed, the path became more overgrown. Going was tough. Each step became a battle. There were placed along the way that had meant taking a small detour, but he always made it back to the path eventually. Underfoot had changed too. No longer was there a clear path. Loose dirt and stones were all that were there now. Each step was fraught with danger. To stray from the path now would mean injury. He would slip and fall, he journey, at least for a while would be over.
He glanced up, tired, thirsty and hungry. All his supplies had been consumed in the first part of the journey. He didn’t have enough to sustain him if he went back, but he had no clear idea as to how long he still had to travel. Trudging along, he saw a blockage in the path. A huge rock prevented progress. With no other option left to him he began to push. The only way was up. As he rolled the rock up the path he began to wonder if the end would ever come. He again thought of the comfort of the valley where he had lived for so long. No hassle, no trouble, no pain, no thirst, no hunger. Perhaps he should go back, find a way. As long as avoided the falling rock, perhaps he would survive and could try again, maybe next year would be different.
The man let go and began to slide. Eventually finding himself at the bottom of the path, battered and bruised. He would take time to heal, but at least he knew that the experience had been worth it. He knew that trying to move from a place of safety and security was a bad idea. Taking risks just wasn’t worth it after all.
What the man didn’t realise that just one more push on that rock, and it would have tumbled off, down the other side of the mountain. He was so close to the summit but couldn’t see it because of the rock that blocked his path, and his view of the goal that he had seen so clearly from the base of the mountain.
How often do we approach prayer in the same way as this man approach his journey up the mountain? Starting off, with the very best of intentions, we pray small prayers. Each step gets us closer to the goals that we have read about. The bible is full of amazing stories of people’s lives being transformed by the intervention of heaven. We see the shadow of Peter healing people and handkerchiefs that Paul has touched having the same effect. More recent examples are written about in books, and broadcast on YouTube. We are encouraged by the scripture that tells us that we will do the things Jesus did, indeed we will do greater things than these.
Perhaps at the beginning, we do things right. We stop often and look back where we have come from. We remember the success of the past and use that to encourage us to press forward. Before we set out on the journey, we spent days in preparation. We worshiped and prayed about the journey ahead of us. If we are honest, as the walk has progressed, there hasn’t been quite so much time for that. As the path has become less hospitable, as we have pressed into things that are more of a stronghold of the enemy, the very thing that will help us overcome has become less and less common in our lives. When the really big blockage comes, we press against it for a few days, but it soon becomes clear that we are in no fit state to tackle an obstacle of this size and weight. We let go, and head back down the path to more familiar territory, where we don’t have to try terribly hard to get results that people are happy with. We convince ourselves that there was nothing else that we could have done, no one could have got passed the obstruction. The battle has left some scars, but maybe another attempt can be made. Just not yet. It is too painful.
I know that I found myself back at the bottom of the valley following both trips that I made to Colombia. I think perhaps the experience after the first trip was perhaps more profound than the second as I was a little more prepared the second time. I had spent two weeks pressing into all that God had for me. I had seen amazing miracles, from ears and eyes opening, to legs growing in my hands. The “success” rate was phenomenal, close to 95% of all that we prayed for were healed. When I arrived back in the UK I was abuzz with expectation and determination. There was no sickness or disease that would not bow its knee when I prayed. That isn’t what happened though. I prayed the same prayers, believed in the same God, and saw nothing happen. I told anyone who would listen what God had done but seemed unable to back my testimonies up with proof. I still believed, but inevitably doubt began to creep in. I kept praying, putting a brave face on it, but the expectation that I had initially was fading slowly. Of course, there were occasional “success”, just enough to encourage me, to remind me that God really was involved. After a while, I regrouped, restocked my resources and started again.
I think there are two main lessons to learn from the man’s experience on the mountain. Firstly, preparation is key, but so is restocking supplies on the route. If there is one thing we can be sure of, there will be obstacles that appear before us when we pray. The enemy is determined to discourage and destroy everything we are attempting to achieve. Conflict and seemingly immovable objects are to be expected. Examining the example of Jesus in the gospels, he talks of enemy attracts that can only be destroyed “by prayer and fasting.” Before delivering the boy from his demonic attacks, Jesus did neither of these two things, at least not in that moment. The truth is that He had already spent time praying and fasting, long before the challenge was in front of Him. He was already in a place of readiness because He had spent time preparing while there was no one to deliver. Who are we to think that we can do otherwise? Some battles are only won before the first punch is thrown.
Secondly, if the man had just pushed once more, breakthrough to the promise of the view would have been assured. The closer we get to a problem, the less we can see. These sorts of issues can cloud our vision and make the way forward seem uncertain. If we have been using our time wisely in the valley, and on the easier parts of the path, we will be far more prepared to push through to the promise in front of us. I firmly believe that many “unanswered prayers” are simply because the Saints of God have stopped praying too soon. We are so convinced that we know what the answer is supposed to be, so convinced that our timing is best, that we begin to place restrictions on what and when God can move.
We cry out to God, asking Him why He isn’t doing what we ask. Doesn’t He care. Isn’t He able?
The truth is that God is a bit like a pilot who flies over the mountain ranges in our story. From His perspective, he sees how close the man is to the summit. He knows that one more push will be enough. Sometimes He is coming back round to get closer, to open the window of the plane and shout down encouragement, to tell us of impending success.
As for me, I am ready to start again. Inspired by those like Heidi Baker, who when told she would see blind eyes open prayed for five long years before she saw breakthrough. I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t yet seen the breakthrough in the areas that I believe God told me to press into when He called me to pray for the sick. I’ve only told a few people what these things are, I think perhaps because I’ve been scared to admit that I haven’t been successful. I think it’s time to declare what I am pressing into.
I haven’t yet seen breakthrough in these areas, but I believe that it is time for diabetes and metal that is in people’s bodies where it doesn’t belong (artificial hips, knees etc) to be healed.
I’m not giving up this time. I’m pressing in. I will see the view from the top of the mountain. Can I encourage you, whatever your personal obstacle is, to do the same.