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See the Flames, Smell the Smoke


See The Flames, Smell The Smoke 

The  pastor at our church just took us through a series on prayer.  It has been a very good tune-up on probably one of the most important and neglected spiritual disciplines.  He wrote a booklet to go along with the series and I want to share an experience he had that vividly illustrates the importance of praying for others, being in spiritual warfare on their behalf.  This is directly from the booklet:


“We often do not see the answers we want in prayer and do not pray as we ought because we do not see the battle, the necessity of prayer, and the absolute desperate need we have for God to intervene on our behalf and that of others.

One afternoon, I was getting out of my truck for a meeting that was scheduled across the street from a park.  As I glanced at the park, I caught something strange happening out of the corner of my eye.  As I focused in on the action, I realized it was not two men fighting, but one man was on fire “literally” and the other was trying to put it out.  The strange thing was, the man on fire did not realize his clothes were on fire.  I watched for a moment and looked around – I was waiting  for someone else to respond.  Surely, someone else saw this going on and would rush to help.

I was at least 100 yards from the situation, and there were dozens of people much closer.  But it appeared that no on else saw.  Balls were being tossed, families were having picnics, and kids continued on their swings as the man in the middle of the park burned.  As foolish as I felt, I grabbed an old sweatshirt from the back seat and started running around picnics, through the middle of a catch game, right by the swings and right into the man on fire.  I held out my sweatshirt as I leapt forward, and the man landed on his back.  We both hit the ground and tumbled.  Still not aware of the fire, he began to fight back.

This is what it means to contend for others for the advancement of the Kingdom:  if you see a man on fire, it is up to you to respond.  We expect others to respond, but they are unaware.  It will seem bizarre as you run past others just living their life, totally unaware of the battle that rages for their souls.  Many times, those we contend for do not even know their need.  The truth, the Word of God, is our weapon, and prayer is how we wield that weapon.”


I think one reason we are not desperate for others around us is we don’t see their desperate state.  We may see them with some problems or a messed up area in their lives but burning is a little too graphic to describe their situation.  Others don’t seem too concerned with what they see and the people themselves don’t seem to excited about the mess they are in, so it must not be that bad.  They sense something is wrong, maybe get together and talk about their problems over a beer, but the smoke keeps them from seeing the main problem:  they are on fire.

We, with our spiritual eyes, see something else, at least we should if we haven’t been lullabyed to sleep by thinking happy thoughts that somehow we all will pull through this thing called life OK.  If we have, we have forgotten from whence we came.  But if we believe Scripture, then we know that “the wages of sin is death” and that’s not just eternal death but death here and now. This leads to messed up lives that many ascribe to bad choices and bad breaks or bad circumstances.  From God’s perspective, we know that what we see on the outside is not what is happening on the inside, “man looks on the outward, God looks at the heart”.  They are living desperate lives, trying to pull all the frayed strings together to make some sense of the hole in the fabric but it’s not working out.  We see this in our neighbors and the people we work with and our family members.  Are we desperate for them like in the story above?  I guess a better question is, do we really love them?  Because if we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would do anything to help them put out the fire in their lives.

We may think that some direct intervention is what is most needed and prayer can wait.  I have been involved in such an action several times, and without God first moving directly in the person’s heart, it’s fruitless.  Some people are addicted to fire; they know they are being burned but fear of the unknown keeps them from accepting permanent help.  Some have lived with its glow so long that they can’t live without it.  Others smell the smoke but ceased wondering what it is and have gotten used to the fumes.   Others may feel they are living  just fine and don’t  need any help.  Their eyes haven’t been opened to their desperate plight to the point of wanting the fire put out.  This awareness can only happen through prayer and the move of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and minds.

Are you desperate for those you love?   Do you pray desperate prayers for them?  Do you really believe they are on fire and need rescue?  If we love them, it will spur us to action and the most effective action is prayer, desperate prayer.  Can we do any less?  Don’t assume someone else is interceding on their behalf;  you be the one to go to God for them, standing in the gap where they can’t or won’t.  Could the man in the above scene just ignore what he saw and gone to his meeting?  Not if he loved those around him, even people he didn’t know.

May we see the fire and smell the smoke of those around us who don’t know the Savior, and become warriors for their salvation, running towards them to rescue them from the flames that are destroying their lives.


One Comment
  1. Karolyn McGladdery permalink

    Thank you for that, Jim. I know you and Debbie are standing in the GAP for me! K.


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