Sunday, December 06, 2009

Dutch Sheets on Intercessory Prayer

Last week I finally finished reading Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets.

The book took me a very long time to read, because it is exactly the kind of book I cannot stand. Some people find it very readable to learn theology from anecdotes and poor scholarship. But my mathematician's mind prefers a concise set of assertions and supporting facts, and I wince at Biblical word studies formed from abusing Strong's and invoking the "Law of First Mention" (at the very least use the BDB and check on every instance of the word in scripture)!

However, I know many people who are really fond of the book. So, for the sake of discussions with them, I finally finished it.

I was determined to find worthwhile teaching in the book, to talk about with my friends. I extracted about one idea per chapter, which I reorganized and paraphrased below.

I should also add that I do appreciate what the book attempts. The topic of "spiritual warfare" is huge in contemporary Christian circles and certainly deserves a short, readable introduction to the subject. The book, although a poor match for me, has helped many people. As far as I know, no similar but better book is out there. Internet resources are no better: for example, the website Prayer Warrior even lacks its own articles directory!)

I also enjoyed learning a bit more about Duch Sheets. Before reading the book all I knew about the author was from reading his response to the Lakeland scandal last year. (That statement was mentioned by friends in Israel who pointed out that Pastor Sheets, by claiming he must obey God and become a self-appointed spokesman for others, was actually exemplifying the lack of consultation, confirmation, and submission for which he apologizes. It wasn't the most favorable introduction to the man.) I do enjoy anecdotes about how God has used people--just not in the middle of a chapter teaching theology.

Without further caveats, here is the "good parts" version of the book.

We are distributors of good things God provides in Yeshua's name (pages 41-42, chapter 3). What do we distribute?
  • meetings of God's mercy and God's justice (page 51, chapter 4)
  • experiences of God's presence (page 52, chapter 4)
  • the Holy Spirit hovering over a person or place (pages 122-123, chapter 8)
  • removing evil through our helping bear its pain and suffering (pages 66-67, chapter 5)
God does not automatically provide these good things if we fail to distribute them. Some sufferings could have been avoided, but happened when God's people neglected to do this distribution (page 32, chapter 2).

When praying, we can benefit from God-given timing (pages 82-83, chapter 6) and aim (pages 96-98, chapter 7). To paraphrase, we must actively follow directions to distribute those good things from God.

Part of distributing good things from God is to pray for the removal of what prevents the distribution from being received. Prayer itself accomplishes much; prayer is more than merely asking God to accomplish something (pages 200 and 208, chapter 12). Similarly, the words spoken by prophets themselves accomplished much and were not merely a declaration of what God was accomplishing (page 225, chapter 13).

People resist perceiving God and receiving from God when they exalt themselves, their plans, or philosophies (pages 168-175, chapter 10). Counters to these three exaltations were carried in the Ark (Aaron's rod proclaiming God's authority, mana that reminds us of God's provision, and the tablets of the Sinai covenant) and should similarly be visible in the lives of Yeshua's followers (page 192, chapter 11).

The Adversary, despite lacking the authority to do so, still attempts to use his power to oppose what God is doing (page 153, chapter 9). God does not automatically protect his people from the Adversary; we are told to stay alert because God often prefers to warn us about opposition so that we may participate in resisting it (page 237, chapter 14). Therefore, a fifth good thing we distribute is warnings about and prayers against the Adversary's attacks.

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