Read: Galatians 3:1-5
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
Paul spent his life planting churches. Some flourished and others faltered. He poured his life into all of them, but he was well aware that each church was filled with people who would have to choose how they would live. In the region of Galatia, modern day Turkey, there were several churches that were struggling with issues of faith. They thought if they worked harder God would do more, that if they were good or “kept the Law of Moses,” God would be pleased. Paul’s concern for them is deep and painful. He calls them foolish and bewitched. No doubt this is a reference to the spiritual warfare that was threatening to destroy them. Spiritual warfare had taken their eyes off the work of the Holy Spirit that brought them to Jesus and it had fooled them into thinking they could flourish and grow without the Spirit’s work. Brothers and sisters beware! The enemy is still spreading the same lies today. Do more, work harder, on and on it goes. In fact this is what many of you are thinking when I am encouraging you to “press into prayer” like Elijah did. Friends, nothing could be further from the truth. Pressing into Jesus can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. It can never be done in the flesh, in our own energy. Prayer without the Holy Spirit is a dry and tireless event. But prayer led and empowered by the Spirit is revitalizing and refreshing.
In Galatians 4:19, Paul explains how he is praying for the churches in this region.
“I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” Paul’s love for these people caused him a great deal of pain just as your love for those around you often causes you deep pain. But what do you do with that pain? Paul used it to shape his prayer life, his intercession. He stood in the gap as one who travails, or labors through birth pains. Paul is saying, “I am praying for you, I am believing for you, I will not quit until you are victorious.” He cast himself on the Lord and cried out to God for break-through just as Jesus desires us to bring our pain and heartache to Him.
E.M. Bounds said in his book, “Power Through Prayer”
“We must always be on the stretch when we pray.” It is that word, ekteno, in the Greek language that means to stretch out. It is literally part of the travail of giving birth and in this case giving birth in the Spirit. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, He leads us deeply into prayer to bring life and to give birth.
I am not talking about weirdness, but reality. This often happens alone in times of intense prayer when we lay out the pain we feel for others before the Father and believe for a break-through that delivers life and victory.
Father, I don’t understand all the dynamics of prayer, but I am keenly aware that my working harder doesn’t accomplish your break-through. Teach me to wait and then when you lead me Holy Spirit, to travail in prayer and labor for those I love.