Pressing In and Pressing On

If you have ever shared your hardships or prayer needs with a seasoned prayer warrior you will likely be told at some point to "press into God." Often times some of the wisest mentors in my life will recount times of illness or financial despair and when asked how they survived, they will say the only thing they could do was "press into the Lord." This concept could be confusing to those new to the faith or new to prayer. I can remember when I wanted a deeper prayer life, I would hear someone tell me to just "press into God" and I really wanted to know what that looked like.

The word "press" conjures several pictures in my mind. Weight training includes the chest press or leg press where the heaviest weights are pushed away from the body. I think of basketball and the "full court press" where players place pressure on the other team throughout the entire court not just near their basket. A wine press or olive press applies pressure to the fruit to extract the essence and the very best the fruit has to offer.

Can we put pressure on God? I think Scripture tells us that our prayers make an impression on the Heavenly Father and He welcomes them. Prayer is not like the birthday wish of extravagant wants and the blowing out of a candle, prayer is the act of applying spiritual grit and pressure to our lives to bring about the Father's good and loving will. The practice and exercise of prayer ultimately changes our hearts so that they will receive and reflect His good will.

Pressing into God can be intercession for others. There are people in our lives who don't even know how to pray for themselves or that they even need prayer. Abraham knew about pressing God for the lives of people he cared for. Just before God destroyed Sodom, Abraham made several requests for God to find at least one righteous person to save. Abraham bargained with the Lord asking Him to save the city if he could find someone good, someone worthy of saving. Genesis 18 tell the story of an ordinary man beseeching the Lord and omnipotent God replying and offering salvation and restoration if someone righteous could be found. God is not dismissive when we implore, He is more than willing to hear our needs and answer us based on His goodness not ours.

We immerse ourselves in prayer when our family needs a major breakthrough. Think of Jacob who spent an entire night wrestling with God. Jacob was about to have a very difficult encounter with his estranged brother and he spent the night before physically wrestling with God. The Bible says the Jacob would not let go. Can you imagine a man having the strength to hang on to the Almighty God? He would not let God out of His grip. The encounter left Jacob bruised and walking with a limp. Sometimes prayer takes all night, is tiresome and leaves us a little weary. The result of Jacob's pressing into God left him limping however his encounter with his brother went better than expected.

Sometimes pressing looks more like reaching. It may be that we are too weak to wrestle but we can extend a hand. Remember the crowds that swarmed Jesus in Matthew 9? A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years moved among the crowd to reach out to touch Jesus' robe to hopefully be healed. I imagine that crowd pressed her. Sometimes the pressing of prayer is working against others who oppose our prayer. It may not be an all out enemy but it could be family who don't quite understand us, the gossips and community who love to talk to about our problems instead of helping us, the boss or coworkers who labor against us rather than labor with us. The bleeding woman knew what it meant to press in...she pressed into the crowd, through them and reached her hand past them to grab the Lord. Like Jacob, she held on for dear life.

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What are we pressing on towards? Paul said in Philippians 3:14, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Is the prize a participation award or flimsy ribbon? No, it's the upward call. Our prayers are not to simply bring about a temporary answer for an earthly problem. The ultimate goal of pressing on is ultimately achieving God's call on our life! Abraham was to become the father of many nations, Jacob would be the patriarch of God's chosen people and the bleeding woman would be healed so she could share Jesus with her community. The results of our prayer is ultimately never about us. Pressing in and pressing on should bring revelation of God to others and revolution to our lives, family, and community.