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Break-Through Prayer

If you haven’t heard the term yet, please allow me to introduce it: Breakthrough prayer. I have heard that term occasionally through the years, but it wasn’t until I read a book that featured the idea that I started to think it actually meant something. The book, by the way, is Flood Gates, written by Sue Nilson Kibbey. I have a few spare copies if you are interested in reading about it yourself.

When I first began thinking about what breakthrough prayer might mean, I had images of some kind of charismatic preaching or crazy prayer meetings. However, I began to realize that we have probably all experienced breakthrough prayer of some kind or another already, in one of a few ways.

First, it shouldn’t surprise us to discover that prayer opens us up to the supernatural presence of God, and God can break through our defenses. Perhaps you have felt a comforting hand on your shoulder, or a calming presence in your heart – God can and does break through to us, in ways we can “feel” as well as in ways we can’t. Second, God sometimes answers our prayers in a direct way – the thing we pray for happens, and we know (or question) that God broke through to intervene to bless someone. Third, even if we don’t feel a presence or see a direct result of prayer, we know that prayer changes things, and those things are often our hearts and minds. I have, for instance, prayed for healing with people in the hospital, and while praying, I felt in my heart that yes, God would heal them, but it was not going to happen on earth. These “unanswered prayers” are also a breakthrough, that my mind or heart was changed.

“Are you saying that breakthrough prayer is just prayer?” Yes, actually, I am saying exactly that. The difference is that by naming it “breakthrough prayer,” we are changing our minds about what prayer is – we are expecting prayer to have a result! We aren’t necessarily pre-determining that result, but we expect God to change things, to break through. This wording change indicates a change in our expectations and practice of prayer. It is not a ritual we do to make God happy. It is a discipline that draws us closer to God and God’s power.

I have been resting in the idea of breakthrough prayer for nearly a year now before introducing it to you. Part of the reason was to gain clarity for myself before sharing it with you. The other part of the reason is because the way I will be encouraging us to practice it was not available to us until recently, with the reduction of covid cases. The virtue of gathering is, as Jesus said, “if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." (Matt. 18:19-20) As much as I enjoyed finding places to preach to the phone during our more locked-down phase, I realized how much being physically with other people changed and improved the message I could bring. The same is true for prayer. Private prayer is essential, and so is prayer with others. Even if we don’t open our mouths to pray out loud, group prayer has a special power to change things, especially to change us.

I will be writing more about breakthrough prayer in the future, but this is what I want to share with you now – it is not a strange practice. We will do it together, carefully, and methodically (we are Methodists!). And we will pray in the expectation that God listens and responds. By the way, breakthrough prayer and small groups are the two emphases I want to bring to the forefront of 2021. See my article about Greg West for news on small group training.

Your fellow servant in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Brian Sixbey 

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