Filling the Bowls
In discussing why persevering prayer is necessary, we have looked at several issues. First, we noted that God’s power is present in us, the church, not just heaven. He wants and needs this power to flow from us. Prayer is more than simply asking God to do something; we release His power and life as we speak His word and do as He instructs us.
Yesterday, we said that since spiritual power is a measurable force, and different amounts are needed to accomplish different things, we must continue releasing Holy Spirit’s power until enough has flowed from us to accomplish the task. We’ll continue this discussion today.
Ephesians 3:20 is an amazing verse. Actually, for the sake of context, let’s read verse 21, also.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and forever. Amen.”
The phrase “exceeding abundantly beyond” is one word in the Greek text: huperperissos. Through the use of this fascinating word, Holy Spirit is making an amazing point. The root word perissos in and of itself means “superabundant.” In other words, “more than abundant” or “more than enough.” The same word describes God’s amazing grace in Romans 5:20. With the added prefix huper, however, (huperperissos) the word takes on an almost humorous dimension. In Greek, huper means “beyond” or “more than.” When these two words are compounded together, the word they form would literally be translated: “superabundantly, with more added to that,” or “beyond more than enough,” or perhaps “more than, more than enough!”
Paul, in describing God’s power at work in us (as well as His grace in Romans 5:20) is so overwhelmed by what Holy Spirit is writing through him that he says, “God has enough power to do superabundantly beyond - with more added to that! - what we can even ask or think.” No language can do justice to God; He’s simply too great, powerful, and good.
Then, the last half of Ephesians 3:20 tells us God is going to do this “more than more than enough” - “through “the power that works in us.” An Expanded Translation of the New Testament by Kenneth Wuest is the most literal and exact translation of the New Testament I know of. Look at his incredible depiction of this verse:
“Now to the One who is able to do beyond all things, superabundantly beyond and over and above those things that we are asking for ourselves and considering, in the measure of the power which is operative in us . . .”
Wow! I want you to see that God’s immeasurable power is not only in heaven, it’s in us! And Wuest points out that the over and above activity of this power on our behalf is based on the measure of its operation in us. We must cooperate with this power! We must draw on it, activate it . . . and release it!
James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (KJV, emphasis added). Wuest translates it this way: “A prayer of a righteous person is able to do much as it operates.” Notice the verse doesn’t say, “A prayer of a righteous person is able to do much because it causes God to operate.”
It certainly does so, but the verse is making a different point. It says, “A prayer of a righteous person is able to do much as it [the prayer] operates.” The Amplified translation reads, “The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [is dynamic in its working].” Wow! Our prayers go to work. And notice the word “continued;” the Amplified Bible captures the present tense meaning of the verb. We have the power inside of us that created the world. We have the same power in us that went into the depths of the earth and took the keys from the kingdom of darkness. But we must release it. Release it and release it and release it and release it some more! Again and again and again!
As we do, the Scriptures indicate that our prayers accumulate. There are bowls in heaven in which our prayers are stored. Not one bowl for all prayers but “bowls.” We don’t know how many but I think it very likely that each of us has our own bowl in heaven. I don’t know if it’s literal or symbolic. It doesn’t matter, the principle is still the same: God stores our prayers for release at the proper time.
“And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8 NASB)
“And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3-5 NASB)
According to these verses, either when God knows it is the right time, or when enough prayer has accumulated, our prayers in the bowl are mixed with fire from His altar.
Picture this: God takes the same fire that fell on Mt. Sinai; the fire that fell at Pentecost; the fire that destroys His enemies; and puts it into your bowl of prayers! Then He pours it all upon the earth...Lightning starts flashing, thunder crashes, the earth quakes. Awesome power is released in the realm of the spirit, which then affects the natural realm.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, each hour I stood over the comatose girl, speaking the name above every name, praying in the Spirit, declaring God’s Word and promises, shedding tears - God was collecting it all until finally, the bowl was full.
And on a Saturday morning in 1986, Jehovah Rapha - the Lord our healer - looked over at one of the angels and said, “See that girl in Ohio whose brain is no longer functioning, who has to be fed through her stomach and breathe through a hole in her throat. The one lying there like a living dead person, for whom the doctors say there’s no hope, that she’s going to die? Do you see her? Take this bowl of prayers, mix them with My fire, and go pour it on her head.” The rest is history.
John Killinger tells about an interesting method used in the past to break a wild steed by harnessing it to a burro. The powerful steed would take off across the range, twisting and bucking, causing the burro to be tossed about wildly. What a sight! The steed would run away, pulling the burro alongside, and they would drop out of sight - sometimes for days. Then they would return, with the proud little burro in charge. The steed had worn himself out, fighting the presence of the burro. When he became too tired to fight anymore, the burro assumed the position of leader.4
That’s the way it is many times with prayer. Victory goes to the persistent, not to the angry; to the dedicated, not to those who can provide great demonstrations of emotion and energy. We need committed, determined, power-releasing prayer, not once-in-a-while fireworks.
Pray with me:
Father, we believe the bowls of prayer for America are full. There have been millions and millions of prayers over the past 30 years asking You for forgiveness to America, and for revival. We, Your people, have fulfilled 2 Chronicles 7:14. You never said unbelievers needed to fulfill this verse, that they had to stop sinning before You would heal the land. You said if YOUR people did these things, You would heal the land.
And I would also add, Father, that You have always been willing to respond to a remnant. You do not require all of Your people to do these things. In Your mercy, You have always been willing to bring restoration through the few. In fact, You have never done it any other way. We believe that now, You will do as You said, and heal our land. We are asking You for this spiritual healing.
We are asking You to cleanse us from the shedding of much innocent blood. We are asking You to heal our land of racism and division. We are asking You to heal us of unrighteous government. We are asking You to heal the younger generation from the humanism and atheism we have allowed to invade our nation. We ask You to tip the bowls of intercession and pour forth Your lightning into America.
We ask you to do this also in our churches. Bring Your fire. Bring power to the church once again. Most of all, may we be people of Your presence. Restore hunger for You. Light up the earth, Father, with the greatest outpouring of Your Spirit this planet has ever experienced. We believe this is coming and we will never give up. We will see it... because the appeal still works! In Christ’s name we ask and decree these things. Amen.
We decree that the bowls of intercession in heaven are filled, and God is going to respond from heaven!
Portions of today’s post were taken from my book Intercessory Prayer.
1 Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. No. 4057
2 Ibid., Ref. No. 5228
3 Ibid., Ref. No. 2596
4 Larson, Illustrations for Preaching, p177, adapted.