How to Wrestle for Victory
By LESLIE LUDY
My parents became Christians when I was about two years old. From that time on, they began praying specific prayers for my future — for instance, that God would prepare my future husband as a man of God, and that they would recognize him when he came into my life someday. The fruit of those prayers was realized sixteen years later when God wrote my love story with Eric. Even before anything “romantic” happened between us, my parents had an assurance in their hearts that he was the one God intended for me to marry.
Now that I am a mother, I know even more the importance of praying diligently and consistently for my children. In fact, all of the godly child-training and home organization in the world won’t amount to much if prayer is not at the core of everything we do.
Eric and I began to witness the power of praying for our children firsthand when our adopted daughter, Harper, first came home from Korea as a baby. For several weeks, life was in a tailspin. Harper had come from the other side of the world, so her days and nights were completely mixed up. She would be wide awake all night long, and completely dead to the world during the day. She was terrified of her car seat and wasn’t used to her big crib. She was very difficult to soothe to sleep at night. In fact, the only way we could get her to fall asleep was for Eric to hold her against his chest (on the right side, not the left) and jog around the living room for ten or fifteen minutes, while I played a very specific song on the piano. Though we were thrilled to have her home, her transition into the family was bringing a lot of stress and chaos.
A few months before Harper’s arrival, Eric and I had been challenged in our prayer life. For most of our Christian lives we had prayed about our struggles, but if the answer didn’t come immediately we’d stop praying about it, assuming that God didn’t want to answer. But then we began to study the pattern of true prayer in Scripture, and we realized that God desired us to wrestle in prayer, to be importunate in prayer, to continue asking, seeking, and knocking until the answer came. We had seen amazing things happen in our life as a result of this new pattern of wrestling prayer.
So we decided to begin wrestling in prayer for the issues we were facing with Harper. At first it seemed kind of silly to be fervently wrestling in prayer for our baby to be comfortable in her car seat or for to learn to fall asleep more easily at night. But as we faithfully and diligently brought these requests before the throne of Heaven, we began to see truly miraculous answers. Soon all of Harper’s transition issues had melted away, and her presence in our family was sweet and peaceful.
Around that time, Eric and I started the habit of creating a “sacred list” — otherwise known as a purposeful prayer strategy. We would write down a list of every area that was a struggle in our family — whether a child-training challenge, a physical issue for one of our kids, or wisdom needed for important family decisions. We called it our “sacred list” — and it included all of the areas we were committing to pray consistently about until a clear answer came.
For the past six years or so, we have continued this pattern of having a “sacred list” or prayer strategy for our family. Each night, Eric and I set aside time to lift up these requests to God, and we continue praying about them until we sense a breakthrough has come. It’s truly been amazing to see the way God has worked in our home and family life as a result of this purposeful prayer. Rather than simply praying general prayers, such as “help our kids to behave well,” we are purposeful about taking every specific request — no matter how big or small — to our God in prayer. We have prayed about potty training, pacifier-weaning, and nursing issues. We have prayed about sibling rivalries, health struggles, and for our children to find special, godly friends. Eric and I have found that we didn’t understand praying until we began to pray specifically. As Charles Spurgeon said, “There is a general kind of praying which fails for lack of precision. It is as if a regiment of soldiers should all fire off their guns anywhere. Possibly somebody would be killed, but the majority of the enemy would be missed.”
For each of our children, Eric and I have a “sacred list” of things we are praying for — big issues, small issues, and issues pertaining to their future. The more specific, the better! We know that if God knows the number of hair upon their heads, He surely cares about every detail of their daily lives.
When Eric and I are wrestling in prayer for all the things on our “sacred list,” here are some of the key principles we follow:
1. Keep Track of Answered Prayer
As I said in Set Apart Motherhood,
“One of the best ways to build your faith is to begin a prayer journal, and write down your detailed requests. Then wrestle in prayer for them on a daily basis until the breakthrough comes. Record every answer to prayer, small or large, in your journal. Then, a few months or years later, you’ll be able to read back over your prayer journal and see God’s faithfulness. Whenever I’ve kept a prayer journal and revisited it later on, I’m always amazed at how God demonstrated His power in my life, and my faith is built mighty and strong.
“Are you having specific discipline issues with one of your children? Challenges getting everyone out the door on time in the morning? Difficulty staying organized? Worried about your children making the right friends? Concerned over your child’s lack of spiritual hunger? Take it to God in specific, importunate prayer! No matter how small or big the issue is, nothing falls outside His desire and ability to assist His children.”
Eric and I love to look back at our prayer journal and meditate upon all the many answers to prayer God has demonstrated over the years, and be reminded of His faithfulness. It builds our faith and gives us energy to continue wrestling in prayer for all the new areas on our “sacred list” — knowing that God will come through for us now, just as He has so many times before!
2. Close up Breaches
Breaches are areas in our lives in which there is a “hole” in our wall, or an access point for the enemy to harass us. Often, it comes in the form of habitual sins or ungodly habits that need to be removed from our lives. Whenever we allow things like anger, jealousy, unforgiveness, impurity, or pop-culture preoccupation into our lives, our prayers will be hindered until we make those things right. When Eric and I were first forming our prayer strategy and beginning to wrestle in prayer over our “sacred list,” the Spirit of God gently convicted us of habits and patterns in our lives and hearts that needed to come into alignment with truth. By God’s grace, we began to repent of these things and make practical changes in our daily lives to “seal up” the breaches in our spiritual wall and close off the access points we had been giving to the enemy. Immediately, we felt the difference in our prayer life. We began to see answers to our prayers, and we felt fortified to stand against the enemy attacks and harassments that had been coming against our family.
Even to this day, as we are praying through specific burdens God has placed upon our heart for our children, home, and family, we continually ask God to show us if we have allowed any breaches into our lives that need to be made right. If He points something out, we repent of it and ask Him for the grace to “turn and walk the other direction.” We’ve found that keeping our soul “clear” before God is a huge key in experiencing an unhindered prayer life.
3. Don’t Give Up
Answers may not come right away. But God asks us to continue bringing our prayers before Him with faith and importunity. When I’m wrestling in prayer over certain issues and the answers aren’t coming immediately, I often think of the woman from Canaan who asked Jesus to heal her daughter who was severely demon-possessed. At first, Jesus seems not to hear her, but she continues to cry out after Him. Then, He seems to be unwilling to grant her request, but she continues to plead with Him. Finally, He says to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire” (Matt. 15:22-28). What incredible perseverance in the face of seeming discouragement and disappointment! As Martin Luther once said, “God may delay, but He always comes.”
It is not easy to continue praying diligently and consistently when you don’t see immediate answers. But I have found that some of the greatest victories in prayer have come when I refuse to give up and — even in the face of seeming defeat — continue to cry out to God for victory. Often, what at first appears to be a defeat or a “closed door” can turn into an incredible testimony of God’s faithfulness if we simply continue to knock until the answer comes!