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The Witching Hour

As the practice of witchcraft spread through Europe, the Roman Catholic Church prohibited activities between 3 and 4 in the morning beginning in 1535. This paranoia spread across the Atlantic Ocean to colonial Massachusetts, spawning the Salem Witch Trials. Between February 1692 and May 1693, a series of hearings and prosecutions of people took place as all were accused of practicing witchcraft. Thirty individuals were found guilty and nineteen were executed by hanging, (fourteen women and five men).

So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, using the same words. 45 Then He returned to the disciples and said to them, Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of especially wicked sinners [whose way or nature it is to act in opposition to God]. 46 Get up, let us be going! See, My betrayer is at hand!-Matthew 26:44-46.

While Jesus predicted his betrayal, it was during the witching hour when Judas led the chief priests and elders to Jesus’ location. Meanwhile, Jesus is wrestling with fulfilling God’s will, becoming obedient to death on a cross and the other 11 disciples were too tired to pray. Jesus’ advice to his disciples to overcome falling prey to evil is “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41. Every year after the NFL Draft, there is a rookie symposium for the newest draft class. A common message is repeated year after year, “nothing good ever happens after midnight.”

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord. 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. 21 Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good, Romans 12:19-21.

While walking to class one day at college, I noticed a female student carrying a Bible in one hand. On the surface, it appeared this young woman was a Bible believing Christian. After complimenting her boldness for not hiding her Bible in a backpack, her response caught me off guard. Without hesitation she replied, “I read it every Day so I know how to pray against God.” This brief encounter opened my minds to zealous witches, hungrier than most believers. In the passage above, the apostle Paul provides advice on how to overcome the witching hour. Rather than become overwhelmed by evil, overcome evil with good, by the love of Jesus in your hearts.

by Jay Mankus

Not In Your Own Strength

According to Levi, the disciples left the Last Supper singing a hymn as Jesus led these men to the Mount of Olives, Matthew 26:30. In the hours that followed, Jesus unveiled a powerful message to those who were listening. “The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak, Matthew 26:41. The context of this comment helps explain why the disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray for an hour late at night. Each of these disciples were relying on their own strength.

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight, Philippians 2:13.

While writing a letter to members of the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul appears to point to this spiritual principle. As a former Jewish zealot, Paul understood his own human limitations, Romans 3:10-12. Old Testament prophets spoke of man’s sinful tendencies, a nature that no one is immune. Rather than develop ungodly beliefs, Paul is clear that it is God who is the source of your desire and energy.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:13.

Two chapters later, the apostle Paul repeats himself with slightly different terminology. Instead of focusing on external actions that are visible, Paul concentrates on the internal. If human bodies are willing, it is Jesus living side of human hearts that empowers Christians to change for the better. Therefore, the next time you hear “it is Christ who gives you strength,” it is not you, but the Lord who is the human energizer.

by Jay Mankus

Praying in the Spirit

In the first century, churches planted following missionary journey visits by the apostle Paul met in homes or outside, often the banks of local rivers. In a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul provides some useful tips for those members who participate in home churches. This guideline is found in 1 Corinthians 14:26. While singing hymns, teaching, and utterances are the heart of these gatherings, praying in the Spirit sets the tone.

For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive [it bears no fruit and helps nobody], 1 Corinthians 14:14.

Unfortunately, the spirit is willing, but human bodies are weak, Matthew 26:41. This reality motivated Paul to learn to pray in the Spirit, Ephesians 6:18. Since there is a battle for human souls, Galatians 5:16-18 and Ephesians 6:12, keeping in step with God is essential, Ephesians 5:25. Whenever you allow the flesh to control your behavior, Romans 7:15, it’s only a matter of time before disobedience, failure or sin arrives.

Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will sing [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also, 1 Corinthians 14:15.

Therefore, praying in the Spirit by inviting the Holy Ghost to direct and guide your thoughts is key. You can’t base your faith upon how you feel. During a letter to the church at Colosse, Paul suggests that you should let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, Colossians 3:15-16. The more you meditate upon God’s Word and allow Jesus’ teaching to dwell within you, a spiritual foundation is laid to turn a simple prayer into an encounter with God by praying in the Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

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