Paul Covert's Posts (6)

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Even If Prayer

I wrote this article recently and thought it might be fun to share it here.

I read a passage that I have been processing for years. It is found in 2 Kings 7. The setting is a desperate one. The Arameans have laid siege to the city of Samaria. There is a famine in the land, and the people are in crisis.

In the midst of the darkness, the prophet Elisha matter-of-factly predicts that by this time tomorrow there will be an abundance of food. In verse 2, the officer attending the king scoffs at Elisha’s prediction, saying, “Even if the Lord should open the windows of heaven, this is not even in the realm of possibility” (my paraphrase).

The story’s action continues at twilight, with four lepers making a desperate decision to go over to the Aramean camp. They reason, “If we stay here, we will die of starvation. If we go over there and they spare us, we live, and if they kill us, we have lost nothing” (my paraphrase).

But when the lepers reach the Aramean camp, what they see is beyond their wildest belief: The Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots, horses and a great army. The Arameans had become so afraid that they had dropped everything and fled for their homeland. So the lepers eat and drink and loot some tents of valuable items. The lepers hide some of the spoils but then decide to tell the others in the city about their good fortune.

So they go back and call out to the gatekeepers, telling them all that had transpired. The gatekeepers relay the message to the king, but he is convinced it is a trap. So he sends out a few soldiers to investigate. They return with news that verifies the lepers’ story. Pandemonium breaks out among the starving people as they rush madly out of the city to get their share of the plunder from the Aramean camp. The king had assigned his officer to the gate—the same officer who had said, “Even if the Lord should open the windows of heaven, this could not happen.” The officer was trampled to death as the people ran out to get their share of the bounty.

This passage teaches us a number of lessons.


The king’s officer looked at the situation through natural and faithless eyes. It is not just the king’s officer who lived faithlessly, but I do too sometimes. Unfortunately, I reside there more often than I want to admit to you or to myself. This kind of weak praying and faithlessness is the opposite of where we are called to be. Biblical heroes are noted for a different kind of faith and prayers. Take Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they are facing the blazing furnace. They say, “But even if he does not [even if God does not save us from the furnace], we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:18).

Queen Esther made the same choice to have faith as her people were about to be destroyed by the wicked Haman. She was willing to move forward even if it cost her very life.


Faithful praying and living are not based on circumstances or people in any way. Ann and I have needed to use this kind of faith and praying several times during recent years. On May 22, 2011, I was training a prayer team for a trip to Indonesia. It was a Sunday afternoon and my dad called. My folks are in their 80s and never call me, especially on a Sunday, because they know they might catch me in a meeting or teaching somewhere. I knew something was up. Dad left a message that sounded like he had just gone through an atomic bomb. “Paul,” he said as his voice shook. “We just went through a tornado. It is all gone. The house, barns, and the garage—they are all gone.” After a long pause, “Call me.”

We left the next morning to help dig out from the devastation. Along the way a new level of faith was needed and a different kind of prayer posture. Not a different position but an intensified trust and faith level was demanded for the prayers we prayed. So many questions had to be answered, and all of them were beyond our control. Where were they going to live? What do you do with the few things that were not destroyed in the storm? Why them? The house a quarter of a mile north and the one to the south did not lose even a shingle. Why did God take their dream house and turn it into splinters?

After the tornado they decided to summer in Missouri and winter in Arizona. So they packed up a few things in a U-Haul, and I flew out to get them and to drive the U-Haul back to Arizona. Seventy-five miles from home they were rear-ended by the driver of an eighteen wheeler. Mom’s back was broken, and she had to have a 4-inch titanium rod placed in her back. Dad had the leads of his pacemaker ripped from his heart. Later we learned that his back had been broken also. Neither of them was paralyzed, but both needed a big rig’s worth of care. Again we moved into a unique kind of praying and the faith we learned from 2 Kings 7.


Learn to capture your struggles and missteps under trial. In high school I remember dissecting a frog. We had large push pins and after each incision we would peel back some flesh and pin it down so that we could see more clearly the organs of the frog. In crisis it is as if God is peeling back the layers of protection we strategically placed in our lives so that we are viewed positively by others. With those layers out of the way, the difficulties allow us to see motives, plans, thoughts and actions that are not pure or need work. The trick is to capture those offensive thoughts or actions as they surface so that we can deal with them when the storm passes. These fleshly parts of us are hidden unless we are in the worst of trials. Capturing those thoughts and actions can give us great material to pray over and repent from. We are learning to view them as a loving father allowing us to see clearly our struggles and then helping us step up to greater maturity. We have a long way to go, but we are grateful that God goes before us.


The goal is to be continually grateful. Now that I have lived awhile, I have witnessed people who are fearful or angry or have shut down. It is clear they are still with the king’s servant in 2 Kings 7, living without trust and deep prayer. By contrast I have met a small few who trust the Lord so completely that nothing fazes them. When something happens they shrug it off with words like, “The Lord has protected me so beautifully before, he will do it again,” or, “I am so grateful that the Lord handles all my struggles so wonderfully.” These people are rare. But boy do they stand out and are admired by the rest of us.

My friend Jake is like that (not his real name). He is the most grateful man I know. Nothing rattles him. His faith, trust and prayers just cannot be shaken because of his appreciation for what Jesus has done for him already. Learning this level of gratefulness has opened doors for him that are just not normal. Recently he was entertained by a monarch of a wealthy country. The leader invited him into his home and introduced Jake to his family and close friends. Jake’s gratefulness and trust are simply magnetic to the people he is around—even people of different faiths.

True confessions: I am certainly not there yet. I complain too much and whine more that I want to admit. But I can see the goal and am striving for it. I am way too often like the king’s servant, expressing that something can’t be done. But I see it and I am moving in the direction of my grateful friend Jake and those biblical heroes who just could not be shaken. 

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"Hey anything for me?"

In 1984 Annie and I moved to Arizona to start a church.  We did it the hard way with no people and no place to meet except our living room.  In time, we rented a facility and God graciously sent us some people to love and lead. 


I remember our first Thanksgiving as a church so clearly (we were only eleven months old and had seventy five people).  Our infant church collected food and had enough to help four different families with their Thanksgiving meals.  I recall feeling very proud that we were able to help some people during that first Thanksgiving season and truthfully, was really hoping that we would have the chance to assist many others as the years went by. 


We met at the church and divided into four cars, each taking an entire meal to a struggling family.  Bill and I drove to an apartment in a rough part of Phoenix’s inner city.  You know how it goes… it took forever to find the right apartment in the maze of similar looking buildings and doors.  When we finally found the right place we greeted the family and unloaded four boxes of food.  I again experienced pride that we were far enough along that we could help others at this key time.


As we left, a small 8 year old boy called out to us.  His words haunt me to this day “Hey mister, do you have anything for me?”  We didn’t.  The wonderful feelings we were enjoying escaped as I told him we had given everything we had away.  I failed that day.  I should have gone to the store and pulled out my nearly maxed out credit card and purchased some food for his family also.  But I didn’t.   I am ashamed of that.


I determined that day to never let that happen again.   


Those words have lived with me all these years and I hear them in other places too.  Like in church on Sunday mornings, or when I am greeting people as they file in.  No one says those words audibly but I know that almost everyone is thinking them as they attend Central for the first time.  Their spirits are screaming at them as they walk in the doors, “Hey mister do you have anything for me?” 


Every time I have the chance to greet someone new, counsel a new friend who is in trouble, smile when my eyes meet the eyes of another, or have the chance to pray with attendees at the end of a service, those words help me to stay focused and care more.   I hope they help you as well.

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Recently we had a Prayer Conference with Mark Batterson.  I have been pondering three thoughts that personally challenged me from the conference and thought they were worth sharing. 

First, Mark emphatically stated, “That everything begins with prayer.”   This is important to me because I have to confess that even though I am the Prayer Pastor and pray a good deal, not everything I do starts in prayer.  I sometimes run ahead of God, and those times are easy to pick out because they are flat and not very useful.   I don’t think I am alone in my struggle.  You may need to hear this concept also.  I think he is right. Prayer is to be where we get inspiration to move forward with a project or the wisdom to deal with a tough situation.  Prayer is where the compassion comes from to walk with another through a trial and the fortitude to be the only one left standing when that is necessary.  Prayer is indeed where everything starts, at least anything of any value.  For Bible support you could look to Acts chapter 10 and the opening of the church to the gentiles that came out of Cornelius prayers or Acts chapter 13 and the sending out of the first missionaries that was formulated after fasting and prayer in a prayer meeting of the early church.

Mark’s approach to personal consecration was very powerful also.   He asks the Lord to forgive any human strategy he has pursued that was not conceived in prayer.   I have never heard anything like this before… talk about setting a high standard.  I wonder how my life and ministry would be different if I asked the Lord to forgive me for everything I do that was not birthed in prayer.  I have a feeling this would be revolutionary.  I intend to see!  

Would you be willing to stop striving and pursue God for your marching orders?   This sounds like an incredible step of faith but I bet it would be worth it. 

Jesus reminded us in Matthew 7:21- 23,  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’

There are lots of ways to view this passage.  Some would deal with salvation and others hypocrisy.  Another view might be in the last times there will be lots of people running around doing this “for the Lord” or that for “for the Lord”.  But few of these actions will have been birthed in prayer.  Those plans and initiatives (the ones conceived in prayer) will be most valued. 

The third point Mark made was most practical.  Mark believes that the Bible was meant to be prayed.  As you read the Bible, God will speaks to you about something from His word.  That thought is where you should start your prayer time for the day.  We have been taught that prayer and Bible reading are two different things.  But Batterson puts a whole new light on these disciplines.  Although I have been working on this for a while, Mark has fired me up to grow in this area. The more I practice this principle, the more I like it. 

Paul Cover is the Prayer Pastor at Central Christian Church a mega church in Mesa AZ and the author of Threshold: Transformational Prayer; Transformational Prayer Leadership.  His book is available at Amazon.





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January 2012 Prayer Newsletter

Hi all-

Please check our most recent newsletter here!

Also - in one of my previous posts, I was attempting to provide a link to all previous newsletters but ended up not being successful.  Well - now everything seems to be fixed so please follow this link to see our archived newsletters and see what our ministry has been doing over the past few years!



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