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Traps When Praying: New and old Wineskin: Formula & Witchcraft Prayers

Every great revelation of power and authority from God undergoes the same process:

  • Discovery: That is the moment of an initial realization of something hidden or forgotten in the Bible. Seeds of this new or renewed information are planted and take time to grow.

  • Acceptance: New discoveries are not widely accepted at first. After some time, they become more mainstream resulting in a revival.

  • Formula: As revelations become widely known and accepted, man creates a formula for how to operate in it.

    • formula prayers: 1 + 1 = 2 -- We say this and expect to always get the same results

  • Degradation: Eventually, every power-based revelation loses the anointing of God as man takes control.

This can clearly be seen in the 20th Century revivals that brought great wisdom from God. Some of the most well-known types of revivals are:

  • Healing Revivals: God pours out His glory at times, which has been seen as healing revivals. Healing came, but 95% of those healed were in worse shape within a year of receiving healing. This is because the healing did not cause us to turn to God, learn His ways, and remove sin from our life. We relied on the formula of entering into His presence to receive healing. Each revival came to an end as we failed to point people to God and teach them His ways once they received healing. (This is because many Christian leaders are reluctant to teach that sin is a possible cause of an illness.)

  • Authority Revelation: In the Jesus movement, the authority of the name and blood of Jesus was realized. Names and classes of demons were cataloged, and prayers were formed. As we took the reins in our own hands and depended on what we knew instead of the leading of the Holy Spirit, this movement became the laughing stock of jokes across the world. Comedians would claim, “The devil made me do it.” The power of God diminished throughout the majority of the body of Christ.

  • Worship Revelation: When we worship God, His presence comes into that moment, filling a need in our hearts and may bring signs, wonders, and miracles. We have turned this realization into a formula. Most services begin with two fast songs followed by a slow one. God is looking at our hearts. (Isaiah 29:13) When our hearts are not turned toward Him with love and devotion while singing how much we love Him, the meeting seems long, tedious, and lacks energy. This is because it is devoid of God’s presence and power. Unless the church brings in entertainment, often people will begin leaving. Although our inner hearts are longing for God, the songs and teachings about God are devoid of His presence.

  • Word of Faith: This movement is often called the “name it and claim it” theology and includes the prosperity doctrine. There is great power in our words and in the Word of God. Although this is a wonderful and necessary revelation, when we focus on getting our words right SO THAT we can receive, we begin seeking victory, freedom, and healing from God rather than SEEKING GOD. We use the revelation as a formula, convinced if we just say it enough times and have enough faith that it will be done. We forget to ask God if this is what He has for us. Many became disillusioned when what they were confessing failed to come to pass.

  • Grace Movement: God is full of grace and mercy. Knowing this statement is so important in order that we can receive all that God has for us. The enemy has come into the church and has made this teaching into a formula with a message that states that it doesn’t matter if we sin because the blood of Jesus provides grace for all our sins. Confession has become a formula prayer of stating insincere words that we don’t really mean with our whole hearts. God will not be mocked. He sees our hearts. Many are under attack because of the Grace Formula.

  • The Courts of Heaven: After a few successes from entering into the Courts of Heaven, books have been written and the Body of Christ presumes to enter into the highest place of authority in Heaven and Earth without being able to see or hear anything. With a written set of procedures, they demand or declare what they want, having no idea of what is happening around them. What would happen if you do this in an earthly courtroom? What would the judge do? 

To receive continued victory, we must not depend upon prayers man has written, for that is turning revelations into an old wineskin. We must be like David who was the most victorious warrior in all of Israel. Before he went out to battle, he would pray and ask God, “Which way should I go.” This attitude is sung about in one of his psalms:

I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Be not like the horse or the mule, which lack understanding, which must have their mouths held firm with bit and bridle, or else they will not come with you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on the Lord shall be compassed about with mercy and with loving-kindness. (Psalms 32:8-10 AMPC)

We must not be stuck in a pattern of expectation and presumptuousness. Depending on patterns of the past is having our mouths held firm with a bridle and bit. We must trust in and rely on the Lord for every prayer, that is a new wineskin that will keep revelations flowing with God.

What is an Old Wine Skin?

If you have not been immersed in the Christian culture, this term may be unfamiliar to you. To understand why this is a danger, we need to know:

  • What does the Bible say about old wineskin?

  • What does it mean to be an old wineskin?

Three out of the four accounts in the Bible record our Lord talking about an old wineskin, so it must be important:

No man puts a piece of new cloth to an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up takes from the garment, and the rent is made worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins. (Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, Luke 5:37)

Fabric that is new will shrink when laundered. Old fabric has already withstood that process and is now set in a permanent shape. A wineskin goes through the same process: when it is new it is supple and will bend and give, whereas an old wineskin’s shape is fixed. It is human nature to slip into inflexibility, thinking we know what to do. The old wineskin can be seen in:

  • Prayer

    • formula prayers: 1 + 1 = 2 -- We say this and expect to always get the same results

  • Traditions

    • the way our church or parents have always done it

Inflexibility is not what the Lord wants from us. We can verify that this is the right application by looking at the context, and what else was said at the same time. This scripture is mixed in with a lot of other parables with one constant element: The same story precedes the teaching on the wineskin in every account, the topic of fasting.

And they said to Him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but Your eat and drink? And He said to them, Can you make the children of the bridal chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. (Luke 5:33-35 AKJV)

Jesus explains why His disciples do not fast, then He talks about wineskin. To place His words about wineskin in the proper context we must know why we fast and pray. In the Old Testament we see that God’s people fasted as they sought revelation:

Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came to the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. (Judges 20:26 AKJV)

When we fast, we set aside the basic physical demands of our body so that we can focus only on God. The disciples did this as well, and for the same purpose:

While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2 AMP)
And when they had ordained them elders, in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on Whom they believed. (Acts 14:23 KJV)

In each of these instances, they were seeking the Lord for guidance or direction. The main topic is receiving a revelation from God. This is why we fast.

The Pharisees fasted because it was a custom based on tradition, not because God had asked them to fast at that time. The spiritual leaders of the day had lost all sensitivity to God’s leading and were following tradition blindly. If they had been listening to God, they would have recognized His Son and rejoiced.

With these two metaphors, the Lord is, in essence, saying, “Fasting is good, but you should be listening to God about when it should be done or you won’t be able to continue to receive the benefit of a new revelation.”

Unfortunately, Christians use the term “new wineskin” to speak of a new revelation from God. That is only half of what is being said. As stated, when you receive a "new wineskin" or new revelation, we have to be flexible in how we operate in it. An “old wineskin” means that we are being inflexible when applying these new revelations. We cannot follow any biblical practice blindly without His guidance, not even fasting. This will make it a tradition, a formula, an old wineskin.  

It is human nature to want to be in control or to have a path laid out for us. However, to hold new wine we must remain flexible like a new wineskin, lest the new revelation be torn from us like new fabric on an old cloth or new wine bursting from an old wineskin.

Every great revelation from past generations was turned brittle and inflexible as we developed “formula prayers” based on that new revelation. The dictionary definition of formula is “a customary or set form or method allowing little room for originality to accomplish a desired result.” When we pray, repeating words to get the desired result, it doesn’t leave room for the Holy Spirit to guide us. We are more focused on getting the result we want, rather than listening to what God wants us to do.

In the large movements of the past where prayers were developed based on the revelation brought to the body of Christ, it wasn’t long after that it began losing effectiveness. The formula prayers are taking priority over listening and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our Guide.

You can use a prayer written by another person IF the Holy Spirit says to use that prayer at a given time. Paul gave us a great example of this:

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee… (Philippians 3:4-5 AKJV)

The Apostle Paul was a very learned man. He knew much about God’s ways. He was a Pharisee: a religious leader in Israel. He continued by explaining what this all of these things meant:

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ… (Philippians 3:7-8 AKJV)

We must follow Paul’s example. No matter how much we think we know, we must cling to the excellent knowledge of Christ Jesus. This is why formulas are so dangerous. We begin depending upon what we know instead of being led by our Lord and Holy Spirit.

Hearing from our Teacher and Guide, the Holy Spirit, isn’t for a privileged few, it is for every Christian. It does no good to have a Teacher if you cannot hear from Him. God created you for a purpose; you have a destiny with Him that is good. You are not an accident or too messed up for God to use you — that is a lie from the enemy. Are your mistakes bigger than God? He used a murderer who was a fugitive (Moses) and the man who was pursuing His children to kill them (Paul). He can use you only if you are willing.

Receiving the New Wine

To receive the “new wine,” which is a new revelation, we must have a new wineskin. This means being flexible. Are you willing to examine your beliefs? Even if your beliefs are based on actual scriptures, we must ask:

  • Do they line up with the entire Bible?

  • Are they out of context?

If the Holy Spirit shows you something that lines up with the Bible but contradicts:

  • What your pastor, prophet, evangelist, or apostle has said

  • What your church denomination has been teaching for many, many years

What will you hold on to? How fast are you willing to let go of false teachings? We need to be ready to receive truth from the Holy Spirit through the word of God. Some of us need to shed the old wineskin so that we can receive His fresh new wine that will revive us.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires. If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.] (Galatians 5:24-25 AMPC)

Change can be difficult if we are not ready to crucify the flesh meaning, let go of what we are used to doing. We have to be willing to accept correction from God and direction from the Holy Spirit. You cannot put new wine into an old wineskin. Shedding the old wineskin means literally tossing away all the old stuff that’s not God’s truth. This is what God wants us to discern and remove from our life so that we can be empowered to do His will upon this Earth.

Shedding the Old Wineskin

Intercessors are often referred to as “prayer warriors.” They believe they are doing a lot of good as they pray for our church, the congregation, even cities and nations. A lot of these good-hearted people get “burned out” from the continued spiritual warfare and begin to wonder when it will ever end. Some claim that it is because they are on the front lines, but that is not what our Lord tells us.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. (Matthew 11:28-30 AMPC)

If you are working with the Lord, He will carry the burden and you will feel refreshed. When you are working in the flesh, you will feel drained by your efforts. Often, the ineffectiveness of the prayers has us continually searching for a new prayer as we think, “if I can only get the right word or have enough faith, it will work!”

When we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that is when we will get a breakthrough. Using prayers written in books became witchcraft prayers.

  • The definition of a formula: a set form of words for use in a ceremony or ritual.

  • The definition of spell: a spoken word or form of words held to have magic power.

    • Using the scripture to “force” God to act is manipulation and a witchcraft prayer

When we utter words given to us by man without the urging of the Holy Spirit and expect a certain result, this is akin to witchcraft. Another name for formula prayers is “witchcraft prayers.” This is manipulating the Word of God to get the desired results. We are relying on our knowledge and words spoken to bring a breakthrough instead of being guided by the Holy Spirit.

Learning from the prayers of others is great. Sometimes the words of others can help us voice what we need to say, but there is no magic phrase or prayer that will give us what we want. That is saying we don’t need the Holy Spirit to guide us in our prayers. In some cases, prayers can even open the door to an attack of the enemy.

The Holy Spirit should be the one to guide us in our prayers. To pray without the Holy Spirit is pride. It’s saying I don’t need you because I already know what to pray and I prefer the prayers man gave me. We must be willing to ask ourselves, is there a reason for what is occurring.

Applying this to the new revelation includes taking time to ask Jesus if we can enter into the Courts of Heaven instead of barging in or relying on what we learned from a book or what we think we know. If you cannot hear His answer about entering the Courts, how are you going to follow His instructions once before God as the Just and Righteous Judge?

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]. (Revelation 3:19 AMPC)

If we are encountering trouble in this world, we may be receiving correction from the Lord. During prayer for breakthrough, we must be willing to hear from the Holy Spirit who may reveal our sin, this is part of intercession. We need to confess our sin (see it the way God does), this includes turning from that sin (repenting), then apply the precious blood of Jesus: this is how we win the battle every time. The key to victory is not a specific prayer: It is finding out what the enemy is using to gain the right to attack us.

In order to operate fully in the new wineskin, we must let go of formula prayers. It is crucial to keep in mind that the enemy may have legal rights in the Courts of Heaven where the charges need to be removed before we take authority over anything. (see Courts of Heaven course for more details) By applying the blood of Jesus after repenting, not only is all sin removed from all records in Heaven, but every time we repent, we acknowledge what Jesus did for us on the cross.

We have no need to attack the devil and start binding and loosing unless directed to by the Holy Spirit. These actions may even result in backlash in our finances, jobs, health, and both our marriage and our children. It is also time-consuming and takes away the focus from listening to the Holy Spirit.

That no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Corinthians 1:29 AKJV)
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 AKJV)

We must not fall back into old habits and start praying formula prayers. That is the flesh. If we realize something is wrong because of the backlash, we need to take a good look at ourselves first, to see what we might need to repent for, not begin waging war against the adversary. This is very dangerous. We need to humble ourselves and listen for instructions from the Holy Spirit. We need to understand that the new wineskin means letting go of all our old ways of doing spiritual warfare; letting go of teachings that are not exactly scriptural so that God can pour new wine in us.

Christians are often called on to pray for others or come into agreement with a pray others have prayed. Keep these things in mind concerning pray:

  • When someone asks you to agree in prayer because of a situation they are struggling with and you are struggling with the same sin, you must repent for your own sin first before praying for them.

  • Do not agree in prayer with anyone, unless the Holy Spirit releases you to do so. Saying “Amen” makes you responsible for every word said.

  • Don’t just pray with a person because you don’t want to disappoint them. We have been misled to believe we must agree with them as an act of kindness only to get backlash because we had no authority to do so.

  • Prayer must come through your spirit and in unity with the Holy Spirit to be fully effective with no backlash. If you don’t know what to pray then pray in your heavenly language only.

Shedding that old wineskin is not easy. We have old habits we have to break. We may slip back from time to time, but God gives us grace.

But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in Him. (1 John 2:27 ESV)
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10 NASB)

The anointing that God gives us is the power to pray with results; the power to heal and the power to set prisoners free. This will happen when we remember that the ultimate authority is God and His Spirit will help us pray!

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