The Phenomenon of Breakthrough

This is a chapter from my book: Fanning the Flames of Intercession.

Please check out the book here.

An Overused Word

I have always been one for shying away from buzzwords and overused expressions that come through the body of Christ.  Sometimes the use of such words is because it is the “cutting-edge” (another example) thing to do.  I believe the use of the word “breakthrough” is like that.  It seems like everyone is talking about it. In this case however, I believe breakthrough isn’t just a fad or buzzword, it is because it’s something that God is declaring and releasing to His people in this hour.  Let’s look at the DNA of this phenomenon we call “breakthrough.”

Breakthrough Defined

Once again, I like to get a grasp upon definitions to get wisdom, revelation and understanding about the depth of meaning and the applicability of the word.

In the dictionary breakthrough is defined as:

  1. A military movement or advance all the way through and beyond an enemy’s front-line defense.
  2. An act or instance of removing or surpassing an obstruction or restriction; the overcoming of a stalemate: The president reported a breakthrough in the treaty negotiations.
  3. Any significant or sudden advance, development, achievement, or increase, as in scientific knowledge or diplomacy that removes a barrier to progress: The jet engine was a major breakthrough in air transport. (Dictionary.com)

Breakthrough Illustrations

Along with the definitions, here are some great illustrations that will allow us a bigger picture of how God breaking through in a situation is brought forth.

  • A Breakthrough of Water

The main idea for breakthrough in scripture comes from the breakthrough of water that David used as an illustration of God giving him a tremendous victory over his enemies. 

“So David went to Baal Perazim, (which means “processor of the breaches”) and David defeated them there; and he said, ‘The LORD has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.’ ” (2 Samuel 5:20)   “So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. ‘The Lord did it!’ David exclaimed. ‘He burst through my enemies like a raging flood!’ So he named that place Baal-perazim.” (which means “the Lord who bursts through.) (NLT)

This is a great illustration because the power of moving water is one of the greatest forces in nature.  Whether it is a raging flood or tsunami, it can be overwhelmingly devastating to anything in its path.  When breakthrough comes, everything that man and the enemy have erected to keep God out of a situation is completely overwhelmed.  It is like in the story of Israel being chased by the pharaoh’s army.  The enemy is swept away as God releases great victory for His people.  The breakthrough of water is like a crack in a dam that continues to grow wider and wider.

  • A Troop and a Wall

The next illustration of breakthrough is from 2 Samuel 22:30. “For by you I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall.” When we believe for breakthrough, let’s make sure that we are not placing limits on God, who is able to do the impossible.  We need to remember that we serve, not only the God of this present world, but also the God of the universe.  He is a God who created and is maintaining 400 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone. The estimated number of stars in the universe is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 300 sextillion.  The interesting thing is that God has a name for every last one of them. (Psalm 147:4)

  • Breaking through City Gates

Another picture of breakthrough is when a walled city is under siege and the opposing army is breaking the gates down with a battering ram.  A battering ram is thrust forward time after time until ultimately the gates burst open.  The importunity of intercession can be likened to constant and continual calling out to God until the point when the answer comes.  In days gone by, this was known as “praying through.”  Faith and perseverance are central ingredients in intercession that brings breakthrough.

Faith and Perseverance

There are many exhortations in scripture about not quitting and not giving up.  Galatians 6:9 says,Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

This is what Jesus was communicating as he told the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying, ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’ ”

I had the privilege of hearing Stephen Venable from International House of Prayer in Kansas City teach about these verses.  He said that perseverance in prayer is like someone with a pick assaulting a dam.  The person with the pick doesn’t randomly hit all over the dam, but instead hits repeatedly on one spot.  It is the labor of persistent, continual, persevering that brings breakthrough.  With repeated blows eventually a crack appears, and then comes the full release.

Mountain Climb – Refusing to Give Up

When I was a young man I went mountain climbing with some friends of mine. We climbed a 10,000 foot mountain in Oregon called, the Middle Sister.  We left our base camp at 7,000 feet and began to climb over lava rock and snow banks to steadily make our way towards the summit.  As we went along it became very steep and we were buffeted by a bitterly cold wind. The conditions became so severe that one of the two friends I was with said, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m going back.”  He then turned back and headed to base camp.

The other friend that I was with had a very deep and intimate relationship with Jesus.  He looked at me and said, “Let’s pray.”  We asked God what to do and then paused for a moment of silence.  He then looked me in the eye with a determined gaze and said, “The Lord says He is with us. Let’s go.”  From where we were standing we could not tell, but we were less than five minutes from the summit. The view was spectacular and we could feel God’s presence as we were shouting and singing His praises on the mountaintop.

When we returned to base camp we told our other friend what he had missed and that he was almost there.  He missed out because he gave up too soon.  Oftentimes when we are praying for breakthrough, it is most difficult just before the answer comes.  If you will talk to any woman who has delivered a baby, they will tell you that when it gets unbearable the baby is almost here.  Let’s not give up because we could be just moments from the point of breakthrough.

“When you are tempted to give up, your breakthrough is probably just around the corner.” (Joyce Meyer)

The Bowls in Heaven

There are times, when we most want to quit, that we are at the threshold of our breakthrough.  Some would say, “We have been praying for years and the change has not come.” In the book of Revelations the 24 elders are given stewardship of something very important.  They have in their possession golden bowls full of incense. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelations 5:8)

Could it be that there is a connection between the golden bowls of incense and the pouring out of the Spirit talked about in Joel and the Book of Acts? Could it be that our intercession is directly linked to God pouring out His Spirit in a powerful way? “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:16-17)

Speaking of visions, I had one that might help illustrate what I am talking about. In the vision, I was in heaven with Jesus standing on the rim of a golden bowl that was miles across.  The top of the rim was about 12 feet wide. Inside the bowl was a substance that was glowing and moving.  I looked at Jesus and asked Him what was in the bowl. He said, “That is My glory.” Then He leaned towards me with one eyebrow raised and said with a commanding voice, “I am going to pour this thing out and no one can stop Me.”

When God makes up his mind about something there is no one, including Satan, that can oppose Him.  This is when the Holy Spirit, the most powerful force in the universe, is released and poured out, and all opposition is defused, defeated and obliterated.

As we fill the bowls in heaven with our prayers there has to come a tipping point.  Could it be that the intercession that we offer this day is that which brings the outpouring? It is that which brings the answers to real situations, even impossible situations. Could it be that the tide will turn, the captives will be set free and all that we have dreamed or imagined would be realized?

Prophetic Declaration and Breakthrough

I believe God wants to add to our intercession for breakthrough another element called prophetic declaration.  The Word says in Psalms 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.”  I believe another way you can say this verse is that, “the redeemed of the Lord have a say so.”  The Lord showed me a picture one time of what prophetic declaration is like. Have you ever seen on the National Geographic Channel those ships in the Arctic that break through solid ice?  These ships have a double hull which allows them to rise up on the ice and breakthrough it because of the massive weight of the ship. Prophetic declaration is like the bow of that icebreaking ship.  The Word of God, with the weight of God’s authority behind it, is released through prophetic declaration and the change comes.  If prophetic declaration is like a bow of an icebreaking ship, then intercession is the engine running that ship. The equation is:  prophetic declaration + intercession = breakthrough.

This quote from Bill Johnson puts it in perspective;

“It is how the economy of heaven works, word is released and power comes. It’s as though you make a decree and when you do, you put a mark somewhere and that mark invites God to come. The invitation of God is the boldness of a declared word.” (From the sermon “The Gospel”)

Areas Needing Breakthrough

There are countless numbers of people, places and situations that need breakthrough.  There are so many things that we give serious intercessory prayer time to.  This is one of the reasons that, in the kingdom, we need to adopt an “all hands on deck” philosophy when it comes to prayer. We could easily become discouraged by the vast number of things that need prayer.  We don’t need to be discouraged, we just need to hear the Holy Spirit on what He wants us specifically to pray for.  Here are just a few areas that we need to pray for breakthrough in:

  • Justice Issues and Societal Change

The reason God is concerned about justice issues is because He is deeply moved about those who are suffering the effects of injustice.  God’s heart can be clearly seen in Isaiah 1:17. “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.”

Such issues as abortion, human trafficking and poverty must continually be brought before the throne and prayed over. We need breakthrough in these areas and all other justice issues.  Of all the avenues of change out there, intercession is the one that has the most potential for breakthrough. There are many testimonies of God working miraculously in the midst of injustice.  Intercession is the key to make that possible.

In Luke 4:17-19 Jesus declared Himself as the answer for injustice. “And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.’ ”

Like I said before, God wants to bring real answers to real people, places and situations.  He wants to bring change into the society we live in. Societal change should be one of the focuses of our intercession and something we are continually calling upon God for.  We do not need to throw our hands in the air and say there is no hope. Jesus is the hope of this world.

Let me give you a few stories of societal change. One is very specific and the other more general. This first story I heard directly from the person who was involved.  I am a big believer in accuracy and not embellishing facts and storytelling.

My wife and I lived as missionaries in Scotland from 2008 to 2011.  We were getting ready to travel to Shetland (The Shetland Islands) to hold a school of intercession and do on-site prayer. I was talking to a friend of mine named Bert McKaig, who himself is a mighty man of prayer.  He said he had been to Shetland a number of years previously and asked if we were going to pray at a fishing town called Scalloway. I told him that we were and he told me a story. He said that when they were in Scalloway they ask the local leaders what the town needed prayer for.  They told him that they needed prayer for the fishing industry in Scalloway.  The fishing was so bad that many were losing their livelihood in the town.  The local economy was being devastated. The group gathered and earnestly prayed for God to do something miraculous about the fishing industry of Scalloway, Shetland.

Then Bert told me that, several years later, he was sitting in the Scottish Parliament when a man got up to give a report on the fishing industry in Scotland.  The man said this, “The fishing industry in Scotland has seen an overall increase of 1% everywhere except one place.  That one place is Scalloway, Shetland.  There has been a 12% increase in the fishing industry in Scalloway.” Now that is societal change.  Not often do you get to hear the dramatic answer to the intercession that you personally gave.  The Lord had arranged for this brother to hear the powerful results of the intercession on that day.

Another story of societal change also happened in Scotland.  We had joined with many other individuals and ministries to pray for the nation of Scotland and especially the city of Glasgow.  Glasgow is one of the worst cities in Europe for violence, crime, drug use and suicide.  In May of 2011 we were given an article from a secular newspaper.  The title of the article said, “VIOLENT CRIME AMONG YOUTH DROPS 31% SINCE 2008”. Wow that is amazing. Now we are not taking credit for this but, we were able to play a part in God bringing a tremendous answer to the city of Glasgow.

  • Financial Breakthrough

Another area that needs much intercession for breakthrough is the area of finances and provision.  Scripture is clear in declaring God’s heart towards His people in the area of money. “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:19)

Money is also one of the main components in accomplishing kingdom work.  That being the case, it stands to reason that the enemy will oppose the release of finances and provision to God’s people.  In natural warfare one of the ways to stop an enemy is to set up a blockade.  Here is a definition of a blockade:

A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. (Wikipedia)

One of the ways the enemy tries to stop the kingdom from advancing is to cut all the supply lines.  The enemy works overtime to convince Christians not to obey God’s Word and give liberally.  This is why, in the Western world, there is only about 20% of the believers that give anything to God’s work.  The enemy comes in with fear, mistrust and unbelief in an attempt to sideline believers from doing their part in facilitating God’s work going forth.

Then if you add a recession to the mix, it even gets worse. Some people withhold even more when times get tough. In praying for provision and finances, we must ask God to remove the withholding spirit from His people and replace it with a spirit of trust and faith. God’s desire is to show Himself even that much stronger in a time of recession. We must see every incident of lack as an opportunity for God’s supernatural, miraculous providing power. Here are some synonyms for recession: Bad Times, Bankruptcy, Big Trouble, Bottom-Out, Bust, Collapse, Decline, Deflation, Depression, Downturn, Hard Times, Inflation, Rainy Days, Shakeout, Slide, Slump, Stagnation, Unemployment.  It sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? We must not come under, especially in our prayers, the negative, unbelieving spirit of this world. Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

We need to pray for the release of money for kingdom work and then do our part by actually giving. This applies to praying for and giving to individual believers, churches, ministries, prayer and outreach projects, and of course missions.  As we pray for the release of kingdom finances, it is very important that we align ourselves with God and his principles of finance and not primarily be influenced by the world’s perspective.  We need to understand that God doesn’t do math, quite like we do.  For example, Jesus said give and it shall be given onto you.  God wants His people to operate in increase, favor and blessing

An Invitation to Increase, Favor and Blessing

“May the LORD give you increase more and more, you and your children.” (Psalms 115:14)

God has given us an invitation to live a life of increase.  Now does this mean we will never lack or we will never be in want? Not likely. However, those times of lack should be the occasional, not that which defines our life.  Overall, God’s desire is for us to increase, not just financially, but in every area of life.

The word increase is defined as: To Become Greater Or More In Size, Quantity, Number, Degree, Value, Intensity, Power, Authority, Reputation, Wealth; To Grow; To Augment; To Advance; – Opposed To Decrease. (Webster’s) The Hebrew word is yaw-saf’ which is: to add or augment, increase more and moreThe Greek word is pleonazo which is: to make or be more, that is, increase; by extension, to superabound: – abound, abundant, make to increase, have over. (Strongs)

“For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield.” (Psalms 5:12)

The word favor is defined as: Kind regard; kindness; countenance; propitious aspect; friendly disposition. (Webster’s) The Hebrew words are ratson ratson which is: delight, acceptable delight, desire, favor, good pleasure. (Strong’s) The Greek word is Charis, which is: graciousness. (Vine’s) God wants His people to be those who walk in His favor.  Let us intercede to this end.

“Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. Then the earth shall yield her increase; God, our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us, And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.” (Psalms 67:5-6)

“The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)

The Hebrew word for blessing is berakah which is: benediction, prosperity. (Strong’s) It is still a very legitimate prayer to ask God to bless someone. We should ask God not only to make them happy, but to empower them to succeed, grow and be transformed into the likeness of Jesus.  We need to intercede for them to be drawn into the blessing of relationship with God.

Positioned for Increase

As we are praying for increase, it is very important that we understand that God deeply loves people and wants to bless them. I remember once I was praying about some provision to go to the mission field.  In my prayer, I slipped into a bit of judgment about people not giving.  I said, “Lord we have Christians going on cruises instead of giving to world missions.” Then He said, “But what if I want them to go on a cruise?” Ouch. I quickly repented for my bad attitude. Here is a verse that demonstrates that God not only desperately wants to move in people’s lives, but that He is well able to do so.  The verse is Ephesians 3:20. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”

The two words: exceedingly abundantly come together to make one Greek word huper which means over. I was stunned to discover that the word above is also the Greek word huper, which means over. (Strong’s)  I believe God, by bringing a double emphasis, is trying to make a point here. It’s like the verse is saying, “Now to Him who is able to do over, over (or huper, huper) all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” 

God wants us to get the idea that He strongly desires and is well able to do what is even beyond our most dramatic expectations in people’s lives.  He wants to move in such a way that people actually are pinching themselves, saying, “I had no idea that it was going to be this good.”  We have yet to scratch the surface on the revelation of the goodness of God.  It is something that we will be exploring for eternity.

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us.” (AMP)

We must pray for God to release, and for people to really seek, a spirit of liberality.

I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Frank Damazio speak on this subject.  He said, “Courageous generosity is an attitude that confronts adversity. The attitude that confronts adversity is the spirit of liberality, open handed generosity, unselfish faith-filled giving. Don’t give up on the favor of God in your life. Sow a seed in someone else’s field.”

“There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.” (Proverbs 11:24)

Breakthrough in Relationships 

“There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 NLT)

To God, relationships are a big deal.  Not only are they worth working on, they are worth praying for. There are many relationships that we need breakthrough in. Whether it is husband-and-wife, parent and child, siblings or friends, we need God to move in relationships.

I believe the first place we need to start is praying for our own families.  Each one of us has an intercessory assignment from the Lord to pray for family members.  Fathers and mothers are to pray for their children. Spouses are to pray for each other.  There are many other family members that need to be prayed for, especially if that family member is not walking with God.  In any person’s life, what they need the most, no matter what their situation, is a relationship with Jesus.  Here are some ways to pray for loved ones who are not a walking with God:

  • The Undeniable Encounter

One way to pray is for them to have a face-to-face, road to Damascus, burning bush encounter with the Lord. This is called an undeniable encounter.  It is God and them coming together to such a degree that it cannot be explained away.  Pray that God would give them such an experience that they will be forever changed.  The Bible is full of people who encountered God and it changed the course of their life for the rest of their life. If it happened then, why can’t we believe for it today? Our prayers release the Holy Spirit to work on them.

  • Divine Encounters with True Christ Followers

We can also pray that they will have divine encounters with real followers of Jesus. Sometimes the problem is that they have encountered those who have misrepresented God to them.  These well-meaning Christians came across as judgmental, without love, harsh, and, ultimately, give that person a sense of rejection.  Pray that they meet and are impacted by the Spirit of Christ in people who are truly demonstrating God’s love and properly representing Jesus.

  • Prayer Strategy

I once heard a story of a mother who was very burdened for her backslidden son.  He had moved back home, but wanted nothing to do with Jesus.  She asked the Lord how to pray for him.  The Lord told her that while he was at work she was to go lay on his bed face down and intercede for him.  She had been doing this for a good while when, one day, she came home to see her son’s car in the driveway. He was home early from work so she went in to look for him.  She could not find him in the house.  Then she opened the garage door to see him lying face down, weeping, repenting and giving his life back to Jesus.  Sometimes we just need to ask, “Lord what is the strategy” We need to believe that God is just getting started to work in their lives.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you (them) will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

There are many other areas we need to believe God for breakthrough in. Let’s take the time to cover each one in prayer and see Him move powerfully.

Manifested Breakthrough

Now I’d like to share with you what I believe to be one of the most powerful aspects of the nature of breakthrough.  It is what I call “Manifested Breakthrough.”  Manifested breakthrough is not just God breaking into a situation from one direction, but it is God placing himself in the very center of what needs to change and then manifesting his power, glory and presence 360° X 360°.  It truly is, “If God is for us, who can be against us.”

The word breakthrough comes from the Hebrew word perets which means: to break out.  In the areas that we believe God for breakthrough in, we should also believe Him to break out from the very center of the situation.  Zephaniah 3:17 declares “the Lord thy God in the midst of you is mighty.”  In this verse the word midst is the word qereb (key-reb) which means the nearest part, that is, the centre. The word mighty is the word gibbor (gib-bor) which means a powerful warrior or champion. (Strong’s)

The Lord wants to come as a powerful warrior champion to show Himself strong in the midst of all hindrances, obstacles and blockades that the enemy has erected to stop the flow of God’s purposes. 

Just like in the epicenter of a nuclear bomb or the flashpoint of a volcano, resistance in every direction is obliterated.  God’s desire is to bring manifested breakthrough.

Biblical Examples

  • The Battle of Jericho

The victory at Jericho was not the result of an advancing army breaking into the gates of the city.  It was as God’s people obeyed and followed His strategy that breakthrough came and the victory was won.  Jericho had two walls, an inner and outer, with a combined thickness of 18 feet.  I’m sure that the inhabitants of Jericho never imagined that these walls would be breached, let alone be destroyed altogether in a moment of time.  Our God is well able to bring breakthrough in the midst of impossible situations.

  • The Manifested Power of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, the most powerful force in the universe, is very active on Planet Earth today.  We often do not think of His power as being the exact same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  The declaration of Romans 8:11 is this; “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  We need to believe God and ask him for the release of Holy Spirit power, the power of the resurrection in our lives.

Scripture also says that the anointing breaks the yoke.  Many believers these days are walking around with heavy yokes of everything from religious expectations to orphaned thinking and condemnation.  God’s desire is to manifest breakthrough to obliterate yolks by the anointing.  (Isaiah 10:27)

  • Jesus Calming the Sea

There are times that the manifestation of breakthrough is going to come with the release of great peace into a situation.  In Mark 4, Jesus stood in the midst of a storm that the disciples thought was life threatening.  In the midst of that storm, He declared, “Peace, be still.” It’s interesting that the response of the storm was not to just ease up a bit, but scripture says “the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” I believe God wants to bring great calm in the many storms of life that we face.  Even if the circumstances of that storm do not change immediately, we can still receive “a great calm” deep inside our hearts.

Breakthrough starts within us first, then travels outward to our circumstances.

“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” (Ephesians 3:16)

“Breakthrough is not when you have all the finances you need. Breakthrough is when you are not afraid.” (Kirk Bennett) There are many other examples of manifested breakthrough in scripture. It seems that God has always been about winning great victories for and through His people.

Final Thought – As we look forward, I believe in the days ahead we are not only going to see a marked increase in the release of signs, wonders and miracles, but also manifested breakthrough in the sudden release of God’s power in the impossible situations that need to change in the earth.  Let’s pray for this, let’s believe for this and let’s contend for this.