Spend some time around me and you’ll definitely hear me talk about prayer in relationship to being a Christian. I’ve said a lot on the subject in the last year, but it was all kicked off with a prayer encounter I attended at the North Central Ohio prayer encounter in 2009. That’s when I really witnessed and experienced the truth about prayer.
I grew up hearing the pastor and other leaders pray in service; that seemed to need to be well spoken. I heard my parents pray at night before bed with us and before meals; that seemed to be where you focused on your family. But then I was out of the church for 13 years. Coming back, I thought praying was hard. I thought the idea of praying out loud in a group was scary. I thought praying in front of a congregation was petrifying. I wasn’t (and still am not) good at public speaking, let alone praying the “right” words. I’ve told numerous people that I feel like I’ve missed the class that teaches you what prayer really is about.
Everyone assured me that what mattered was that it was from the heart, but then you’d see their uncomfortableness or hear their remarks after someone else stammered through a prayer. This taught me that people did care and they usually liked them to be short. Sure no one was perfect, but people really liked prayers that stirred them or inspired them or comforted them.
Then I experienced a “prayer encounter” that I entered scared to death of 4 hours of scheduled prayer but left with an impartation I’d only heard about. I began to want more from prayer. As I later read through Murray’s “Absolute Surrender” I saw how I was thinking the prayer depended on me and my ability. I also saw how I was limiting prayer by only doing it when I remembered, usually 5 minutes after laying down in bed. I scheduled time at church for people to come and pray with prayer requests and music… no one showed and it really didn’t matter. What God did in my life in those months steeped me so deep in prayer that all I can do is thank Him and wonder if I would’ve even had been as open with other people in the room.
I’m not writing this to toot my own horn because it’s nothing I have done. It’s when I stopped trying so hard, stopped over thinking it, and just thought of prayer as it actually is – a conversation with the Most High God who desires my prayers – that I felt drawn to it. I also took a cue from other Christians of history. Reading books by/about Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, George Muller, John “Praying” Hyde, Rees Howells, Jim Cymbala, Eric & Leslie Ludy, and so on have really been a testament of the power and importance of prayer to me. Going to Ellerslie and hearing the way they prayed, hearing my own Dad pray, and hearing Dr. Stephen Manley pray has been a true joy for my spirit and ears to have witnessed. It is now that my heart leaps at the thought of my approaching prayer time in the morning. It is a true joy to proverbially drink from that cup of communion with God!
Further, the idea of intercession and intercessory prayer is something that is becoming more and more clear. It was Eric Ludy in his sermons that drew my attention time and again to this thought, as well as the lives of John Hyde and Rees Howells. I am not sure there is any calling of more importance or more lacking in our churches today than that of an intercessor. I don’t know how you can read the Bible as a Christian and not see the importance of prayer or intercessors. Some examples are:
“For I looked, and there was no man; I looked among them, but there was no counselor, Who, when I asked of them, could answer a word.” – Isaiah 41:28
“Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor;” – Isaiah 59:15b-16a
“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” – Ezekiel 22:30
“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, And give Him no rest till He establishes And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Isaiah 62:6-7
Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love starts out by addressing the normal, luke-warm, passive way in which we pray as Christians. The Ludy’s “Wrestling Prayer” talks about most of us praying like babies babble. Jesus prayed and he sweated blood. John Hyde interceded for India until his heart literally moved in his chest cavity. George Muller prayed, daily, until 2000 orphans were fed and taken care of, daily. It’s not about measuring up though, it’s about witnessing the glory of God on display when they yielded their time to God.
Oh! How God desires to spend time in intimate commune with you. How the Spirit desires to pray to God through you! How the love and holiness and presence of Jesus can be poured into, onto, over and in abundance upon the person willing to yield their time to Him. Don’t feel guilty, rather, be excited for our Lord Jesus who has made this possible with his death, resurrection, and ascension. Seek His face and the blessing of His presence. Let Him draw you near and share his heart, his eyes, and his burdens with you. Drink from the overflowing cup of his goodness and let the love spill out of you and all over everything you go near. Don’t hear me as instruction to pray because you should, but rather an encouragement to continue to seek, yield to, and spend time with Him more.
The Church is in need of prayer warriors, intercessors, and watchmen calling out to God for a sick and dying world. If prayer moves the hand of God, how is your time best spent? Humbly, but boldly approach the throne to lay it at His feet, for His glory. Jesus paid too high a price for anything less.