I have a list of people that I pray for daily, weekly and monthly. Recently, I was going through this list, and quite a bit of time went by before I realized my heart was not awakened. My mind was engaged but my heart was dead. I had all these names to pray through, but I was just fulfilling a duty. Prayer, unless we are diligent and thoughtful, can become horizontal. It can be only a list, a task to check off.
True prayer and being with the Lord with understanding, cannot happen unless our hearts are awakened. Otherwise, as Jesus said, we will just be mindlessly repeating things.
Why do we pray anyway? If God knows all our needs, especially regarding His Kingdom’s work, why are we asked to pray? Why would Paul ask the believers, “Pray that I may be able to continue preaching the Gospel and do the ministry?” In Philippians 4:6, we are even told to pray about everything.
The answer is one word, mystery. Many things in the Bible are a mystery to us. As Paul Billheimer and A.W. Tozer talk about, it is a mystery that God choses to work in human affairs through His Body. The way in which God choses to do His work is through prayer.
God limited Himself choosing that His plan on earth be fulfilled through His people who understand His ways, stand in the gap and pray. Look at Ezekiel 22:30, 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Matthew 18:18 as examples. God works through prayer, and we must find His heart as we pray.
I remember one time a couple of people came by the office desperately wanting to meet with me and seek counsel. It was during a leaders’ meetings, so I only had a half hour to squeeze out some time. One of the people started to share and kept talking. As I looked at my watch, 28 minutes had gone by, and in the end, I said, “I need to rush back to the meeting, shall we pray?” I was not even certain what they had wanted.
Our times of prayer can be like that. We can come to the Lord for His help but spend the whole time talking and not leave any time to listen. Alternatively, though, we can take the time to hear the Lord’s heart on what we are praying about. The Lord knows all about it, and He wants to share His burden with us. Prayer has built into it the reality of waiting. There is no way we can honestly even begin to understand the mind of God without quieting our own minds, coming to the place of stillness and waiting for Him to speak to our hearts.
While it is important to be aware and to know the prayer concerns in our lives and in the world, there is no way we can understand prayer and the Lord’s burden for these matters unless we learn to wait and listen to what He says to us. We need to learn to discipline our thinking.
Even if it is only a few seconds, we should wait and be quiet enough for the Lord to speak to us before we pray. Instead of the horizontal thinking: I know my request, now I am going to pray; we should train ourselves to think vertically: Lord, what do You want me to pray?
The Holy Spirit is living within us in our physical bodies. If we are willing to wait and listen, to say no to our selves and our emotions, He can talk, and we can listen. Then we can pray for what He wants us to pray for.
We Need to Fight Against the Current
We need to fight against the current of constant activity and noise in our minds, so that we can know the heart of our Lord and can carry His burdens for others in our hearts and in our prayers.
This Sunday, November 5, 2017, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). As we enter into this weekend that is set apart to pray for the persecuted church, let us take the time to hear the Lord’s heart and just like Hebrews 13:3 tells us, “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
In Acts 4 you find the new Church in the midst of persecution and believers coming together to pray. They could have prayed about so many ways God could redeem their situation. But when you read their prayer, there’s nothing in it about, “We need this; we need that.” Instead, they started by seeing the Lord and who He is and essentially saying, “God, this is all about Your Son. Help us to represent Him.” They knew the Lord’s heart. There is a sense of other-world perspective in the lives of these people.
Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace that we will not make prayer just another thing to add to our task list this weekend. Instead, let us be deliberate to seek to know the heart of the One who called us to be His. In the Gospel of John 17, before Jesus started praying, He “lifted up his eyes to heaven.” Let us fight to be His little lambs who will look up toward heaven to hear His voice and to pray.
To read more about cultivating your prayer life, you can download a free copy of my booklet Learning to Pray.
Click here, to read more articles on Patheos by Dr. KP Yohannan Metropolitan.