The last several days God has gotten ahold of me and literally shook me out of a stupor. I have been asking for more of Him... desperately wanting to encounter Him as Jesus did. I've been wanting to see evidence of Him in miracles like the Disciples saw; to see a burning in the hearts of my fellow Christians like what happened in Acts, Chapter Two. I KNOW that, as today's Body of Christ, we are missing so much of what Jesus told us we would experience after He sent His Spirit to us! I KNOW we are to be having a greater effect on the world; to be seeing a greater intimacy with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit. I KNOW so much is lacking ... in my prayer life; in how I communicate Jesus to a lost world; in how I communicate the power of a Christian life to fellow Believers. I want more of God in my life, and in my community, my state, and my nation! And I'm SO weary of living in a compromised world -- I just don't want to settle for any less than what the Early Church experienced. So how did it all go so wrong, and how do we get it back?
I'm going to try to relate in this post and the one following, just what God is showing me, and just what He has done in me. Let me start by asking, how many of our churches preach the message that Jesus is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow -- essentially Forever? If He is truly the same, then everything about Him is the same -- what He wants for us and what He intended for us to do after He went to the Father. And He gave us a clear model to follow ... Himself! He even gave us a model Prayer to pray, yet I'm not sure we haven't lost the essence of that because it has become almost a mechanical prayer for so many of us.
I have spent the last week studying and listening to different teachings on Prayer because I want that intimacy that Jesus had with the Father. He knew that whatever He asked for in prayer would be answered because He talked with God and heard [and saw] His Father's heart. And He did that as a man! It is available to us, too, because Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. So why don't we believe it? Why isn't our prayer life the source of our power, as it was for Jesus?
Could it be that we are too wrapped up in ourselves when we pray -- that we are only conscious of the need(s) we are asking for, instead of focusing on Who we're praying to? I think Jesus believed His prayers would be answered, because He really knew the One He was praying to, and that the model for answered prayer is always Heaven -- Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
But perhaps the biggest failure in our prayer life [and it certainly has been in mine] is the lack of persistence. I'm sure you've heard the teaching on Luke 11:9: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you ... that the tense of those verbs is really "keep on asking", "keep on knocking". But what have we come to believe? If our prayer isn't answered right away, then "it must not be God's will". But I challenge you to find anywhere in the Bible that Jesus said to someone who came to him [in prayer] for healing or deliverance, "I can't help you because it is God's will for you to suffer".
Can you discern that His parables of The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13) and The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) are about showing us what our Father is not like? Unlike the Friend, our Father wants to give us everything we ask for. Jesus says, For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives. And unlike the Unjust Judge, our Father won't delay in giving us justice, if we pray and not give up and lose heart. Here is the question on Jesus's heart as He told this parable: When the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?
So, we must ask ourselves, do we pray once or twice and then give up? Or do we knock until our knuckles are bruised, and ask .. no, shout! ... until our voices are hoarse? Are we prepared to never give up until we get the answer we've prayed for, crying out to God, "Father, YOU SAID, in Your Word that if I asked in Jesus's Name, I would receive! We have made a covenant, God! I am trusting in You to respond! And I know, Father, that no answer doesn't mean this is Your will. You are not like the Unjust Judge or the Friend who doesn't want to help. I'm going to pray [like Jesus did], until I see Your Presence in this situation and something happens!"
But, I fear that we put no more effort into prayer than we do studying our Bible. We have become too casual about our prayer life, instead of depending on prayer the way the Disciples did. Do you recall that they returned to Jerusalem right after Jesus ascended into Heaven, and prayed for days in the Upper Room, with one accord, while waiting for the promised Holy Spirit? They gave themselves "continually to prayer" (Acts 6:4), and after Herod had James killed, and Peter was arrested, "fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church" (Acts 12:5).
And why were they so persistent in prayer, and why did Jesus stress that persistence was so important? Could it be that persistence in prayer changes us? That God wants to develop and change our hearts so that we will be better suited to "rule and reign" as kings and priests? Think about it! When that time comes on earth, He is going to need Saints who will be able to persevere and declare His Word into the storms of life; Faithful who won't give up because they know their authority.
The bottom line is this ... our prayers don't have to be lengthy and religious, like those of the Pharisees. We just need to be persistent, and don't stop! But here's what I want to make sure we all understand ... Jesus points out [at the end of the parable about the Friend] that the real reason we should pray persistently is this: If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
When we persist in prayer and seek the Father's answer until He gives it, we will receive more of Him, namely an outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Yes, I have been fervently praying for healing, and for miracles, and for His provision -- but what I've really hungered for is more of Him. I want to be made more full of God! I want that intimacy with Him that only the Holy Spirit can give me. Because I have come to realize that when my prayers are answered, it is the result of the moving of the Holy Spirit. In other words, by persisting in prayer, my heart is changed and that moves the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit is involved in both.
All of this has brought me to this point ... I am changing the way I pray. I am praying boldly; I am knocking loudly and often; I am going to ask until He can no longer ignore me; and I'm going to pray, expecting an encounter with the Holy Spirit ... because I know it His good pleasure to answer my prayers and to see how much I'm willing to seek Him. Prayer is an important part of strengthening my relationship with my Father, and it is teaching me to grow my relationship with the Holy Spirit. And it is that process that has become an answer to my most fervent prayers. More on that in an upcoming post...
Thank you to the teachings on Prayer by Bill Johnson, who helped me to recognize the longings of my heart, and how my prayer life effects my relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
John 16:23-24 In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.