A Season of Prayer
Prayer ministry is something God laid on my heart years ago, but it took me a little while to 'get into' it. First of all, I had to learn how to pray, for myself and others. I know most people have been taught that prayer is what we do for others but they never ever pray for themselves and will apologize for asking for prayer over themselves as well. I was taught that prayers for personal needs was selfish and somehow wrong and that we ought to wait upon others to see a need and pray over it. It felt very awkward to pray for myself. It took a long time to shake that feeling off and just tell God of a need and let it rest with him. Honestly, it's the very best testing ground for prayers and I mean that. Once you understand how to rightly pray for yourself you can be a far better warrior for others.
About 9 or 10 years ago, I was watching a ministry program that was aired 5 evenings a week. One night the evangelist said they wanted people who needed prayer for themselves or family members to send in a photo and they would put them on a wall in the studio and would pray over them. I was shocked that week by the number of photos that went up on that wall. In about three days time it was covered from floor to ceiling. In five days they'd begun to layer photos over the ones already on the wall. It really broke my heart to think of the desperate need people felt to have someone pray. I thought over the people I knew and was pretty sure a few of them had no one at all praying for them, including themselves. When God breaks your heart over something, it's a sign you need to be doing something about it. It was then I was certain I was being called to prayer.
I went to the pastor at the church we attended and asked if we could begin a prayer wall. It wasn't a big congregation but we soon had a substantial number of photos on that wall and each time I went into church I went over to that wall, looked at each photo and said a prayer over each one. Soon other church members were doing the same thing. I prayed every day at home as well. Some pictures came down as prayers were answered and new ones went up. It was an amazing ministry that just took off and confirmed my conviction that people were literally thirsting for prayer.
About three years ago the pastor's wife told me they'd continued the prayer wall long after I left the church where I first answered the call to prayer. It did my heart good to know that the ministry of prayer was continued by that church for as long as they were in that building.
When we left that church and moved on to our next leg of this journey, I found that often I'd be asked to pray over someone in the synagogue and soon people were coming to ask if I'd pray for someone they knew. I kept a list in my Bible and went over it every day. A little over two years ago, I felt God wanted me to keep a prayer journal. There's where I put my list, updated as needed each month. I make notes on progress or full answers given. If you want to watch God at work, keep a prayer journal and and update it! It's awesome to watch a prayer list change! So here I am still praying for people after all this time, carrying needs daily before God, asking him to help, to heal, to guide.
Over the years I've learned a few things. I'd like to share them with you.
I've learned to be cautious about stepping into prayers I know nothing about.
Several years ago there was a man in front of my pew at a church who was just weeping and praying and praying and crying. I was so moved by his excess of emotion that I began to pray, too. I told God I wanted to come into agreement with that man. Well! God quickly moved and I heard plainly in my mind, "Terri, you shouldn't be so quick to pray in agreement with someone when you've no idea what they are praying for...You can get entangled in things you really don't want to be involved with." Wow. It never occurred to me that I might be praying in agreement for something that wasn't right or which might cause harm to someone. And that's another reason why I seldom will pray for 'unspoken requests'.
I've learned to be specific in what I pray.
I'm not much into the 'unspoken' prayer requests. That's all right for a private matter when you're asking for public prayer but if you're just asking ME to pray then I like to have some knowledge of what the situation is and for whom I'm praying. It's not being nosy. It's so that I can be specific with God about what situation is generating the call to prayer. If someone comes to me privately over and over again and asks for 'unspoken' requests then I ask them to be specific. If they refuse then I tell them, I'm so sorry, but I simply can't pray that way for you.
A pastor shared an example years ago about his child who was mighty sick and wouldn't eat. The parents did all they could to get the boy to eat and he refused every thing offered. Finally the pastor asked his son, "If you could have anything at all to eat, what would you want?" "I think I want a popsicle," the child replied. So dad went off to town and bought popsicles. But when he got home the boy refused to take a popsicle. His dad was beyond frustrated. "But why? You asked for popsicles, I bought you popsicles!" The child began to cry. "But Daddy I wanted a PURPLE popsicle!" From that sermon I learned it's sometimes necessary to be very specific in what we're asking to be provided. That's why I want others to be specific when they ask me to pray.
I've learned to be careful in what I pray.
Later my understanding of this was expanded to presumptive prayer: that's where one might pray for a specific thing to happen or essentially tell God how a situation should be resolved without understanding the full consequences if that prayer is answered.
I did that once. I prayed a certain prayer and God quickly reprimanded me. He impressed hard on me the consequences if my prayer were answered and pointed out all sorts of hurts and failures and wrongs that would be dealt a number of people I loved deeply. Now in my mind, I was just certain that removing one person from the equation would improve every one's life in a wonderful way. So real were all the things God pointed out would go awry if this happened that I sobbed for the hurt I'd very nearly caused my family. I sincerely and deeply felt the conviction that I was wrong and begged forgiveness. I had not seen the true consequences of that prayer being answered. And do you know that years later that same individual was instrumental in trying to lead several of my family to Christ? Praise God he halted me in my prayer and reprimanded me! As difficult as people can be at times, I am very careful about what I'll pray over another since that day.
I've learned I mustn't impose what I think into my prayer request.
If it's just an obstinate opinion that starts up when I start to pray and will come up over and over again in my mind distracting me from focusing on a situation, then I'll just say, "Lord, you know what I think...but I want your answer for this, because I know it's the very best thing. YOU know better than I do and I know that. I just need to shut this voice off in my mind. Help me with this Lord, so I can better pray."
I've learned to ask for understanding in an area where I pray.
I don't always know what the root of a situation is when I'm moved to pray for someone. I ask God to reveal what needs to be known so I can pray rightly for that person. This is not always pleasant in because sometimes what gets revealed can be painful (for me and my family), as was the case this past spring and summer when I could feel something was off with someone close to us. Oh my! What was revealed later was shocking and left me stunned and shaking...but it showed me most clearly that my prayers needed to be for a resolution of the situation and forgiveness towards that individual and then to move out of God's way and let him work in that situation. It's not always an unhappy reveal that occurs, however. Many times, God has opened my understanding of a situation and enabled me to pray better prayers for the individuals concerned.
Sometimes when I'm praying for a situation the answer isn't what I'd have wanted but I know that ALWAYS God's wisdom is greater than my own. Last year when I was praying for Bess and Sam's new home, I had no idea that God's plan was to take them to the south end of Florida! That one hurt. I recall how I was cleaning the bathroom at the time the call came from Sam telling me the news of his move. Bess and I had just talked two days before, speaking of a home within an hour and a half of us. I was so happy thinking of having them move closer. As Sam told me how excited he was over this move, I withheld my hurt from him as we talked, because who wants to rain on someone's happy parade? When the call was done however, I lay my head down right where I was cleaning the toilet and sobbed and sobbed, repeating over and over, "But I trust you, God, to know what's best." It hurt me so to have yet another grandchild living far away. And now God is moving them back towards us. I didn't pray that over them but only prayed for what was best for them, as I do for all my children. This time away is part of His plan for their lives.
Prayer is sometimes a long term journey that requires resting places.
My former pastor's wife called me to ask me if I'd 'carry' her father in prayer. She told me that she needed to let go of the situation and felt she'd been getting nowhere at all. I immediately realized that she'd passed the baton to me in what was meant to be a marathon of sorts and so I accepted and carried her father for many months on my prayer list, until she came to me one day and said the situation had been resolved.
18 months ago I was so worn down by an ongoing prayer concern that I asked a pastor friend to carry my baton and explained to him why. He was kind and thoughtful and took up my prayer concern for several months while I recuperated from the bitterness and hurt that the situation for which I'd been in prayer had rooted into my life. Every time I was even tempted to pick up that concern, I'd remember, "Ryan is covering that for me." and I'd change to another thought. One morning I awoke and knew I was restored and rested enough to pick it up once again and I carried it forward until the situation broke.
Sometimes the prayer list I keep dwindles. I have learned that in time God will fill it back up again. A typical list these days has 30 or so individuals or items that I am praying for. I have been down to just my family members sometimes for a month or two at a time but I see now that God 'rests' me before he rebuilds the list. Eventually it will fill up and I'll find my page is filled once more.
Prayer is not a solo journey.
The Bible assures us that a three fold cord is not easily broken. Any time we can stand with another in prayer we are creating a strong cord. The more people who stand with us in prayer the greater the strength of that cord becomes.
I have learned to recognize Prayer Warriors.
I don't always know someone well when I'm praying in agreement with them, but I generally know enough about them to know their prayers are genuine and constant.
How do I know this? Because I see the fruit of their efforts. I see how God is working in their lives. I listen to what they say. I see how they respond to the request for prayer. It's not that their children are perfect and they appear moral and upright in their personal lives or how professional they are in their career life. It's the way they proclaim God, and how they willingly approach prayer without telling me their advice for fixing a problem or saying "Well...if it's God's will..." about a situation that looks mighty impossible.
No, they get down on their knees and they pound on the doors of heaven and they cry out to God and they will do it again and again. Had it not been for willing prayer warriors on May 28, 2015, I do not know if I'd be sitting here April 3, 2016 writing this post on prayer!! I had bilateral pulmonary embolisms and had been having breathing problems for four days. I should have died within seconds of hitting the floor in my kitchen. I could have died at any point between home and the first ER some 25 minutes away or while in that ER, or on the 30 minute ride to the second hospital cath lab. That's how dire the situation was. Seconds counted. I was passing in and out all that time. I truly believe what changed the final outcome was turning to John at the cath lab when they said it would be an hour before they could do surgery and saying "Tell Katie to go on my Facebook page and put out a call for every prayer warrior to pray for me now." Every second that ticked by was counted against me until that moment. After that call went out every second that passed was another victory of prayer.
If someone is quick to try and offer up solutions to 'fix' a situation, without first going before God, I know they won't pray in agreement with me. They can't get out of their own way long enough to even go before God. If someone tells me they meant to pray but 'forgot' and it happens on more than one occasion, I'm not likely to include them in my inner prayer circle of warriors. A warrior responds to the call for service. He doesn't wait around to see what else is coming along or dawdle on his way to the battle field. I am fierce and I mean that. I don't have time or patience with those who are half hearted. Prayer is serious and very necessary and when a call for prayer arises it wants a ready response.
I set aside time for prayer every day.
Specifically, I pray each morning over my prayer list. I prefer to do this immediately upon arising, as I sip my first coffee. Given a choice of my daily study time or prayer time, I opt for prayer. I can always find a moment later to study but that prayer time is specifically set aside for the purpose of my prayer ministry.
John and I pray each night before we go to sleep. I may not mention every item on my prayer list at that prayer time but the list as a whole is often prayed over.
And all through the day...Anytime I've taken time to pray first thing in the morning, I will have specific prays that pop up all through the day. Homemaking is not such a mind occupying task that it pushes all other thoughts out of my mind. The Bible says that we should pray all of the time, over every thing, and so I do. Over the list of prayer needs, over shopping, over bills, over little annoyances and big concerns and people who aren't on my prayer list but who rest on my heart for a bit. Prayer is an ongoing thing in my life and while I won't tell you it's constant in every minute, it is something that is ongoing, all through the waking hours and often in the night when I waken as well.
I've learned a great deal in my times of prayer.
Do you feel a call for prayer on your life?
Start with the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. Most of us know it by heart already but if you don't it's easily memorized. It is an all encompassing prayer, covering your every need for the day. Think about the words and what the prayer says. Ask God to show you the fullness of that simple prayer and what each line means. Dwell on that prayer for as long as you need to. It teaches well how to pray for ourselves and for others.
Another prayer I found helpful is the Jabez prayer in 1 Chronicles 4:10. It too is an awesome prayer.
Gradually, as you become comfortable in prayer, talk to God about needs in your life or in the lives of others. Mention them by name, be specific about the area you want to cover in prayer. Keep a list and notate answers and changes that occur. Be prepared to be changed.
How has prayer changed me? It's enabled me see that God is active today. He moves. He moves all the time but prayer has allowed me to watch Him move in specific and wonderful ways. It's also made me understand that not every outcome is peaches and sunshine. Sometimes hard things happen. Babies are lost. Loved ones die. Healings don't happen. I've learned that no matter what happens when I pray, to respond continuously with "God, I know you are good. I trust you. I don't always understand, but I trust you." And in that trust I've learned to find peace.