What do you think of when the words “prayer meeting” are uttered? Do you think of some guy (maybe yourself?) kneeling down at a chair, burying his head in the seat, whispering a few prayers, thanking God for a few blessings, and soon spacing out, thinking about other things or falling asleep? Or do you think of someone praying out loud, droning on and on about all kinds of things while others say an occasional “amen,” much like your wife might rattle on about her day while you’re reading the newspaper and occasionally uttering a “yes dear,” so she thinks you’re paying attention? Why does a silent but collective groan go through the congregation when the pastor announces a special prayer meeting? Does prayer seem like the deadest form of religion there is? Are you surprised when a prayer actually gets answered and wonder why?
In churches all over America, these and similar scenes are being played out every week. And yet the Bible seems to put a high premium on prayer. Elijah ended a 3 year national drought through prayer, Jesus and Peter raised people from the dead through prayer, as did Elisha and Elijah in the O.T. Moses did all kinds of crazy things through prayer, like splitting the earth open and swallowing up opponents, bringing the plagues upon Egypt, etc. So where is that kind of prayer power today? Certainly not in most of our churches!
What if I told you that you could walk in that kind of a powerful prayer life? Could you believe it? What would it be worth to have it? What would you be willing to do to get it?
“Is it easy?” I didn’t say it was easy, but few things in God are! The question should not be “is it easy?” (no it’s not), but “is it possible?” Yes yes yes!
The problem is: in American Christianity we try to see how many things we can do without God. We have programs we follow every week, money-raising systems, skilled musicians, talented preachers, Sunday school curriculum that spell everything out, salvation material, follow-up material, counseling materials—there’s nothing wrong with these things per se, but where does God and the Holy Spirit fit in? If God stayed home from our church for a week, would anything about the service change or would it be just like any other week?
It reminds me of a story I heard of a prophet of God visiting a mega church, sitting in the back. As the worship service was going on with great sound and fury, suddenly he had a vision of Jesus walking down the aisle towards him. “Lord, where are you going? He asked as Jesus passed by.
“I’m leaving,” said the Lord.
“But why? Everything’s going so well!”
“I know. They can do it all without me so I’m leaving.”
Prayer is definitely one thing that can’t be done without the Lord. The Bible says we don’t know how to pray as we ought (Rom. 8:26). The disciples were always asking Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus taught that some people’s prayers were listened to and answered (Matt. 6:6) while other people were only praying to themselves (Luke 18:11)!
Beloved, like I said before, the secret to a productive and satisfying prayer life is getting into the presence of the Lord. Then we are praying what’s on His heart with His power.
So how do we do that? I have found the biggest thing that stands in people’s way is their inhibitions. An inhibition is “*a feeling or belief that prevents somebody from behaving spontaneously or speaking freely.”
[*Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.]
We are so bound up by religion and the fear of man that we are not free to let the Holy Spirit move through us. The Holy Spirit would lead us right into the presence of God if we would yield to Him. I know because I was one of the most inhibited people on the face of the earth. I was a lot like my great Uncle Eslie in Out of the Fire (P. 309). My best friend in college called me “obsequious” and “wishy-washy” (p.6). I’m still much the same--the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed my basic personality a great deal over the years except in the area of prayer and spiritual pursuits.
The Holy Spirit used to move on me mightily back when I was first saved, and I was impelled to go out and preach on the streets of Marysville. I got used to getting prayed up until I felt the forceful power of the Holy Spirit and then going out and preaching as I felt led. Later on I felt moved to make a commitment and a covenant with God to preach every Sat. night on the streets until either revival came to Marysville or He moved me out of town. This created a problem in that I could no longer just go out and preach when I felt led or especially empowered. I had to go out now whether I felt like it or not.
But this led to a great discovery. I had the power to create my own anointing, with my mouth. Week after week I would walk (usually alone) the 5 blocks from our house on 7th St. to the red light district from 1st through 3rd Sts.--a weak, fearful, anxious human being. But once there, in front of this little diner—the only well-lit spot, and the only establishment that didn’t sell booze—I would open my mouth and launch out into preaching or reading the Word at the top of my voice, and the Holy Spirit would meet me right there with the anointing every time. With the first sound out of my lips it was like I was changed into another person—powerful, confident, fearless. Indeed I’ve had my Bible ripped out of my hands and torn up page by page in front of me; I’ve had hotdogs from the diner stuck in my mouth as I was speaking—nothing mattered. I kept on preaching or reading or proclaiming in power, and the Holy Spirit was always with me. But no matter how many times it happened, I always had to take the first step of faith and open my mouth and launch out, like Peter had to step out of the boat before he could walk on the water, and the Levites had to step into the water with the ark before the waters stopped flowing and the river dried up (Joshua 4:15).
We can “create,” as it were, reality with our mouths. It’s just like a robber walking into a bank. For awhile he is like any other anonymous patron, until he opens his mouth, “THIS IS A STICKUP!” With that statement he has crossed over into a whole ‘nother reality that will change his and everyone else’s lives in the bank forever. Some people will never get over the fear that suddenly strikes their heart, the robber will either be launched into a life of crime, or quickly arrested and imprisoned for years, with a record that follows him the rest of his life. And it all happened with that one ringing declaration.
Prayer can be the same way. Through prayer under the unction of the Holy Spirit we can set whole new realities into motion. We can judge and punish demonic forces (Psalm 149:6-9), launch ministries into being, set people free from bondages, heal the sick . . . anything the Holy Spirit wants to do through us we can pray and proclaim into existence. But we have to defeat our inhibitions and the concurrent fear of man or we will never do anything. Half hearted doesn’t cut it (see the story of Jehoash in 2 Kings 13:14-19).