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Persistent Prayer: it’s worth it.

18 May

Two days ago, I was meeting with a couple of friends of mine to study the book of Daniel. We’re taking our time and going through the book chapter by chapter, and we had gotten up to chapter 10.

One of the things we noticed is that Daniel was fasting and mourning for “three full weeks” (Dan 10:2). Daniel, who was by now a very mature saint, over eighty years old, had been foregoing any pleasant food or personal care for twenty-one days. Despite being a well-respected ruler, and having access to any amount of pleasure he liked, he mourned for twenty-one days. While the text doesn’t explicitly say what he was mourning for, he was most likely distressed over the current condition of his people.

For three solid weeks, this eighty-something year old man gave himself to fasting, prayer, and mourning. The kicker is that during those three solid weeks, he had no answer from heaven. Nothing. Zip. Later in the chapter, the story comes out that the messenger angel had been spending the whole time hacking his way through the principality over Persia. From the moment Daniel began praying, an answer had been sent forth — but it took three weeks of spiritual warfare to get the message through.

I don’t know how that all works, but I can imagine being in Daniel’s shoes for those three weeks. The last time he gave himself in a uniquely focused way to praying for Israel, he received an angelic visitation and a profound revelation of things to come (chapter 9). This time, there was nothing. No word from heaven. As far as we know, there was not even a warm fuzzy feeling. Day after day passed. He probably craved some good food and a nice long bath. He had no way of knowing that an angel was fighting at that very moment to get through to him. He did not know that the angelic activity which was set off because of his prayer would shift the course of history, ultimately bringing down Persia and making the way for the rise of Greece. All he knew was that he was mourning, and heaven was silent.

What would have happened if Daniel had quit at day twelve? Seventeen? What if he said, “You know, Lord, I’ve been at this for twenty days now. I’m hungry. I smell funny. This sackcloth is making me itchy. I’ve prayed everything I can think of ten times through, and You still don’t seem to be interested in answering me. Tell You what; if You ever decide to say something, You’ll know where to find me.”

We don’t know what would have happened. Would the angel have still showed up? Would this prophecy (Dan 10-12) ever have been released? We can only take a guess, and it’s not particuarlly fruitful to draw too many speculations. But the point is that those twenty-one days of silence were not so silent after all.

This causes me to examine my own prayer life a little bit. For instance, here at the IHOP-KC NightWatch, we’ve been asking God in a really focused way to release healing in our midst. It’s been a little over a week now. We’ve seen some partial healings, and we’ve had an obvious sense of the presence of the Lord showing up a couple of times, but we haven’t seen the wholesale inbreaking that we’re asking for. There are several individuals in particular that I really want to see healed, who seem to be about where they were when we started praying a week ago.

I can tell that my own heart is very prone to growing weary in this struggle. And I know from looking around me that I’m not the only one. But we will do well to learn from the example of Daniel and to keep pressing onward, even when the heavens are seemingly sealed shut.

The lesson we walk away with is not that we have to pray really super hard in order to drag the thing into existence. When (not if) God releases healing in this city, it is not going to be a matter of our great faith, but of His great mercy. None of what we are doing will buy or earn us a thing. God will never be obligated to us. But He does ask us to ask. He, in His desire for partnership with human beings, hinges quite a bit on the prayers of His people. “If my people… humble themselves and pray” (2 Chr 7:14).  “Ask the Lord” (Zech 10:1). “Ask… seek… knock” (Matt 7:7).

So far so good. But what about all those things that we’ve asked for and have not yet seen? What about things that are clearly in the will of God — things like healing, salvation of lost friends, revival, etc.? What happens — well, when nothing happens?

The question would then be, is nothing really happening? We don’t know. Who knows what angels moved when you lifted your voice tonight and asked God for a breakthrough in your own life? Who knows what was set in motion when you asked for revival in your city? Who knows what softened in your friend’s heart when you asked again for their salvation?

Of course, this is not a dial-a-prayer guarantee. There are no set time frames and no set formulas for getting the answer you want from God, because He didn’t make us all with a cookie cutter and so does not deal identically with every one of our hearts. I know that many people have been praying and waiting for a lot longer than Daniel’s twenty-one days. But I also know that after only eight days, my own heart is getting weary and bored and wanting to move on to something that doesn’t cause me pain over my own barrenness. Thus, it’s time to take a hint from Daniel, who was one of the most faithful intercessors ever to live. It’s worth sticking to it. It’s worth pressing through the silence. Because even when those prayers haven’t had their desired result, it is never the case that “nothing happened.”

So keep on praying, peoples. It’s worth it. God hears. He is good. And His heart is always moved. Who is to say what creative way He has of getting through to your heart as you come before Him day after day?

I say it again: it’s worth it. Keep it up!

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8 responses to “Persistent Prayer: it’s worth it.

  1. Haybark

    May 19, 2008 at 1:11 am

    I don’t want to sound weird by always giving you props for your stuff, but thanks again for another great post. I have been praying for revival for my city for some years and Have a promise from the Lord concerning it. there have been some times in intercession where I knew heaven was moving and I was in that flow where everything seems to be connecting, but nothing is happening yet in the natural. I have slammed the words that the Lord has given me over and over at the gates wondering when they would finally yield to me. I have waited and pondered in quite meditation wondering what those days will be like when it does finally arrive.

    Over the past 7 weeks I have been watching the revival in Lakeland, and asking the Lord what it was about. It sparked a renewed hunger for signs, wonders and healing; to see my town changed by the entrance of the kingdom. I brought the old prophecy out and began to travail with much assistance from the Holy Spirit. Shurly, I thought, it must be close. I heard the reports of it breaking out at other places and listened as Todd Bentley would encourage everyone to “come get some.” So I booked a ticket and took a friend and we went.

    though I expected to have a great encounter with the Lord during those days last week, it seemed as if my soul had been glazed over with something. I felt little of what others were experiencing around me. And try as i might to enter into to the secret place with the Lord, the door seemed to be locked to me. By the second day into the trip i began to get disillusioned. Hope, again, was deferred, and I became sick.

    At our regular meeting on Saturday, i met with my very expectant teams of intercessors. We prayed and interceded, and i prayed for impartation for each one. i prayed for those who needed healing and we were left with the same results as you have been having. I ended our meeting teaching some on the wilderness of prayer and how we needed to set our sights on the long haul. But I was devastated on the inside. My faith has never been lower than these last several days. Today i am just now coming out of this sense of discouragement.

    I don’t think our trip was a loss. we learned and had the chance to see Bob Jones and Bobby Conners. My frined was very encouranged by seeing all the miracles adn having the chance to worship and seek God for four days without the daily distractions of life. And i was faced once again with my own barneness. I hate this process, but i am so greatful to the Lord for His faithfulness to bring it to me. Brokeness is far surperior to my own arrogant agendas.

    Thanks again Amanda, this post is so on time for me.

    ~John

     
  2. Amanda Beattie

    May 19, 2008 at 3:45 am

    Well, I suppose it would be pretty silly of me to ostracize people for giving me props. 🙂 (Translation: I don’t think you sound weird.) I certainly appreciate feedback, especially on posts like these where I chuck them out into the black hole of cyberspace and hope someone is encouraged by it.

    I definitely don’t think your trip to Lakeland was in vain. But I also don’t think that the fullness God has for you is to catch a corner of Lakeland’s revival. Praise God that He’s moving there. Praise God that people are going and getting touched and healed. I think it’s great to be willing to take whatever “splash damage” comes your way from those meetings. But I also think God cares a lot to see that you don’t hop on Lakeland’s coattails and think that it was all God had for you.

    There are two reasons I’m thinking of:
    1) God has His own way for you to go that is tailored to your heart, for you to become fascinated and more in love with Him. He’s building a journey and a history with you so that you will become confident in who He is and in His affections for you. (That of course does not mean we refuse to glean anything from others — it’s very healthy and necessary to be a part of the body — it just means that our source is always firstly and foremostly God Himself.)

    2) I think He wants to help you solidify in your heart the idea that revival is not the end. To say it another way, something that Mike Bickle has been very clear on ever since I first started hearing him preach is that we are not just praying until revival comes. We’re building an inner life in God that needs to carry far beyond a local revival. It needs to carry even beyond a national revival. Prayer is an end in itself, not merely a means to an end. Prayer is our lifeline, our avenue of connection with the heart of God. When we stop praying, our hearts will invariably dry up and become burnt-out and wounded by the very revival we asked for. So in those beautifully frustrating seasons of preparation, He’s not just making us wait until we get antsy. He’s working to secure our hearts in His love and set us on an unshakeable, lifelong course to grow in our relationship with Him, no matter what comes our way.

    I’m sure neither of these concepts are new to you, but sometimes it just helps to hear it again. 🙂 Be blessed and keep praying. He is a really good Shepherd.

     
  3. Mark

    May 19, 2008 at 8:33 am

    This really hits home. A few months ago, I was taking out the trash at church (why does God wait until you serve to speak!?) and the wind began blowing violently. It took me off guard, and almost knocked me off my feet. The Lord spoke to me clearly saying, “I am going to give you lips to call forth the winds of revival.” (More about that here: http://markandheidicahill.com/archives/the-winds-of-revival/)

    I pondered and prayed over this for weeks. One day I was in the prayer room in my home praying about it, and the Lord said, “Open your lips and call forth revival in the earth.” I never feel like anything comes of these things, but I obeyed. Every time I would sing or call forth revival, the wind would blow violently outside and shake the oaks in front of my home. “That’s cool,” I thought, “it’s wind.” Oh how childlike he makes us some times.

    Well, a week later, our pastor came back from his usual rounds of training and encouraging that he does as a presbyter. He had visited Lakeland, and said to the congregation when he returned, “I don’t know what’s going on, but the Lord is definitely beginning to move in Lakeland. Let’s pray that His Spirit will accomplish what He desires in that City.”

    The next week he reported that the church, pastored by a friend of his, had been shut down by the fire marshal, and that another church had volunteered to hold their meetings. That week, the meetings began to be covered by God TV. The next week my friends from West Palm drove up to attend. A couple days later we had people associated with our church coming from around the world to attend. “Curious,” I thought.

    This past Saturday we gathered for our weekly prayer meeting. As I was preparing to go, I asked the Lord, “Where do you want us to go tonight?” He replied, “I want to know that your on my side.” I spent the rest of the time repenting and just spending some time with Him. As I was walking out the door, the Lord said, “Oh yeah, and the winds of revival are blowing across the land. Prepare for rain.”

    I didn’t share it with the team. I thought, “If there’s really something to this, then the others will hear it, too.” We sang about His character for about twenty minutes before the chorus rang out, “my soul longs for you.”

    “Ooh, I like this song.” Yeah – we hit the rain theme hard, and prayed into it for the rest of the two hours. When we met afterwards to discuss what the Lord had spoken to each of us, everyone said that the Lord was speaking that an outpouring was coming, and that we needed to be prepared. The Lord spoke along the lines of, “This isn’t going to be a revival that’s given a name, and then written in the history books. I am unleashing the four winds of revival bottled up as the foundation of the earth. This revival will touch every tongue and tribe and nation and language.”

    Sorry for the long post, but this is heavy on my heart. I have no understanding of what is about to happen, but I long for one thing – consistency in praying for it. Thanks for the encouragement, and grace in such a long comment!

     
  4. Haybark

    May 19, 2008 at 10:28 am

    You hit the nail on the head Amanda.

    Indeed, He is A good Shepherd! 🙂

     
  5. Haybark

    May 19, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I didn’t mean to make an emphasis on the A by capitalizing it, as if He is one of many- just a typo for any who might question. He is THE good Shepherd.

     
  6. standonthewall

    May 19, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    That was so great! I think this is just the word we need here at IHOP, Amanda.

     
  7. Scott

    May 20, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Amen Amanda. Thanks for a meaningful, timely post.

    I have been thinking for quite some time now about Daniel’s prayer in which he said: “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness”. Whatever the subject, those words seem to add something to my heart.

     

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