By Clifton Jones
It is interesting to note some of the words related to the meaning of x-ray, examine, treat, or photograph. Prayer is all of the preceding and more. Nothing will examine us from the inside like prayer. Nothing will treat us on the inside like genuine prayer. Nothing will give us a true picture of our inside, like prayer. A person who is treated with prayer is a person who will be completely whole if he continues with his treatments. Prayer is God’s greatest preventive method known to mankind. Prayer discovers the problem before it has a chance to take root. Prayer will keep our hearts tender toward the Lord and spiritual things, just as a strong and healthy immune system will fight off diseases and sicknesses. Prayer will fight off weakness and sinning. Just as an x-ray machine will locate where the problem is, prayer will also reveal any problems that might arise. No doubt, this is why David prayed on this wise:
Psalms 139:23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
This is what I call a personal examination. He wanted to know himself before anyone else discovered the problem. This is also a private investigation to correct it in private and to keep it from becoming a public matter.
If we would seek the Lord, He would never let us be embarrassed or made ashamed. He will make known to us in our secret closet so that we can correct the matter before it gets out of hand. Prayer is a great mystery; its inner working is beyond human comprehension. Its accomplishments are innumerable, its latitude is immeasurable, its need is priceless. Prayer and praying are like sticking with a healthy diet which is a good way to maintain a healthy body. Prayer and praying are a divine way to maintain a healthy body. Prayer and praying are a divine way to maintain a spiritual life.
If prayerless believers were put on trial, they would be found guilty of enthroning themselves and dethroning the Most High. The resulting sentence would be a shipwrecked life and spiritual suicide. I admit that a horse can be used as a mode of transportation, but in this age, except for recreation, horseback riding is outdated. Ministering without a corresponding prayer life does happen, but it lacks divine power.
Oh! How congregations have suffered since ”Mother Prayer” has been in intensive care, dying from gross neglect. The anointing has become almost a stranger. Preaching and teaching have become dull and lifeless. Repentance has been replaced with shallow commitments. Courage, boldness, dedication, compassion, vision, honesty and such are now very rare commodities in the church. Oh! how we need “Mother Prayer” to come back into our midst to restore lost joy and to bring back that fresh anointing that destroys yokes, free captives, and that lifts burdens.
We must not point to our busy schedules or fast-growing congregations alone as indications of spiritual success. What we need is leaders who have really found that secret place of prayer; leaders who have learned to cast all of their cares upon
I Peter 5:7: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Leaders who don’t worry about anything: instead pray about everything…. “(Philippians 4:6; Living Bible).
An x-ray is a proven scientific way of locating a physical problem; it allows the medical field to set their sight on the whereabouts of the situation. It makes treatment easier because one knows with what he is dealing. Likewise, prayer and praying will enable us to locate the thing or things that are causing us trouble, and prayer will also direct us as to how to treat it. There are any number of things wrong with us that will never be discovered until we start praying. In fact, God cannot afford to let us see them because we are not praying. If God would allow us to really see ourselves in our helpless state, we would become so discouraged we would lose all hope. Notwithstanding, when we begin to seek the Lord in prayer, He willingly allows us to see what He sees.
When the temperature of our hearts grows cold, we are subject to go after strange things. Prayer is the only God-given method I know, that will keep heat in the heart. And when prayer is omitted, a cold wave of pride, jealousy, envy, and hypocrisy will invade our hearts, leaving a sub-zero temperature toward the Lord. It behooves us, to check the temperature of our love daily. If we find that the zeal, excitement, thrill, devotion, and appreciation we began with is vanishing, we need to ask the Lord to fan our fire.
Most of our churches are like “Childcare Centers, ” full of helpless babies waiting for someone to do something for them. Many ministers seem to be happy keeping their members as babies so that they won’t have to grow up either. That is, we have not created an atmosphere of prayer that will grow really mature saints.
No minister or missionary, deacon or brother or sister can lead the way into prayer with the same results or authority as the pastor. Many churches are putting the most important ministry of the church into the hands of a small group called a Prayer Band. When I think of what a band is used for, I realize the larger the thing which the band is to go around, the larger the band has to be. As large as the problems of this life are, the larger the prayer band needs to be. The leader of the congregation needs to be a ringleader in the prayer band.
May we weep before the altar until a fire is rekindled in our prayer closet. If we do not repent of our prayerlessness, we will never be delivered from this blinding, deceiving and crippling sin.
As a whole, no one rejects the idea of knowing more about Jesus. The problem is that many people are unwilling or are uninterested enough to invest the time and effort in prayer required to produce the desired relationship with the Lord. And quite frequently, this reluctance to pray is brought on by sin. Just as Adam stayed away from the meeting place when he knew he had failed, so do men stay away from prayer when they give heed to their failing flesh. As tropical fruit cannot live in a cold climate, neither can the desire to pray live in a sinning heart. A return of prayer power in our lives requires a return of our lives to the place of right standing with God.
Allow me to add this note of warning: When we receive divine enabling, we must remember from whence it has come and how it was obtained. Whatever it took to get it is required to keep it.
Nothing gives us a clearer view of our real condition before God like a praying heart. God shines His divine light upon us and lets us see what He has been seeing all along. This is one of the ways we are kept with an incentive to keep pressing. We can see so much room for improvement that we know we must keep praying, lest we faint.
A praying heart is a healthy heart which results into a healthy spiritual life, a life which loves holiness and hates sinning and a life which is influenced by the presence and power of the Lord Himself. Prayer not only orders and receives from the Lord; prayer brings us into a closer more intimate relationship with Him. I often say, “Prayer is good for us no matter what is wrong with us, and is also good to keep anything from being wrong with us.”
One of our biggest blunders is our failure to see prayerlessness as sin. As long as we think and treat prayerlessness as just another fault, it will continue to run unchecked in our personal lives. It is quite clear that our failure to see prayerlessness as a sin has resulted in continued absence from the prayer closet. The only way we will regain the things we have lost, or allowed to be taken from us, is to repent from our prayerless state and pursue prayer with all of our heart, soul, and spirit.
Someone might question, “How can we label lack of prayer as sin?” In light of the importance the Scriptures places on prayer, we cannot help but see it as sin. I would go so far as to call it the number one sin among the children of God because it is the one sin which opens the door for all the other sins. When one is not praying, he is not sensitive enough to detect sin until it strikes. When we are praying, our tender hearts will detect sin in its embryonic stage and abort it before it can manifest itself.
I fully agree with the song that says, “Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Many of the things we suffer are the direct result of prayerlessness. Prayerlessness is sin because prayer is the endowment of power for a spiritual operation; therefore, to omit prayer is to omit the power. A prayerless person, or church, is no more a threat to the kingdom of darkness than a water gun is to a fish. Without prayer, we are cooperating with darkness but not realizing it. Nothing dulls our spiritual perception like prayerlessness. When our lives prayerless, the door of our heart is open prey for every foul spirit that comes knocking.
Most of us do not pray enough to catch God’s vision or to detect Satan’s division. Without prayer, we are robbed of God’s revelation end are left with “deviation.” Prayer opens our spirit better than Afrin Nasal Spray opens our nose. Prayer is the one and only thing that Jesus said we should always do.
Luke 18:1: And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
In the above text, we are given two things to choose from, pray or faint. In today’s church, more people seem to choose fainting above praying. Prayerless people are fainting and falling out with everybody. The Lord included preachers, deacons, choir leaders, Sunday School teachers, ushers, you name them, and they are falling out or fainting. Jesus warned His disciples that failure in prayer would result in falling into temptation.
Matthew 26:41: Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
No man can continually withstand temptation without continual prayer. This is the clear-cut reason we are seeing so much yielding to temptation and sinning today.
Jesus told us that the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak. Our human spirit operates in neutral, waiting for a strong enough influence to give command so it can follow. When a weak spirit is found in a weak body, the results are very weak. Seven days without prayer makes one weak. Let us understand that praying will not stop trouble from rising, but it surely will keep us from falling. We can sum up all Christian failure in a few words, “the lack of prayer.”
Nothing has contributed to the world’s over-all Godless condition like prayerlessness. We have attempted to invent better methods, plans, and techniques: The results? Sin has multiplied and the church has waxed cold.
Matthew 24:12: And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
The increase of evil, which was brought about by the decrease of prayer, has resulted in some very cold conditions in the world and in the church. Oh, how we need to pray that the Lord will turn the heat up in us because the temperature outside is very cold. We know that when it’s cold outside, we must increase the heat inside, or the outside climate takes over on the inside. If we do not repent and return to prayer, we are going to be as cold in the church as the climate is in the world.
Already the absence of prayer has taken the shame of sinning out of the church folks like it did Israel of old.
Jeremiah 6:15: Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.
No man can spend time in the presence of the Lord and come away without conviction. Likewise, no man can be absent from the presence of the Lord and acquire conviction. The kind of conviction I am speaking about is moral and spiritual conviction. That is, seeing the magnitude of holiness and righteousness and the wrong of sin. We can no longer take for granted that everybody knows these things because what we are seeing in our midst today says just the contrary.
To further complicate this issue, we often convene in a one or two-week meeting and call it revival. It will take more than two weeks of singing, preaching or teaching to bring about revival in our cold conditions. That is like sending a chiropractor into a morgue and expecting results. Our needs are so deep that just preaching alone won’t satisfy.
We need anointed preaching that will convict us of our prayerless ways and send us back to the prayer closet. We need anointed teaching to keep us there until revival really breaks out. Actually, the root cause of revival is prayer. There is absolutely no other formula that guarantees it. As important as preaching is, a preacher cannot preach down revival aside from prayer. He cannot teach it down nor advertise it down. Whenever revival comes, it will be in response to seeking God in prayer.
Most congregations desperately need to close down all of their many activities and spend those hours and days in search of God’s anointing through prayer. Real life-changing revival will come to us only when we restore our altars of prayer. Most of us have never seen real revival. We have seen a few nights of outreach efforts, but not real revival. Revival is not limited to how many souls get saved or baptized. It goes beyond the size of the attendance, offering, or any other physical manifestations. Revival is spiritual in nature; that is why only prayer can cut the way for revival. Revival brings back what has been lost or stolen. It returns one to his former order or past state. Revival cheers up, wakes up, opens up and causes one to confess and get ready to go up.
Most of what we call revival leaves us operating business as usual. With real revival comes real repentance; real confessions; real fellowship and real change in the lives of the people of God.
It is sent only to the children of God who have fallen away from their close relationship with the Lord. When we are revived, we will seek out the lost at any cost and share Jesus with them. When we consider the number of God’s children who have never spent time seeking the lost, we know we need revival. As you read these lines will you please pray for revival. It is the only thing that is going to save our churches, our nation, and our world.
When we compare ancient Israel with Judah, their lifestyles were very similar, yet Judah stood longer than Israel. The reason why Judah outlasted Israel is that there were no kings in Israel to lead them in revival, while Judah had several who led them in revival. If someone doesn’t lead us into revival, our conditions can only get worse. We should join the Psalmist and ask: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalms 85:6)
When there is a prevailing condition in our bodies, we are willing to submit to the most up-to-date methods there are for treating that condition. Such willingness to correct our physical man should be carried over into our spiritual lives. The absence of genuine anointing in our service for the Lord should trouble us above anything else. Anointing is God’s supernatural ability to get the job done. The absence of that anointing will prevent us from accomplishing our divine appointment. This anointing will only come through seeking God in prayer. And to omit this divine examination is to go without full equipment to carry out our appointment. If we do not return to the prayer closet, we are going to continue to operate sub-power.
History reveals that every real revival has come in response to prayer and ceased only when prayer was aborted. Notwithstanding, God’s promise to ancient Israel is applicable today. If we do our part, we can still hear from heaven.
II Chronicles 7:14: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
The divine prescription listed above will bring revival to any person or congregation that will follow the instructions. First, we must humble ourselves, that is admit our need for His help end that we can do nothing without Him. This simple, but yet profound step is a tremendous blow to the human pride. Human pride has done and is doing anything and everything it can to get rid of God Almighty.
The assignment of evil is to daily shut down, prevent or hinder every prayer meeting. And the ones evil cannot stop, it must try to make them cut the prayer short. Although the enemy is wicked, yet he is fully aware of the damage prayer has done and will do to his kingdom. The enemy would rather see us busy talking about the Lord than to see us talking to the Lord. He knows that when we talk to the Lord, we receive all of heaven’s resources to back our effort. Prayer is the single most powerful force in the earth. To observe some of the things that prayer has done will give you a bird’s eye view of what prayer is capable of doing: Prayer stopped the sun so that Joshua and Israel could win the battle. Prayer gave Hezekiah a fifteen-year extension on his life. Prayer allowed the three Hebrew boys to spend the night in a fiery furnace and come out without the smell of smoke. Prayer gave Daniel a good night’s sleep in a den of lions. Prayer opened the prison doors for Peter when he was on death row. Prayer set Paul and Silas free.
Acts 16:26: And suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed.
I truly believe that all of us who are saved and trying to make heaven our home are the fruits of genuine prayer. I try to include in my daily prayers that the Lord will stir up every backslider, every cold heart, and unconcerned soul. I ask Him not to let them find rest until they find it in Him.
The church will know that she is well when we find ourselves interceding for the welfare of others. Intercession is, or should be, the main ministry of the church. Intercession is the greatest single ministry in which the church can involve itself. God is constantly in search of persons to stand in the gap and plead for the nations.
Ezekiel 22:30-31: And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.
If I am understanding correctly, the Lord is looking for someone who will visit the throne room to plead on behalf of the existing condition of the land. If I am reading His application form correctly there are not a lot of restrictions. No special education, no previous experience, male, female, nor would race be a factor.
As you read, why shouldn’t you accept the challenge? Only eternity will be able to tell us of the multitudes that would have been touched by the hand of God if more of us would have employed the ministry of intercession. Satan has fought this ministry for ages; he would rather see us busy working for the Lord than hear us busy talking to the Lord. Praying strikes the kingdom of darkness with a severe blow. It robs Satan’s kingdom of its would-be victims because prayer is backed by all of heavens forces and resources.
Just think, on one occasion an angel came down and destroyed a hundred and eighty-five thousand people. Just one angel! So, likewise, when we prevail in prayer, all of God’s authority backs us.
Please remember the more one is trained in the school of prayer, the easier it is to be selected for any task. Although it is doubtless that one will become an intercessor before first becoming a pray-in
What then is an intercessor? An intercessor is someone who enters into the presence of Almighty God on behalf of another, with compassion, pleading for mercy and help. This pleading is done at the expense or risk of the one who pleads. Intercession is the mind, soul, heart, and spirit wrestling with God until a release comes with assurance that help is on the way. I feel that no one can receive any higher honor than to be called into the throne room to speak with the Great King about the affairs of this great universe.
What a great opportunity to receive and to give. To receive God’s partnership and to give one’s all on the altar of sacrifice. You see, there are things the Lord wants us to do, but He needs someone to ask him. It is not that He cannot do them on His own, but He has tied Himself to the prayers of His church. If the church will not pray; God will not act. He will not take it out of the hands of the church, for we are workers together with him. If we will ask; He will act. God is known for equipping us for the job, rather than taking it from us. It shouldn’t be hard to ask Him to do what He wants to do anyway. And asking shouldn’t be a problem with us since we learned how to ask in some form before we learned how to really talk. As one translator puts it Matthew 6:7a: “Ask, l ask you to ask.” That is when we ask, we are only doing what He asks us to do.
In employing the ministry of prayer, one is greatly aided by the Word of the Lord. We must study the many passages left on record regarding prayer and intercession. For instance, Jesus gives us a powerful example of intercession in Luke 11:5-8: “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.”
The friend who called at midnight knew what he came for and refused to return to his home empty. He didn’t mind waking up his friend’s house and the whole neighborhood to get what he came for. He was prepared to do whatever had to be done to keep from returning empty. Persistence is a must for real answer-seeking prayer. Not that God is not faithful or hard of hearing, He makes sure one wants what he\she is asking for. So the midnight caller pleaded until he woke up his friend’s house, wake up the church, wake up the community, wake up the nation and the world. “Knock, knock, bread, knock, knock, bread,” don’t stop short of getting what you came for.
I hope you get the picture. This is not a bedtime prayer. This kind of praying will take up our time, energy, tears and sweat. And it is the greatest need of this hour. It is the only kind of praying that will save us from spiritual bankruptcy. It is the only kind of praying that will hold back the judgment hanging over our nation and the world. There are many souls that need to be delivered before the hammer of judgment falls. We are familiar with the pleading of Abraham on behalf of Lot. God refused to do what He was about to do until He revealed it to his prayer. It is a fact; God will share His mind with prayers. God knows that when an intercessor senses his judgment in a matter, he will cry unto Him. He never minds revealing His plans to His “prayers.” He has always been known to share His plans and His mind with prayers. A prayer’s mind is influenced by God’s mind. This is one of the main reasons we need to spend more time with the Lord, that He may transfer His mind into us, so that our thinking will become more like His.
We cannot spend time with Jesus without being influenced by His thinking. This we can see in the life of the servants of the Lord. Their prayers and actions reflect that they have been in the presence of the Lord. This time spent in His presence accounts for their overwhelming courage and their willingness to lay bare their souls for the welfare of God’s people. If we will seek Him, we will be current with His actions.
Psalms 25:14: The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.
Jeremiah 33:3: Call unto me, and l will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
Deuteronomy 29:29: The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Just being saved will not put one into God’s secrets, he or she must become a seeker, or better yet, an intercessor. One of the most mind-stirring examples of intercession is recorded in Exodus 32:9-14.
Exodus 32:10: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
In Psalms 106:23, God gives us His view of what Moses did.
Psalms 106:23: Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.
We are accustomed to God offering us something we cannot refuse, but here Moses offered God something He could not refuse.
Exodus 32:13: Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by shine own self and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will l give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.
The kind of spirit seen manifested in Moses comes only by walking close with the Lord. Moses put his very soul on the line because he knew that God would keep his promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Even after Moses saw how the people had sinned, he yet would not cease to intercede for them.
Exodus 32:31-32: And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
I encourage you to read more about prayer in my book entitled “Prayer Clinic II.”
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY HODALE PRESS, INC., 1993, PAGES 127-141. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.