Recently, I was blessed to be a part of something different – something life changing – something on the verge of uncomfortable but something so right. Four wonder-filled, worship-filled evenings where God was the focus of our prayers. Prayers were the purpose. Prayers for our city – prayers for the people of our city – prayers for our churches – prayers for the believers of our city and prayers for the lost of our city. Four nights of unifying with a diverse group of believers to approach the throne of the One True Living God, not because Scripture mandated it, not because I was guilted into it or because I wanted to meet a quota, but because God had so moved in my heart to make it a priority. God would have heard me at home in my closet just as surely as He heard me there in that place, but it was so much sweeter for those four evenings to join in prayer with other believers, to worship through song and to hear the testimonies of lives radically changed by God through prayer, and the Word boldly preached.
“Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer that calls me from a world of care and bids me at my Father’s throne – make all my wants and wishes known. In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief and oft escaped the tempter’s snare by thy return, sweet hour of prayer.”
Not all of the conference was comfortable – we were pushed outside of our boxes. Our training, or the standard, in corporate worship even in corporate prayer meetings, is to have someone praying and perhaps music playing in the background – but in the span of these four evenings there were times where we sat praying in perfect silence. In that silence I strained to hear the voice of God – entreating Him to hear me and to lead me in prayer. There were also moments where it was not at all quiet, and instead of one praying many joined in and prayed, a beautiful blend of voices lifting in harmony of hearts for a city and a people in need. Uncomfortable? Maybe. Spirit-filled and Spirit-led? Definitely! I left there thankful to have been in that place – thankful, but yearning for more – thankful, but realizing God had just moved me towards a deeper prayer life – thankful, but aware that my life will never be the same again.
So now what?
Now I find myself praying more and more for God to teach me to pray, not just the ABCs of prayer but what He wants – what matters to Him. I don’t just want to know that the Word says to pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion, but I want to understand what that means and then to do it. We are told to approach God’s throne with confidence and boldness – oh, that I might learn to pray with boldness, with a passion that is fueled not by the need alone but by the knowledge of and belief in the God to whom I pray. Prayer is a big gift and God is a big God and to treat either as less than this, I believe, is verging on negligence of my faith and the resource – the divine resource – of God’s Spirit and His invitation to pray. I read a quote once that said “Worship-based prayer seeks the face of God before the hand of God. God’s face is the essence of who He is. God’s hand is the blessing of what He does. God’s face represents His person and presence. God’s hand expresses His provision for needs in our lives. I have learned that if all we ever do is seek God’s hand, we may miss His face: but if we seek His face, He will be glad to open His hand and satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts.” (Daniel Henderson)
I am no longer satisfied to simply seek His hand for the necessities or blessings of the day. I don’t want to be satisfied in just seeking His hand. I want to seek His face – for it is there I will find the relationship I so deeply need and want with Him. It is there my prayers will become worship-based and not seeker-based. Don’t get me wrong – I, like any other person, enjoy the blessings of His hand; but at the end of the day if I have to choose His presence over His blessing, I am learning that I would choose His presence – which in itself is the blessing.