“In your presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11
Those of you who read this blog with any regularity have probably noticed that most of my posts over the past months have been on the same topic. You may have been wondering what happened to Tom? His blogs used to be more interesting, now all he talks about is prayer. . . . boring!
Well back on March 16, nearly five months ago now, something did happen. That morning when I was meditating on Jesus’ words “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17) I felt the Lord speak to me as clearly as I have ever heard Him. From deep within my spirit the Holy Spirit gave me this simple repetitive prayer for myself: “Make me a house of prayer. Make me a house of prayer. Make me a house of prayer . . . .”
Since the Bible calls each individual believer in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit I had a stark realization. Before the Church, big “C”, and churches, little “c”, can become a house of prayer, each believer must first become a house of prayer. And that includes me! I have been praying this prayer daily ever since.
It has had a marked effect upon my life. The more I have prayed it, the more the desire to pray has grown within me leading to a more consistent and deeper prayer life than I have ever experienced. In the process I am discovering that my perspective and understanding of prayer are undergoing a subtle transformation.
Here are four things I am seeing with greater clarity:
1) Being a house of prayer is a lifestyle and not an event. Committing to a concentrated daily prayer time(s) is a great start but if it remains only one other event in our day we are not becoming a house of prayer. At best we are simply visiting, but not living there. Becoming a house of prayer requires dwelling throughout the day in God’s presence and maintaining a lifestyle of ongoing relationship and communication with Him. Smith Wigglesworth, British evangelist in the early 1900s, said it best: “I don’t often spend more than half an hour in prayer, but I never go more than half an hour without praying.”
2) The more a person relates to God in prayer the broader their concern for the redemption of the world. One cannot spend extended times in God’s presence without picking up His burdens for the people and nations of His world. God shares His secrets with those who tarry long enough in His presence to hear His heart. I’ve found there is a natural widening of our focus in prayer from me and mine to theirs and thine. The Lord’s prayer wonderfully models this spectrum of concern spanning a focus on His kingdom and will to a focus upon our daily bread, forgiveness and protection. God is equally attentive to both focuses of prayer.
3) When answers to prayer seem like a “No” God really is saying there’s “Something better!” It has been said that there are three possible answers to our prayers: “Yes,” “Not now” and “No.” But in reality God the Father rarely says “No” to His children who pray to Him. Like any loving parent, listening to the requests of their children, our heavenly Father always chooses to give only what is best for us. Therefore “No” really means “Something better!” Consider your own experience. In retrospect, are there not times when it seemed like God was saying “no” but in the end you realized He had “something better” in mind for you?
Sometimes that “something better” has more to do with what He does “in” us than “for” us. It helps seeing that often God’s priority in answering my prayer to change things is more about making changes in me than making changes in my circumstances.
4) I am finding that the “be quick to listen, slow to speak” admonition from James is very practical advice when it comes to praying. (James 1:19) The best starting place for prayer is being quiet before God in order to be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and attentive to discern God’s will concerning the matter for which you want to pray. Effective prayer is inextricably linked to having a predisposition and subjugated heart to hear and do the will of God. Praying for the will of God is the only guarantee we have that He hears us and will send the answer on its way. (1 John 5:14) That is why the Lord’s prayer begins with the petition, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
The journey to becoming a house of prayer has proven to be a joy-filled adventure. After all the psalmist says that “in your presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11 – ESV) And why is there joy in God’s presence? Because there we can bask in His love and cast all our cares upon Him. There we can cease from our labors and let Him do the work. There we can rule and reign in this life seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, in a position to be above and not beneath, the head and not the tail. (Romans 5:17, Ephesians 2:6 & Deuteronomy 28:13)
“Make me a house of prayer!” Would you consider making that your prayer? But buckle your seatbelt, it might just change your prayer life.
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