March 2014

3 Reasons for Joy in the House of Prayer

“These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.” Isaiah 56:7 (NIV)
There is something captivating about the promise of joy as a desired end of prayer. Joy is typically not something that we freely associate with prayer – solemnity yes, sobriety, stamina, even anguish, but not joy. But contrary to conventional wisdom, God is saying in this verse that an accompanying and abiding experience in prayer is meant to be joy.
Practically how does that happen? David who continually spent time in God’s house of prayer gives us some insight. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 NIV)
From this verse we discover three primary reasons for experiencing joy when we pray.
1) God shares His secrets with us when we pray by giving us a “path of life” revelation. One of the great sources of joy in the place of prayer is the revelation we receive for ourselves, others and the direction in which to pray. Jeremiah puts it this way “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3 NIV)
2) God’s promises His presence when we pray and the “fullness of joy” that accompanies His presence. The essence of that joy is simply spending time with Him. It is in getting to know Him, His nature and character and learning His ways. Moses, who experienced God’s presence as few men, cried out to God “Now if you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” (Exodus 33:13)
3) We have the “pleasure” and privilege of exercising Kingdom authority when we pray. The right hand of God is where Christ is seated in heavenly places, far above all rule and authority; and it is there in the Spirit we are seated with Him. (Ephesians 2:6) From a place of prayer we enter into the non-stop intercession with Jesus – that “His name be hallowed, His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I believe that “the pleasures forevermore” at the Father’s right hand are the sense of purpose and accomplishment we feel when we are making a difference in the world through our intercession with Jesus.
Like many people, I can personally confirm for the reasons just given that there is a remarkable release of joy when entering into a season of concentrated prayer. Such joy is typically not attendant to the casual or intermittent pray-er, but reserved for those who with diligence set their hearts to seek the Lord with regularity and over extended periods of time. That is not to say the God will not break in with His joy upon anyone who prays, under any condition, for God is sovereign, but the abiding experience of joy comes most readily to those who abide in His presence.
As I think about the times in prayer when I have been overcome with joy, it has invariably been a result of one or a combination of the three causes of joy listed above. God has given me joy in His house of prayer when I’ve heard His voice, sensed His manifest presence and/or felt the anointing to make a throne room proclamation of His will. In those times, I have felt what motivated Joshua to choose to stay in the Lord’s presence, rather than accompany Moses back to the camp. (Exodus 33:11)
Please share your joy-filled experiences in prayer. Under what circumstance has the Lord given you joy in His house of prayer?
Click Here for an email subscription to this blog.

The Joys of Childlike Creativity

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

Children have a lot to teach us about kingdom ways and the joys of being a child of the Heavenly Father. I am relearning some of these valuable lessons simply by being on vacation with two of my little grandchildren. My wife Susan and I are on a Caribbean getaway sharing a condo near a beach with our oldest daughter and her family. Sophie (6) and Greta (3) like all children have boundless energy and active imaginations. What has been fascinating to me is their tireless delight in creativity and play.

It is no exaggeration to say that every waking minute is taken up with some industrious engagement either in creating something or game playing. Their creativity is channeled through many different activities including drawing, coloring, writing, singing, dancing and acting out imaginary scenarios, all of which others are invited to enjoy, critique, applaud and/or participate.

They have an amazing capacity to churn out works of art with great rapidity, ushering from a free flow of ideas that are uninhibited by over thinking and self-critical judgments. One typical day Sophie drew and colored several beach scenes, wrote a story entitled “The Three Ants” akin to the three bears tale and joined Greta in opening an art gallery and spa to which all of us were invited. We also played tag in the pool between numerous games of Uno, Skip-Bo, and Mexican Dominoes. In the evening Greta orchestrated a show in which she performed and then assigned each adult an instrument to play as she conducted.

There is something to be said for the renewing and energizing power of playful, creative pursuits in life. My joy in watching and participating in my grandchildren’s creativity reminds me of how God must feel when He sees us as His children utilizing the creative gifts He has given us. I am convinced that an integral aspect of ruling and reigning with Christ Jesus is conceiving, designing and/or generating new things for God’s glory.

The Why and How of Prayer Mandates

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” 1 Samuel 12:23 (NIV)

The prophet Samuel, in his farewell address and final warnings to Israel, reminds them of his faithfulness to fulfill God’s mandate upon his life to pray for them. My use of the word mandate to describe his prayer commitment is intentional because it refers to a royal command or authorization to act in a particular way. In this instance, Samuel’s prayer mandate from the Lord is so serious that he would consider it a sin if he did not do it.

A prayer mandate is a sacred trust in which God conscripts His prayer watchmen and warriors to intercede on behalf of particular groups of people for the fulfillment of His purposes in their lives.

Prayer mandates are common throughout the Bible. They reveal God’s heart and intentions for His creation. They are invitations to enter into the implementation of God’s sovereign plans in the earth. Prayer mandates gripped the lives of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Esther, just to mention a few of the Old Testament saints.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul repeatedly makes reference to his unceasing, night and day prayer for the churches that he established. (Colossians 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, 2 Timothy 1:3 etc.) At one point in reference to this mandate he confesses “I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28 NIV)

It is not unusual to receive from God multiple prayer mandates. Paul reveals that he also had a mandate from God to pray for Israel’s salvation. “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1 NIV)

One of the best examples of a prayer mandate in action is the prayer that Jesus prays in John 17. In His prayer He clearly delineates His mandate when He says He is praying to the Father for a very specific group of people: “for all those you have given me” (vs. 2, 6) and for “those who will believe in me through their message.” (vs. 20) “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:9)

What group(s) of people has God given you responsibility to pray for? Do you have one or more prayer mandates that God has given you as a sacred trust of intercession for His purposes to be fulfilled?

Prayer mandates provide a rhythm to our life of prayer by assigning us a priority to praying regularly for particular groups of people. They give us specific focus and direction for prayer that when revisited again and again add a depth of increasing revelation, wisdom and authority.

Leadership Principles and Prayer

When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD… Numbers 11:2 (NIV)

Why is prayer often the great omission when it comes to discussion of spiritual leadership? In my humble estimation the topic of leadership is the most frequent focus of conferences, seminars, podcasts, magazine articles and books in the church world today! It is understandable because church leaders are looking for keys to making their ministries more effective and fruitful. As I scan the plethora of spiritual leadership resources however, I find very little if any devoted to or directed at the role of prayer.

It is a curiosity and makes me wonder “Why?” It could go without saying but all the great leaders in the Bible were first and foremost men and women of prayer. Their leadership calling, equipping and effectiveness were directly dependent upon their relationship and communication with God. Moses is an excellent case in point. His leadership task was one of the most challenging ever given a man. His assignment was to deliver millions of people out of oppressive captivity, transform them into a God-centered culture and position them as a mighty army to conquer a foreign land.

Moses secret to success was not based upon his knowledge and application of leadership principles. It was based upon his knowledge of God found in the secret place. Prayer was the integral, defining characteristic of Moses leadership from the burning bush to Mount Nebo. His confrontations with Pharaoh were punctuated with prayer and every ensuing crisis throughout the Exodus was resolved through prayer. Moses frequently fell on his face before God to cast his burdens, seek God’s directive wisdom and/or intercede on behalf of Israel’s wayward and rebellious ways. (Numbers 14:5, 16:4) Among other things the defeat of Amalek was directly attributable to his prayers as was the Israel’s salvation from God’s annihilation as a result of their worship of the golden calf. (Exodus 17, 32-34)

All of Moses’ leadership decisions came out of the place of prayer. Let me say it again. All of Moses’ leadership decisions came in prayer! Prayer was also the basis upon which David, Nehemiah, Daniel, the apostles and most notably Jesus all made their key leadership decisions.

In summary then it could be said that the basis or foundation of spiritual leadership is prayer, nothing less, nothing more.

A Prayer Pep Talk

Then He returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?” Matthew 26:40 (NLT)

In the simplest of terms, prayer is spending time with God. “With” is the operative word here. As Jesus agonized in prayer “with” His Father, the night before He died, He invited Peter and His disciples to watch and pray “with” Him. The Greek word for with is also translated other places in the New Testament as “together,” “accompany” and “companion.” The picture we have then of this invitation to prayer by Jesus is His desire for us to spend time together and to accompany Him as a companion on a journey into the heart of the Father.

Unfortunately we all too easily lose sight of this picture and understanding of prayer. When we do, prayer becomes more a duty than a delight. However, the “be with” factor perspective on prayer transforms it from something we “have to do” into something we “get to do.” Time with God is like eating or sleeping, it is not an option but a necessity of life, and a very enjoyable one at that. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to sitting down for a meal or finally laying my head on the pillow at the end of a long day, I am glad I get to do it and wouldn’t think of passing it up!

When it comes to the enjoyable necessities of life, it is not about finding the time or making the time. It is about taking the time! Can you see the difference? We take time for the things that are important to us and the things we enjoy. We make time for the things that are optional. There is no legitimate excuse for people not taking time to eat or sleep. Why? Because anyone who fails to take the time to eat or sleep is not only endangering their health but will eventually die.

Scroll to Top