Meeting Our Deepest Need through His Desire
I believe the church will never understand the importance of prayer until we grasp one foundational truth. Simply put, prayer is not just for our own benefit or relief but rather for the delight of the Lord.
We often go to the Lord only to unburden our troubles and sorrows to him, seeking a supply of strength for our next battle. Of course, doing this is scriptural; we are invited to come boldly to God’s throne of grace to find mercy and help in our time of need. He has told us to cast all our cares upon him, yet our praying is not complete or pleasing to the Lord if we do not understand God’s need.
Our primary purpose in praying always ought to be sweet fellowship with the Lord.
God desires intimacy and communion with us in our prayer life. After all, he has already made every provision for our daily needs. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on… Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26, NKJV). “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:32-33).
God is saying to us, “When you come into my presence, focus your attention on fellowship with me. I know what your needs are. You don’t even have to ask. I’ll take care of them all. Let us enjoy sweet communion.”
Do you pray mostly out of a sense of obligation? Is it more of a duty than a pleasure? Few Christians enter God’s presence with delight simply for the pleasure of his company. When we commune with a dearly loved one here on earth, do we think of it as work? No, it is a pleasure to us.
David said, “He delivered me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). Do we in turn delight in him? The Bible tells us the Lord should be our delight. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
Perhaps you’re confident in your delight of the Lord and your love for him. You have learned to run to him just for the pleasure of his company. In your wonderful times of intimacy with him, he lifts all your burdens, floods your soul with peace and assures you of his love.
Is that the end purpose of prayer? Is it to give us ecstasy, to provide us with rest and peace? No, there is much more to this matter of praying in a way that is pleasing to God.
If we are going to pray in a manner pleasing to the Lord, we must learn to “pray through.”
“Praying through” is a term coined by the early Pentecostals. To some, it meant simply staying on your knees until you were assured you had an answer from God. To others, it meant continually coming back to the Lord until you had the answer in hand.
It is possible to delight in God’s presence for hours at a time – having your needs met and your heart totally satisfied – yet what happens after you leave that hallowed place of intimate communion? You may rise up from your knees only to go back to a crushing situation that has not changed. You see the devil waiting there for you, ready to throw the same problems and emptiness at you. What good is a taste of glory on the mountaintop if it doesn’t see you through your battle?
I believe “praying through” means this: The strength, power and encouragement you receive from the Lord while shut in with him must see you through the trials ahead. It is not about receiving answers. The victory you get in the secret closet has to give you victory on the battlefield.
How many of us have gone to the Lord in prayer, unburdening our hearts to him, and afterward we were lifted out of a pit, our joy restored and our faith strengthened? The first thing he tells us in our time with him is “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” He settles our spirits, bringing us rest and peace. We go out of his presence feeling strong, ready to fight the good fight.
Yet many of us get discouraged when our circumstances don’t change after times of prayer. We believe God for a change, and many times he does bring one about. In the times when he doesn’t, though, we can go from a wonderful mountaintop experience straight into a battle where we fail miserably.
Beloved, prayer is not finished – it is not “completed” or prayed through – until it sees you through to the other side of your trial. We have not “prayed it through” until we have “lived it through,” meaning we have endured our trials by the strength we received in God’s presence.
God fully intends that what we receive from him in prayer will fully supply us with everything we need for our battle. So how can we keep it? What can we do to see our prayer through to a triumphant conclusion?
I have prayed about this continually because multitudes of Christians everywhere are hurting so badly. Our ministry receives letters from many who endure a loneliness so bad that they can hardly see themselves through a day. Others suffer through all kinds of marital and family problems. Pastors are grief-stricken over all the hurting people in their congregations. What can precious saints do to pray through their trials?
There are two things we all must do.
The first way we learn to pray through is by listening.
Scripture makes it clear the Lord wants to talk to every one of us. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
I learned of a little girl who was dying of leukemia. As she neared death’s door, she struggled with the thought of dying. One morning, when her mother came into her room, the girl was happy and all aglow. “What happened?” her astonished mom asked.
The girl answered, “An angel came to me and said I was going on a trip. God came and took my hand and walked with me through a beautiful garden. He told me, ‘You’re coming here tomorrow to be with me.’”
God spoke to that little child and took all the pain and fear from her heart. When she left to be with him the next day, she had total peace.
Do you believe that when you are intimate with Jesus, he will give you enduring peace for your trial, no matter what its outcome? Some Christians don’t believe he does this, but Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
There is no way through your trial except to get alone with Jesus and cry, “Lord, you’re the only one on earth who can help me. Only you know the way through this trial. I’m going to stay here till you give me direction, whether it is something you will empower me to do or something you will do yourself. I’ll keep coming back until you speak to my heart.”
Friend, while this persistence is necessary, something even more than this is needed to see our prayers through the coming trials.
The second thing needed to ‘pray through’ is to have total confidence in God’s Word.
Christ is the living Word of God. When you are shut in with him in prayer, the Holy Spirit will always remind you of God’s revealed Word or lead you into it. He will build up your faith by feeding you from the scriptures, even while you’re in the secret closet.
We are commanded, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand…. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11, 13, 17).
Right now, many Christians reading this message simply have to hear a word from the Lord. Nobody on earth can help them. There is but one way for them to get through their trial, and that is by staying in Christ’s presence until they hear from him. He must assure them of the way through, perhaps through a Bible passage.
That said, there is no need for you to worry about your trial. God is faithful to respond to your every request, needs he already knows you have and is eager to satisfy.
Father, put in all of us a heart that is easily wooed to your presence. Help us to pray through all our trials to completion, to listen closely to your Spirit in our secret time of communion with you and to put all our confidence in your revealed Word. In each of these ways, we can know our prayers are pleasing to you. Amen.