Your Prayer Life

8 Ways to Recharge Your Prayer Life

How would you grade your prayer life these days? Are your spiritual batteries drained? Do you need a recharge? It’s easy for prayer to become monotonous and predictable, but the Holy Spirit is always willing to offer a jumpstart. Even if you feel like a failure in this area, He can turn a spiritual wimp into a warrior.

After a recent string of answered prayers, I’ve discovered a fresh excitement about my own prayer journey. I’ve also realized that if I want to mature spiritually, my prayer life must go to a higher level. Here are eight ways you can turn up the heat:

1. Develop your spiritual confidence. Many Christians live on the far edges of God’s blessings because they don’t believe they have been made righteous by Christ’s sacrifice. You will never expect answers from God if you think He is mad at you. Don’t act like a slave who begs for things. You are His heir, and He has given you His royal robe, His signet ring and His estate. He wants to give you the kingdom. God tells us to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). You can ask Him for anything.

2. Be more specific. Zig Ziglar used to say: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” That’s why vague prayers are inferior to specific ones. I have recently begun the habit of making a “Top Seven List” of prayer requests. When I did this during my recent out-of-state move, the Lord answered six of my seven requests within two months. One of my prayers was that when I bought my new house, my new house payment would not be more than my old one. It turned out to be one dollar less! I was reminded that James 4:2 says: “You do not have because you do not ask.”

3. Ask big. We can limit what God wants to do in the Earth by praying in a puny way. Why would we settle for less when God can do the impossible? Elisha boldly asked his mentor, Elijah, for a double portion of the Holy Spirit—and God gave him that mantle. God may want to double what you are requesting of Him. The Lord said: “Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for Your inheritance… ” (Ps. 2:8). His vision for your life is far greater than what you supposed.

4. Become more aggressive. Status quo prayers won’t be enough in seasons of spiritual battle. There is a time to go to war in the spirit, and this will require a militant attitude toward the enemy. When Elisha told King Joash to take arrows and strike the ground, in preparation for a battle, the king halfheartedly hit the ground only three times. Elisha said: “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it” (2 Kings 13:18-19). Too often we are satisfied with small victories because we didn’t pray with enough intensity. Your zeal will often determine your outcome.

5. Groan when necessary. People who have allowed God to use them in intercession know that certain situations require travail. This is not easy prayer—it is the spiritual equivalent of childbirth! When Elijah prayed for rain to end a seven-year drought, the Bible says he “crouched down upon the earth and put his face between his knees” (1 Kings 18:42). If you really want a crime wave to end in your city, or a nation to find Jesus, or your own children to be saved, let the Spirit pray through you in a deeper, messier and noisier way.

6. Combine fasting with prayer. Fasting is not a way to bribe God. You do not need to forfeit food to get His attention. But fasting helps you focus on the Lord—and it can intensify prayer power. There are certain spiritual obstacles that need an extra push. When speaking of a demon that needed to be cast out, Jesus told His disciples: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21). If you are hitting a spiritual brick wall, it may be time to fast.

7. Do a night watch. I am not the kind of guy who typically gets up at 3 a.m. to pray. I like my sleep! But there are moments in our lives when the Lord may woo you to spend time with Him in the night hours. In Song of Solomon, the bride hears her Beloved calling her to get out of bed (5:2-6) and she doesn’t respond quickly enough. Many of us are too distracted by the busyness of life to hear God call us to a season of prayer. Yet the Lord is looking for people who will carry His burdens. Will you let Him pray through you?

8. Expect God to fill in the gaps. I used to fight discouragement about my prayer life because I didn’t feel my prayers were powerful enough. But then I read Ephesians 3:20 in a new light. It says God is able “to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). That means after I pray, God adds His own miraculous ingredient. My prayers may seem feeble and flawed, but He is able to amplify them.

Like the tiny lunch of five loaves and two fish, Jesus can take something insignificant and feed a multitude. When you pray, expect Him to increase the impact. What you whisper in your closet can shake the world.

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4 Ways to Hear God’s Voice Clearly

When I was in my 20s I was praying about whether I should enroll in graduate school. Then one morning in my devotional time I came to Psalm 32:8 and it seemed to be flashing like a neon sign. It said: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go.”

The Holy Spirit was emphasizing to me that God would teach me and that I didn’t need additional schooling. That’s not to say graduate school is wrong for everyone else; it was just not God’s plan for me at that time. And God used a Scripture to clearly show me what path I should take.

The Bible promises that God will guide us. But many Christians find it difficult to hear God’s voice. And in some charismatic churches we complicate things when we try to make guidance mystical or weird—as if you have to hear an audible voice from heaven about what color shirt to wear.

Years ago I learned from author Henry Blackaby that there are four distinct ways we receive divine guidance:

1. You can hear God’s voice by reading the Bible. Friends have sometimes complained to me: “I just never hear God speaking.” Yet when I ask if they read the Bible regularly, they say they’re too busy.

God supernaturally inspired 40 authors over a period of 1,600 years to compile His love letter to us. After the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, many people were martyred because they translated it in a modern language. God went to a lot of trouble to compile the Bible. Yet today Bibles are collecting dust in the homes of people who are too busy to read God’s most direct message to Planet Earth!

When you read Scripture with a prayerful heart, God can cause a verse to jump off the page as a direct message to you. British preacher Charles Spurgeon recognized this years ago when he wrote: “When I have been in trouble, I have read the Bible until a text has seemed to stand out of the Book, and salute me, saying, ‘I was written specially for you.'” Expect God to speak directly to you from Scripture.

2. You can hear God’s voice through the supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an eerie presence that just hangs around. He lives in every born-again Christian, and He comforts us and actively speaks to us. He can do this in many ways: through dreams, visions, warnings, a sense of conviction, or—most often—through what we know as the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) of the Spirit.

I have had prophetic dreams and visions over the years, but the most common way the Spirit speaks to me is through a deep sense of inward knowing. I will never forget a time in 1985 when God spoke to me while I was driving my car in Florida. A message came to me, not audibly but in my spirit: “You will move to Washington, D.C.” It seemed to come out of the blue, and I knew it did not originate with me. Four years later I was offered a job in the Washington, D.C., area and I worked there for three years.

The ability to hear the Spirit’s voice is developed over years as we grow in Christ. If you really want to hear Him, you should ask God to fill you with His Spirit. As you allow more of the Spirit’s presence and power in your life, you will set aside your selfish agendas and sinful habits so God can communicate without any hindrance.

3. You can hear God’s voice through people. God never intended for us to live in isolation. We are members of His body, the church, and you will hear God better when you are in fellowship with His people. God can speak to you through a pastor’s sermon, a friend’s wise counsel, a mother’s rebuke, a mentor’s phone call or a prophetic word given to you by one of God’s Spirit-filled servants.

God uses the gift of prophecy, but you should never chase after prophecies. I know Christians who will travel across the country to attend a prophetic conference to get a word from God, yet they have not read the Bible in months or sat still long enough to hear from God on their own. Never treat the holy gift of prophecy like fortune telling. When God needs to speak to you in an unusual way, He has faithful messengers who will deliver it to you at the exact time you need it.

4. You can hear God’s voice through circumstances. Not everything that happens to you is God’s will. But God is sovereign, and He has power over nature, over government leaders and over all the details of your life. He opens doors that no man can shut. If you have been praying about getting a job at one company, and suddenly you get an offer at a different company, this may be God’s sign that He has a better place for you to work.

My oldest daughter wanted to attend a college in Tennessee, and we were praying about her decision. Right after we prayed I got a call from the president of a college in Georgia. He was inviting me to speak at the school, but in our conversation I learned that this school was willing to offer my daughter a scholarship. She ended up enrolling in that school, meeting her future husband there and graduating four years later. God was totally involved in that phone call from Georgia!

As you begin this New Year, ask God to tune your ears to His voice in a fresh way. Guidance is not complicated when you sincerely want to hear Him speak.

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The Most Dangerous Prayer in the Bible

More than 19 years ago, I found myself at a church altar in Orlando, Florida. God had been dealing with me about leaving my comfort zone. I had a great job with nice benefits, yet I felt spiritually unfulfilled. I knew there was an amazing adventure in front of me, but I had placed serious limitations on my obedience.

As I buried my head in the carpet in that church, I realized God was requiring unconditional surrender. He wanted me to wave a white flag. I knew what I had to say, but it was difficult to form the words. Finally, I coughed them up. I said the same thing the prophet Isaiah prayed long ago: “Here I am, send me!” (Is. 6:8b).

This is what I call a dangerous prayer. It should include a warning label!

I believe when you utter these simple words, heaven takes a Polaroid picture of you with your hands up—and an amazing process begins. God closes in on us in order to crush our fears and demolish our selfishness. Then He gives us the holy boldness to speak what we were afraid to say.

When I prayed this prayer in 1998, I immediately had a vision while I was still on the floor. I saw a sea of African faces. I knew I’d be going to Africa, and I was scared to death. I had no idea how I would get there, what I would say or who would pay for the trip. So I swallowed hard and prayed again: Here I am, send me!

Less than two years later, I found myself standing on a huge stage in a sports arena in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, speaking to 7,000 pastors. I did not enjoy the bumpy flight across the Sahara, and my knees were knocking when I preached. I felt as if I had been pushed way out on a limb.

But even though I was terrified, my fear was mixed with incredible joy. The Lord had overcome my resistance, and He was using me. Since that trip, I have ministered in more than 30 countries. This week, I have been in Malaysia and Singapore, all because I prayed a dangerous prayer.

Grace is so amazing. God not only gives us the power to serve Him; He plants in us the desire to surrender to His will even if we are scared of the consequences. This is what the apostle Paul described when he said: “For God is the One working in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

God has an uncanny way of wooing us into obedience and submission. Our flesh may protest; our fears may paralyze us. But in the end, if we will simply lift our hands in surrender, grace takes over. He gives us power, strength and a willing heart. And the results are supernatural because it is God at work in us.

Jesus taught His disciples to cultivate this willing spirit and to pray this dangerous prayer. He told them: “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).

This is what I call a trick prayer. You pray it at your own risk. When we ask the Lord to send workers into His fields, we are really praying, “Here I am, Lord. Send Mike—or Chuck—or Barbara.” But the Lord of the harvest will likely tap you on the shoulder and say, “Well? What about you?”

The church has advanced throughout history because of people who surrendered to God. One of them was the brave David Brainerd (1718-1747), a missionary to American Indians during the First Great Awakening. Although he died of tuberculosis at age 29, his legacy of total consecration lives on in his journal, published by his friend Jonathan Edwards.

Brainerd recorded this very dangerous prayer in his diary: “Here am I, send me; send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth; send me even to death itself, if it be but in Thy service, and to promote Thy kingdom.”

We rarely hear prayers like that today. Brainerd’s passion would be considered politically incorrect fanaticism today. We don’t promote self-sacrifice; we have a new gospel of self-fulfillment. We don’t talk about carrying a burden for lost people; we ourselves are lost in our comfortable materialism.

I wonder what would happen if all of us prayed Isaiah’s prayer with full sincerity. What if you raised your hands and left all your fears, worries, excuses, stipulations, limitations and conditions on heaven’s altar—and invited God to use your life in any way He wants.

I invite you to take the risk. Pray a dangerous prayer, and see how God will use you.

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Don’t Run If God Has Called You to Speak

This past Sunday I stood in a pulpit, looked out over a congregation of mostly strangers, cleared the lump in my throat and preached a message that the Lord had laid on my heart from the Bible.

Thousands of men and women speak publicly like this every week. It’s what preachers do. No big deal. But even though I speak often, I’ve found that preaching the gospel is one of the most frightening assignments anyone could attempt. I feel as if I die a thousand deaths right before I do it, and I die several more times after I go home and evaluate what happened.

After one discouraging experience in which an audience stared coldly at me with their arms folded, I determined that preaching surely must not be my calling. I shared my struggle with an older pastor.

“Sometimes I feel discouraged after I speak,” I said. “Does that ever happen to you?” I was sure he would counsel me to stop preaching.

His answer shocked me. “Son, I feel that way every Monday morning,” he said.

When I tell friends that I stubbornly resisted the call of God to preach because of my lack of confidence, they act surprised. They don’t know how much anguish I went through. They think most people who stand in pulpits want to be there. They can’t believe that I wrestled with God for months when I felt He was calling me to speak.

We assume God chooses certain people to preach because of their oratory skills. But true preaching is not a natural exercise—it is one of the most supernatural tasks anyone can ever be called to do. It requires an imperfect human vessel to yield himself or herself to speak the very words of God.

If we do this in the flesh, the results are miserable; if we wholly trust the power of the Holy Spirit, prophetic preaching unleashes supernatural anointing.

Most preachers in the Bible were reluctant. Moses made excuses about his stuttering, Gideon tried to disqualify himself because of his family background, and Jeremiah complained about the responsibility of carrying a prophetic burden. Jonah bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the Mediterranean Sea so he wouldn’t have to give his unpopular sermon!

And the apostle Paul, who was a silver-tongued Pharisee before he met Christ, was stripped of his eloquence before he preached throughout the Roman Empire. He told the Corinthians: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:3-5).

If Paul trembled when he spoke, I have no right to complain when I feel butterflies in my stomach for the thousandth time.

Charismatic revivalist Arthur Katz wrote about the power of true preaching in his 1999 book Apostolic Foundations: “The only one qualified to preach … is the one who wants to run the other way, like Jonah. … The man who sighs and groans when called upon to speak, who does not want to be there, who feels terribly uncomfortable … is the man out of whose mouth the word of true preaching is most likely to come.”

That is certainly not the way most of us view pulpit ministry in contemporary America. We celebrate the smooth and the polished. We measure the impact of a sermon not by whether hearts are slain by conviction but by how high the people jump when the preacher tells them what they want to hear.

That kind of carnal preaching may win the accolades of men, boost TV ratings, get lots of hits on social media and even build megachurches. But the kingdom is not built on hipster style or smug self-confidence. We need God’s honest words, sent straight from the authentic heart of a broken vessel. The church will live in spiritual famine until reluctant, weak and trembling preachers allow His holy fire to come out of their mouths.

If you have a message from God, stop running. If you are wrestling with God like Jacob did, quit resisting, and let your Maker break your pride; He wants you to walk with a limp the rest of your life so you can lean on Him rather than on your own ability. Die to your fears, doubts and excuses, and drink the cup of suffering that accompanies the genuine call of God.

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