When Lightning Strikes



Lightening is powerful. It cannot be predicted, but can be anticipated. Lightning is a meteorological phenomenon that essentially (really over simplified summary coming) is a result of the conditions above meeting appropriate, coordinating conditions below (equal electric charges of opposite polarity). When that happens, the result is a powerful flash of lightning. Other than the heat, light and energy released – lighting also oxidizes nitrogen in the air into nitrates which are deposited by rain and can fertilize plant growth. So lightning, a result of coordinating conditions above and below, is powerful AND contributes to conditions for growth. Interesting.

Revival is similar to lightning. Revival is a result of coordinating, conducive conditions above and beneath. But there is a significant, encouraging, and I believe challenging difference. To an almost total extent, the conditions “above” are always right. By that I mean that God is never not in the mood for powerful expressions, manifestations of His Spirit’s person and work that lead to greater conditions for growth. The contingency is with the conditions below.

Heaven is poised and longs to influence earth. From the beginning of the Gospel the message has been that the Kingdom is here – and to respond correctly by repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). And the concurrent imperative has been to pray for and proclaim the interests and influence of heaven on earth (Matt. 6:10, 16:19, 18:18). God has already declared and demonstrated His intent and activity: “in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” (Acts 2:17ff). Heaven is open and committed. The Spirit has been paid for and poured out (John 14:16-18).

The conditions below must change. Jesus implied as much with the statement, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The implication being that the variable is not on the side of heaven, but earth. Jesus is looking for faith on earth. The conditions above are looking for coordinating, conducive conditions below.

The Holy Spirit can initiate activity without asking anyone’s permission – He is God. But it must be acknowledged that God has always operated through the faith and obedience of someone. He has rarely “shown up” or “moved in” without partnering with a person. In the most influential revivals of history – and their contemporary counterparts – even when it has seemed or been said that “this is a sovereign move of God” – the truth is closer to a divine partnership between heaven and earth.: somewhere, someone prayed and obeyed. Every time. The reformation. The great awakenings. Azusa. Brownsville. Topeka. Lakeland. Toronto. Redding. Every strike of lightning has resulted from coordinating, conducive conditions.

The excitement, enthusiasm and hunger that result from initial “strikes” usually foster even greater conditions for more. Testimony increased faith and hunger and expectation. Expectation creates enthusiasm. Enthusiasm generates more interest and more crowds with more of all the above. Since the days of Jesus, people have moved in mass to where the lighting of heaven is striking.

Often the question is asked as to why certain “moves of God” lift or cease. I do not believe that Heaven lost interest. I sincerely believe that earth loses hunger, anticipation, expectation… that real, humble, yielded faith wanes… and the conditions below are no longer conducive the conditions above. Lightning cannot be faked or forced. The conditions below must change.

I recognize that heaven responds to the prayers and petitions of the church. In some measure, though God’s preference never eases or ebbs, His apparent willingness to act is directly affected by the actions of His church. The idea of “waiting on the Lord” is not so much waiting for God to stir Himself from slumber, or to pay attention. Waiting on the Lord has much greater impact on me – it readies me for what God is already ready for.  I also recognize there appears to matters of timing and design from heaven. He does know the plans He has for us (they are good). But sovereignty is His arena, not mine. I am responsible for what I know, and I know that for the most part, I am not waiting on God as much He is waiting on me. If He’s looking for faith, I want Him to find it in me.

This brings me to why I am both encouraged and challenged.

I am encouraged because I know that Heaven is more ready than I am for revival. I don’t put very much stock into predictions about “what God is about to do” as if He’s been holding back and waiting for the right calendar year to line up metaphorically with an ancient timeline.  Nor do I believe He overly concerned with current events or politicians. Not in a way that would make more or less persuaded to be manifestly present in power and life. No one thing, not a person or event or the passing of time or the appearance of the moon can leverage Heaven’s interests on earth more than the shed blood of Jesus and His glorious ascension. Jesus has been exalted and has poured out the Spirit (Acts 2:32-33). Nothing greater than this can ever occur. No greater reason could ever exist for the manifest presence of the Outpoured Spirit. I do posit that the Spirit perceives when someone has started affecting the conditions below, and will let folks know that He’s “found a spot.” As such, I think the Holy Spirit forecasts manifestations of His work – not based on His own whim, but because the Son of Man has found faith on the earth.

Therefore, revival is always a possibility. If Heaven is ready now – then any delay or diminishing is not on Heaven’s side but ours. If the Son of Man is looking for faith, I want to be found with it. I want to be the conducive, coordinating “spot” below where lightning of God may strike again and again. And, by faith, I can hear the peals of thunder in the distance even now.

Waiting and the Promise of the Father


man in praise

On one occasion, after His resurrection and during the season prior to His ascension, Jesus was meeting with His disciples and He gave them this command, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). I would like to lean into the brief imperative in verse four, where Jesus says, “Wait for the gift promised by my Father.”

This phrase told them three things: what was coming, where it was coming from, and what they should do.

What was coming was the Gift, the Promise, the Holy Spirit of whom Jesus had told them (some of which “telling” we have record particularly in John’s Gospel, chapters 14-16, but I posit that after His resurrection Jesus spoke more of the Promised Spirit).

He, The Spirit, was coming as a gift from The Father. Wow. Just really: wow. The Holy Spirit is The Promised Gift from our Heavenly Father. He’s not just A gift, He’s The Gift. He’s not a bonus, an extra, an option, an ancillary or an elective. He’s the very “thing” (it pains me to use impersonal nouns in reference to the Spirit – I use them metaphorically only) – the very thing that Heaven yearns to give. He is the final expression of the vibrant, brilliant love of God to us: the Promised Holy Spirit. This gift is what Jesus paid for, prayed for and triumphantly poured out (Acts 2:33).

And they were to wait. Wait. Not beg, and not earn, but wait. The word wait is a compound word that stretched-out could be understood as “to abide concerning,” or “to wait with purpose.” They weren’t just biding time or punching a clock; they were focusing their attention, their affection, as well as their time on anticipating the arrival of the Promise. Of course we know from hindsight that their waiting was necessary until the fulfillment of prophetic timeline. There is no indication, however, that the disciples had idea when the promise was coming. They just kept waiting. A day went by, and two, and three.  They continued to meet together in anticipation for ten days.

I sincerely believe that this period of waiting had far more effect on them than on heaven. They weren’t asking (that we know of) for the Holy Spirit to be poured out. Jesus had already told them He’d prayed for that already. Jesus in no way exhorted them to pray for the promise – rather He gave them assurance the Promise was coming. So their waiting would, I think, have affected them. It would have crystallized the significance and import of this Promise. I think, even, that their waiting would have cultivated a hunger, desire, and appreciation for this Promise.

If they did this – waited in expectation, waited in submission, waited in worship, waited in prioritization… only knowing a promise and a portion of what was to come – what of us? We know what happened. We know Who came. We know what effect He had. We know that those in that room were never, ever the same after His coming. Further, we know that the church was never the same, nor was the world. Everything thing changed when the Comforter came. We know the testimony of fulfillment; we know the explosion of power.

And we, you and I, have the same promise. If they waited, why not us, and how much more us? No, we are not waiting for Him to come – for He already has. Our waiting does not bring Him – but neither did theirs. Their waiting affected them, and so will ours.

How might we posture ourselves toward the promise of the Spirit? Even and ESPECIALLY those who have drunk from His fountain? Even and especially those who have been warmed by His fire? Even and especially those who have felt the blessed bliss of His presence? Even and especially those who have seen and heard of His magnificent power? Might we also wait? Might we also set aside distraction? Might we also submit? Might we also wait in reverent wonder and gratitude? Might we also wait?

For we do not wait like those waiting for something that is not. We wait like those who stand before the magnitude of something that is. We wait like those basking under the radiance of the noon-day sun. We wait like those who with open mouths stand beneath the spring rains. We wait like those who linger over the extravagant fragrance of the finest rose. We wait like those who lay quietly near the serenading sounds of ocean tides. We do not wait in the valley of lack, but in the sea of abundance.

We do not wait with worry. We do not wait without assurance. We do not wait in hopes that time will pass quickly.

We wait with wonder. We wait with boldness. We wait in hopes that time will NOT pass quickly – so that nothing might pull us away from the pristine awareness of His blessed outpouring.

Our waiting is not confined to a room, or a building, or a city.

Our waiting is practiced wherever our hearts and minds are willing. Our waiting is shared, multiplied, intensified when we wait together.

And so – we wait. We wait upon Him; we wait for more of His power and influence. We wait in submission and surrender and in wonder and in worship. We wait.


Leaders Pray for Those in Their Care

prayer hands


Of all I have read about how to be a super-ninja-hip Christian leader, one of the fewest emphases I’ve seen is this: Leaders are intercessors. Or, at least they should be.

1 Samuel 7:8, “And the people of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.’”

The people of Israel urged Samuel not to cease to make intercession for them that the Lord would intervene, saving them from their oppressors / attackers.

I fully understand that we do not live under the same dynamic as Israel, that the nature of the Kingdom is less hierarchical and that every believer is a priest. In Christ, each of us can and should come to the Lord in prayer on our own, for our own concerns, and have gratitude and confidence that our prayers matter to heaven.

However, there remains a leadership principle here.

Samuel was their leader. They trusted him; he served them. And what they asked of him was to pray for them. Specifically – to “not cease to cry out to the Lord for them.” Regardless of the differences between contemporary settings and the religious system of ancient Israel, this remains true: part of our calling and responsibility as Christian leaders is to pray for those we have the responsibility to serve. They need us to; we need us to.

The examples are blazon. Jesus, our Lord, Savior, High Priest and King interceded for His followers, and for those that would follow them. He prayed so much and so often in secret that we don’t know what and how He prayed. But what is recorded for us in John 17 is sufficient to know that He interceded for us before the cross. And Hebrews 7:25 affirms that Jesus is still interceding for us – in whatever mystical manner that implies.

Paul interceded much for his churches. Each letter from him contains includes the contents of just some of his prayers. A casual reading of his letters leaves no question that the Apostle understood it was his apostolic responsibility to “not cease” crying out the Lord for those he led.

Furthermore, with Samuel, Jesus and Paul – those for whom they prayed were aware that their leaders were praying for them, and (at least somewhat) aware of what their leaders were praying for them. The same should be true for those we serve. They should know we are praying for them and even what we are praying.

Consider how important this is and what effect it has.

First, there is the effect that prayer has – period. Prayer matters. It makes a difference. Heaven partners with praying leaders. Samuel’s prayers mattered – they helped secure the Hand of the Lord to save Israel from the Philistines. Jesus’ prayers matter (nuff said). Paul’s prayers mattered – and have for 2000 years. Our prayers matter. No, not necessarily more than the prayers of those we serve. But they DO MATTER. Our prayer – our intercession – over the lives of those entrusted to our leadership is sacred currency to heaven. Our prayers matter over our children, our friends, our staff, our students, our teams, our churches and our organizations. The first and greatest responsibility for any and every Christian leader is pray over and for everything and everyone under their responsibility.

Further, there is the effect that knowing they’re being prayed for has on people. How do you suppose the readers of the epistles felt when they read Paul’s prayers for them? How were they encouraged? How was their faith informed? What did knowing the content and passion of Paul’s prayers for them do to help them feel the love and commitment Paul had toward them? People really appreciate knowing that their leaders are praying for them (obviously this is truer in organizations where there is a shared, corporate faith. In secular contexts, it may not be plausible or even proper for people to know leaders are praying for them. But we should pray none-the-less). Sometimes I have observed that the more specifically people know what we are praying for them, the greater the impact it has on them. They appreciate it more deeply and more encouraged. People want and need to know we’re praying for them.

Finally, there is the effect that praying for those we lead has on us. When leaders intercede for those in their care, they tend to care more. Praying for those we lead keeps the heart of the leader connected to the perspective and passion of heaven. It protects our perspective from the influences of carnality, competition, and conflict. Praying for those I lead keeps Heaven’s purposes for them in my heart and on my mind. And Heaven’s purpose must be my singular goal. I cannot lead well anyone for whom I have not prayed well.

Therefore, leaders of whomever and whatever you lead – do not cease to cry out to the Lord for whatever and whomever is in your care. It matters.

Thanks for reading (and for leading, and for praying)

How to Change the World



In Daniel chapter 9, Daniel partners with a prophecy decades old in order to see a nation reborn. In the first year of Darius the Mede, Daniel reads Jeremiah’s prophecy that Jerusalem must lie desolate for 70 years (v. 2). Measuring the timeline, Daniel understands that the time for restoration is coming. He does not read the prophecy and repose passively waiting for its outcome, but turns to the Lord to intercede for the prophecy’s fulfillment (v. 3).  What follows provides insight into the nature and power of prayer that influences earth: this is how we can change the world.

First it should be reasserted that Daniel’s response to prophecy was to participate, not merely observe. There may be times when our only form of participation is to sit back and behold what God does. But more often than not, prophecy is an invitation to participate in God’s redemptive and gracious activity on the earth and in our lives. So deeply did Daniel feel responsible to partner with God’s purposes, that he prayed – it seems – as if the fulfillment of God’s plans depended on his prayer (v. 3). That, I believe, is prayer that changes the world.

Daniel turned to the Lord and pleaded with Him in prayer and fasting. Daniel even donned rough burlap clothing and sprinkled himself with ashes. Both of these behaviors are iconic expressions of Semitic mourning. Daniel deeply, very deeply longed for the restoration of his people to their homeland, and grieved over the sin that brought about their exile. Why did Daniel engage in such drastic, even painful behavior as he prayed? Would abstaining from food and causing severe discomfort on his skin really get God’s attention? Does such activity change God’s mind or modify His mood? I don’t think so. Not at all.

I believe that what we observe in Daniel’s prayer here is the kind of praying that seeks to change earth. Prophecy already revealed the will and plan of God. Prayer, now, partners with that will to effect it on earth. This kind of prayer involves focusing our will, our attention, and our commitment. This is prophetic prayer – prayer that knows the will of heaven and calls for that will to prevail on earth. Fasting, then, is more about focus, about summoning the utmost of our energy and focus upon an obstacle or opportunity before us: where heaven can and should and must prevail on earth. I want to be clear here: I do not believe fasting makes God do anything. I don’t believe that fasting (or wearing burlap or ashes) bears in itself anything meritorious. Fasting affects me, not God. Prayer affects Heaven and earth. Daniel’s fast was about focus. He was fixed on changing earth.

God is already focused. Especially on this side of cross. God has already acted, already spoken, already had mercy, already released immeasurable and incomprehensible grace. God needs no arm-twisting from me, and certainly isn’t affected by my missing a few cheeseburgers. In fact, no self-flagellating will ever eclipse the pristine perfection of Christ’s suffering on my behalf. Christ has paid every price, met every condition; He alone is the Advocate, the Intercessor, the Mediator between God and man. His work is perfect! It cannot be augmented, improved upon, or added to in any way. It is finished.

So why fast? Well, if we feel led to, we should fast only for our own benefit; only to bring a sense of focus to our prayer. Fasting does not make prayer more powerful. It might, however, help us feel the significance of our prayer’s longing. Fasting is a refocus of our appetites, isolating our affections upon a single outcome. As such, it should be done sparingly, and never with the false hope that we’re gaining special favor with God as a result. You might say, “Hey Dav, Jesus fasted for 40 days!” Yup, he did. But friends, Jesus fasted AFTER He saw heaven open, heard the voice of God, and the Spirit descended upon Him. It seems to me that Jesus was spiritually overwhelmed by that experience and literally took 40 days alone to respond to it. And further, those days may have been days of powerful fellowship with the Father and focus on the ministry ahead. Jesus didn’t fast to get anointed. He fasted because He was anointed. Further, you might say, “Hey Dav! The disciples at Antioch worshipped the Lord and fasted!” (Acts 13) Yup. They sure did. They were worshipping the Lord and fasting – totally focused on Him, on His presence – to the point where they let go of time, schedule, even regular meals. That kind of worship is a work of the Holy Spirit’s calling and prevailing presence. He causes that response from us; we don’t cause or conjure Him by fasting. But here, as with Daniel’s prayer, we see that this kind of focus in prayer partners with the will of God to bring about His purposes on earth. In Antioch they prayed and birthed the missionary journeys of Paul – which in every measurable way has influenced the earth. They changed the world by prayer.

We see in the narrative in Daniel 9 and 10 that somehow prayer affects the outcome of history. Daniel prayed, confessed the sins of his people, and called for God’s redemptive plan to come forth. He “went on” doing it (v. 20). As he continued, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and said that from the moment Daniel started praying a command was given (v. 23). Heaven immediately responded to Daniel’s intercession. Daniel’s prayer set things in motion for Heaven to prevail on earth.

There are realities that I do not fully understand (few really do – regardless of how many paper-backs they peddle). There are spiritual forces, authorities and rulers against which we contend for the advancement of The Kingdom. Daniel later heard this fact from another angel who told him that “since the first day you began to pray… your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked by way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia…” (vv. 12-13). This is not just an OT apocalyptic reference, because The Apostle Paul matter-of-factly says that we contend against, “the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

What I do understand is that Daniel’s prayer actually helped effect the outcome and destiny of nations. What I do understand is that we can and should pray with focus and determination to see what we know to be Heaven’s will  prevail upon earth. Where we read promise or prophecy in scripture, let us respond as if it were a direct invitation to partner with God in prayer. We know God hates suffering. We know God loves justice. We know God is willing that none should perish. We know God loves children. We know God loves peace. We know that God wants everyone to know the Love, Grace, and Power of the name of Jesus. We know God is grieved by evil, by malice, by oppression. We know the church is God’s plan for this planet. We know enough to pray well, to pray with focus and determination and resolute confidence. We can, in fact, change the world. We can pray.

Going Rogue

prayer hands

The story of Daniel and the lions’ den is not unfamiliar. As wonderful and promising it is that the Lord protected and honored Daniel even in the midst of ferocious animals, I am intrigued by the back story, the reason Danny found himself in the company of carnivorous kitties. He went rogue.

King Darius appointed Daniel (with two other administrators) to supervise the 120 overseers of the kingdom. Daniel soon “proved himself more capable than all the other administrators”, and because of his “great ability, the king made plans to place [Daniel] over the entire empire” (Daniel 6:1-3). Jealousy filled the other administrators, who sought to accuse Daniel to the king. However, in addition to being highly capable, Daniel was “faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy.” So, as the story goes, the bad guys decided that the only way to get Daniel in trouble was to somehow make his faith a problem to the king (6:4-5). They convinced the king to make it temporarily illegal to pray unless it was to the king (6:6-9).

This is the part that grabs me. Keep in mind the depiction of Daniel’s leadership – how much he was responsible for and how well he fulfilled those responsibilities. He was the leader of leaders. He was on the cover of leadership magazines. He had a dozen best-selling works on “leadership that transcends empires.” But it was his prayer life that got him in trouble. His comrades made it illegal for him to pray. I have to ask – I wonder how many contemporary leaders would be much affected by such a prohibition? Could they, could I, just continue with my current calendar agenda and comply with the law against praying? Would anything change much?

For Daniel there was no option. He went rogue in prayer. He prayed three times a day just as he had always done (v. 10). And that’s what got him busted. But God honored him and all worked out well – “the end.” Okay, now let’s take another look at Daniel’s prayer life.

Daniel prayed three times a day, giving thanks to God. That’s the first descriptive phrase attached to Daniel’s prayers. His prayer life is first characterized by giving thanks. When he was caught grateful-handed, the narrator says Daniel was praying and “asking for God’s help.” So we’re told three things: Daniel set aside three periods of time a day to pray. His prayers were characterized by thanksgiving. When he prayed, he asked for God’s help.

I love this! First, notice that Daniel was NOT praying in order to appease an angry god, nor to keep his god in a good mood so that things would go well for Daniel. [I chose not to capitalize the former references to divinity as they did not accurately represent one.] Daniel prayed in order to give thanks and ask for help. How sublimely simple! How similar to Paul’s admonition: with thanksgiving, pray about everything (Phil. 4:6).

Did God prosper Daniel in response to and because of his prayers? Did Daniel “pray enough” for God to notice and respond? I don’t think so. Rather, it seems to me that Daniel created a climate in his own heart and mind that tapped into the free flow of wisdom and grace from heaven by regularly practicing genuine gratitude and humbly asking for help. Consider how giving thanks and asking for help would have developed deep awareness of God’s abiding presence, and a calm confidence in God’s ready hand to help Daniel face whatever opportunity or obstacle.

I have responsibilities: to serve, to lead, to advise, to solve, even to “perform.” We all do. We all bear the responsibility to lead and serve in various arenas. Daniel’s example should inspire and instruct us. We would do well to set aside time, regularly, to give thanks to God and ask for His help. I don’t mean the panic-prayers in response to the latest crisis. I mean, like Daniel, the proactive prayer life that gives thanks and asks for help as a normal part (or several parts) of our day.

I deeply believe that we can create a climate of confidence, calm, and a deep awareness of God ready-to-help presence, and it is no harder than giving thanks and asking for His help. And here’s a bonus – it’s quite unlikely we’ll be fed to the lions for doing it.

If this or any post on this site encourages you, please feel free to share with others. And, as always, thanks for reading.






How the Spirit Helps Us Pray




help wanted

In Romans 8:26-27, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray. How does He help us, and what does His help mean for us?

The Spirit’s Help

When Paul says that the Spirit helps us, he uses an eight syllable Greek word that means “to lay hold of with, to help in obtaining.” The Holy Spirit personally partners with us prayer; his hand reaches and grasps alongside my own – providing guidance and grace.

The Spirit helps us to pray in at least two ways: directly via assisted or inspired expression – as the text seems to more heavily indicate, and indirectly via the influence of His presence – as the text at least allows us to consider. Both, I think, are important and should be incorporated into our understanding and practice of Spirit-aided prayer.

But first, let Paul remind us of why we need help…

Why We Need Help

The Spirit helps us in our weakness, which Paul explains to mean that we have a limited knowledge of how to pray or what to pray. We pray from limited perspective, finite knowledge, and regardless of our best intentions, often a personal bias. We pray from reality as we see it; The Spirit prays from reality as He sees it. Therefore we need His help. I do not believe that Paul here intends in any way to encourage introspection and fear regarding our ability to pray, but much rather to inspire us to pray with confident, robust trust in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit intercedes through us in accord with the will of God. The Spirit who knows our hearts perfectly also knows with precision the will of God. And He weaves our longings and God’s will together in harmony.

How He Helps

The Spirit (directly) helps us to pray by interceding for us with groanings too deep for words. What does Paul have in mind here? The word he uses for “groans” just means “sighs,” or literally groans that cannot find articulation. This spirit-aided expression can certainly include glossolalia, if not by design than by default (even if not intended by the text, tongues certainly gives us opportunity to express our deepest longings with the empowered guidance of the Holy Spirit). The only other time this phrase (groans) is used in the NT is when Stephen is describing the deep longing of the Israelites (Acts 7:34) to be freed from captivity. These “groanings,” then, can include anything that expresses great longing: a sigh, a word, a string of words that may or may not make sense… The point is not to emphasize the expression itself, but the activity, the unction, the help of the Holy Spirit behind and with it. The Spirit is active in connecting with and interceding on behalf of our greatest longings. Spiritual prayer (spirit-aided prayer) engages our deepest self; it is not merely a cognitive function.

The Spirit also helps (indirectly) by bringing his influence to bear upon our prayers. By this I mean that we (should) pray with a deliberate awareness of His presence. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:18 that we should “pray in the Spirit an all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Wayne Grudem tells us that “in the Spirit” means “dwelling consciously in the presence of the Holy Spirit Himself, a presence characterized by Godlike qualities of power, love, joy, truth, holiness, righteousness and peace. To pray in the Spirit, then, is to pray with conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us.” A conscious awareness of His surrounding presence invites His influence to prevail upon our thoughts and affections. This “helps” us to pray by heating our hearts and minds with Holy affection and insight. Awareness leads to influence.

What His Help Means for Us

First, everyone can and should pray in/by the Spirit. Yes, everyone. There is absolutely no mention in the text here of a learning curve or difficulty. There is no hint of difficulty implied. Nothing in this hope-filled text suggests that one needs to practice to get this right. It is not reserved for the super-spiritual or exceptionally mature. In fact, friends, we only become spiritual BY THE SPIRIT. The Holy Spirit’s help in prayer is the birth-right of every believer. If you’re response is “I don’t know how,” it is probably because you’ve assumed (or been told) that you have to know how. Nope. You don’t have to know how this works. I know there are some who claim to know and offer some formula or another, but just between us – they’re making that up. This works by believing it’s true. Believe, deeply, that the Holy Spirit is helping you to pray, and pray. Practice an awareness of his saturating, surrounding presence, and pray. Trust the Holy Spirit.

Second, every believer can have confidence in their prayers.  You are not praying alone. He’s praying with you. Trust the Holy Spirit. Also, and please re-read this part, your prayers are not being evaluated for accuracy. Go ahead, read that part again. Heaven isn’t measuring the content, syntax, or even the doctrine of your words. Heaven hears the Holy Spirit’s intercession from your heart. God knows what you mean. So, you don’t have to speak well, just release the longings of your heart. Trust the Holy Spirit.

Third, we should always trust the Holy Spirit (you might have caught on to this by now). He is our prayer partner; our senior partner. Truly, we don’t really pray – in a New Testament sense – apart from His active presence and influence. Trust the Holy Spirit. He’s here to help.

What Difference Does Prayer Make?


What difference does prayer make? Scripture testifies that prayer touches and influences three places. Prayer affects heaven and earth and us.

Prayer affects heaven:

Heaven acts because we ask. By that I do not mean to suggest that prayer changes God’s mind or modifies His mood. Rather we ask because The Father has ordained prayer to be the means by which He acts. He has chosen to respond to prayer. We ask because we can – because Christ has opened the way, drawn us near, and has become the “yes” to every promise of God (Heb. 4:16, 2 Cor. 1:20).

Prayer affects earth:

We pray so that heaven’s realities will prevail upon the circumstances on earth. In prayer I partner with God, in Christ’s name, calling for His Kingdom to prevail on earth as it is in heaven. In prayer we contend against evil, injustice, oppression, lack, suffering and all that is contrary to Heaven on Earth (Matthew 6:10).  In prayer we wrestle against rulers and authorities and powers and spiritual forces in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). We do so from Christ’s victory (Eph. 1:20-23), with joy and boldness and gratitude. Jesus has the receipt for the planet. He’s given us the keys (Matt. 16:18-19). We pray accordingly. We keep praying until the purposes of God prevail.

Prayer affects us:

Prayer touches me – influences me. It should anyway. Prayer should affect what and how I feel, my attitudes, my affections, and even my behavior. When I come to my Father and ask Him to bless or heal or help a friend or neighbor, if my heart is in it, then my heart should begin to feel toward that friend like God’s heart does. If I am interceding for my church, my city, or my in-laws, then it follows that I should begin to share in God’s heart toward them as well. In prayer, I should begin to feel how my father feels, and become as committed to the outcome as He is (Matt 9:36-38).

It is in this arena, how prayer affect us, that I offer some further thoughts. I get very weary of hearing people cajole believers to “cry out to God” – as though our volume and intensity will somehow sway God into hearing and responding. Further, I feel uncomfortable hearing people default to praying in beggarly groans. Heaven is not moved by our fervor, but by our faith in Christ.

However, it is possible that “crying out to God” affects me, awakens me, and stirs me. It is also possible, even probable, that Holy Spirit will move deeply upon us in prayer and as we feel what he feels we may weep (or laugh, or dance, or feel angry). I deeply desire His Spirit to fill and form my feelings, attitudes and behaviors.

What is important is that we let, even expect, feelings be a response to the Spirit’s partnership in prayer, and not assume them a prerequisite to effective prayer. James does NOT say that the emotionally worked up prayer is powerful (James 5:16), but the prayer of the righteous is powerful as it is working. It is the righteousness of Christ that makes prayer powerful. Pray with confidence in the full force of the finished work.

Prayer matters. It makes a difference. It affects heaven. It influences earth. It changes us. I bet that if you let yourself believe this, believe it deeply, it might have a significant effect on your prayer life. Your prayer will make a difference.

Believing deeply; praying boldly

man in praise         

  Oh good – another article that lectures me about my prayer life. Wait! Don’t click away just yet. I know you know you’re “supposed” to pray. I also know that regardless of how important prayer is, it is not necessarily popular. I don’t know any honest believer that wouldn’t like to improve their prayer lives. And for some – any improvement would be… an improvement.

How can we improve our prayer lives? Perhaps we should pray “more”? Or more “correctly”? Perhaps better models, methods, routines, times of the day… volume levels, background music? No. Any emphasis on performance or perfection will pollute our prayer life. Our goal is neither condemnation nor complication here.

To change how we behave, we must change what we believe. Therefore, let us endeavor to believe differently about prayer. Let us improve what we believe. Belief isn’t necessarily binary – not either/or and not pass or fail. Belief can be a matter of depth. The more deeply we believe something the more influence it has over our thoughts and affections and actions. Let us believe more deeply that we might pray more boldly.

Three things to believe about prayer

1.)  Believe the Holy Spirit is Present as you pray (fully present, participating, literally partnering)

Paul describes and prescribes an awareness of the Holy Spirit in prayer. In Romans 8:26 he says that the Spirit literally prays with us and for us. In Ephesians 6:18 he urges believes to pray in the Spirit always. This may include spiritual language – but not exclusively. Wayne Grudem tells us that “in the Spirit” means “to pray with conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us.” And even when Paul prayed for people – he was confidently aware of and depending on the work of the Spirit (Eph. 1:17, 3:16)

How would pray if you believed that the Holy Spirit is fully present as you pray?

2.)  Believe you are praying FROM, and not FOR.

Prayer is not my effort to secure a relationship with God. I am not attempting to do enough, say enough, or try hard enough in order to be heard. A great deal of negative things have resulted from people thinking that they need to work themselves up or do “enough” for God to pay attention. It breeds pride. It leads to discouragement. It sets a trap for condemnation if you feel you didn’t do enough or fell short.

Instead we must believe that we are praying FROM favor and not FOR it, from relationship and not for, from acceptance and not for, from nearness and not for.

Jesus taught, in Matthew 6:7-8 that your confidence is not in your efforts or volume or methods – that’s paganism. Your confidence is in Your Father. The Holy Spirit is crying out “Abba Father” within us (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6).

Further, we pray with confidence in the finished work of Christ. The blood of Jesus has brought me near, called me close, and welcomed me to the Throne of God (Eph. 2:13, Hebrews 4:16).

Most specifically, Christ has enjoined us to pray in His name (John 16:24). To do something in someone’s name means to do so as if it were them doing it. When Jesus prayed, he was not struggling for acceptance; he prayed from the love and pleasure of His Father (Luke 3:21). To pray in His name fully implies that I am praying… as Christ. Imagine.

How would you pray if you believed, deeply, that you prayed “from” and not “for”?

3.)  Believe that prayer matters.

Here’s probably the rub – do we really believe that prayer matters? That it can and will make a difference? I suppose we hope it does; especially in moments of our most urgent concerns. But I can’t help but think that too many have lost confidence in the currency of prayer. Too few pray from a joyful hope that it makes a difference. Jesus did. He prayed like it mattered (Luke 6:12). He talked and taught about prayer like it mattered (Luke 11:1-13). Paul certainly prayed like it mattered and urged his readers to feel the same (1 Thess. 5:17).  Prayer does matter. Prayer touches heaven, changes earth, and affects us in the process*. Few things matter, in fact, more than prayer.

How would you pray if you believed that prayer really matters?

To change how we behave, we must change what we believe. Therefore, let us believe more deeply that we pray in the presence and partnership of the Holy Spirit, that we pray from the favor of God and not for it, and that prayer really, really matters. Believing this deeply, we might pray more boldly, more enthusiastically, more joyfully, and yes – even more often.

*See “Why Prayer Matters”

Why I pray in tongues

In the quiet dark of the night, with my family retired to bed, I kneel with face pressed into the throw pillows of our sofa, instrumental music playing quietly behind me. A surreal, almost physical  sensation resonates in my soul. I am praying – but using words that flow without effort or forethought. Strange sounds and syllables spill from my lips. I am praying in tongues. And I love it.
I am aware of the the sometimes controversial subject of tongues. Some folks are anti-all-things-Pentecostal. Others are open to spiritual gifts, but don’t want them emphasized too much, especially tongues, and especially not in public. Whatever. I pray in tongues. I love it. I don’t insist on you sharing my perspective.  I welcome you to consider my testimony. I pray in tongues. Often. I intend to do so more often. Here’s why…
I trust the Holy Spirit. I love Him – and I trust His leadership, His influence, His presiding presence in my life. When I pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit helps me pray – praying through me. Romans 8:26 seems to indicate that the Spirit helps me pray in particular when I don’t know how or what to pray. Frankly, my ability to know what or how to pray is diminuative compared to His. So, I trust him.
Interestingly enough, praying in tongues seems to encourage me to trust Him more. Somehow it focuses or deepens my awareness of His presence, of His help, of just how significant He is and how near He is. I long to lean into Him more.
And then, as I consider my life, my responsibilities, and the opportunites and challenges in front of me, praying in tongues becomes increasingly more appealing. Even as I kneel or pace, I meditate over the concerns before me, believing that the Spirit is more aware than I am, infinitely so, of what can be and what should be. I reflect on people, on tasks, on dreams and desires – painting them on the canvass of my imagination while I pray. I thoroughly believe the Holy Spirit is helping me, interceding for and through me according to the will of God.
Further, as all this occurs, I can sense my affections and thoughts being influenced. How I feel and what I think about people or circumstances or projects is warmed by the rays of His grace and wisdom. The intuitive, sensitive parts of my inner person are awakened. I often have impressions or images flash across my mind. These usually are with regard to how I should  act or what I should  say. He quickens a sacred empathy for others.
Finally, I pray in tongues because I can. Scripture informs me that I am being edified, somehow strengthened, improved, enhanced – whatever – as I pray in tongues. I can’t explain what is happening. I could theorize, but my theories aren’t as important as what I know to be true- that praying in tongues has a direct, positive impact on my person. I am better for it. Not better than the next person, but better than I was before. Not more saved. Not more loved by God. But better. It is impossible to interpret the New Testament otherwise – “he who prays in an unknown tongue edifies himself” (1 Cor. 14:4). So I will – even more.
One more thought – one that intrigues and inspires me. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 14:18 that he was thankful that he spoke in tongues more than all of his letter’s audience. Really? So Paul spoke (prayed) in tongues – a LOT. He did so much, so often, that he boasted confidently that he did so “more” than “all” of the Corinthians. Does that mean more than any one of them, or more than all of them combined? It doesn’t matter which – the point is that Paul was conscious of the volume of time he vested in tongues. And, he was THANKFUL to God for that time and for the impact it had. He knew that tongues was valueable, and he was acutely aware of the positive effects it had on his own life.  Paul does not say enough about his prayer life for us to dissect and diagram. But he says enough to inspire. His testimony serves as an invitation to discover and explore just how beneficial tongues can be.
So, I pray in tongues.I want to do so MORE. I do so not because I worry about what happens if I do not, but because I wonder may happen if I do.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to share
~ Dav