The idea that Christians pray is often a mandate which is taken for granted. We assume that it is the Christian thing to do and that all Christians pray. Prayer is, after all, what makes a Christian. It is the fundamental root of Christianity. The one action that keeps us living and breathing Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote that we are to “pray without ceasing” regardless of our circumstances. Yet, if only all Christians prayed! If only all Christians fervently poured out their hearts on a regular basis how different our nations and our world would be! Indeed we would see miracles happening! We would truly see blessings taken place in our daily lives.
Prayer is something that I have often struggled with in my own life. There have definitely been seasons of my life when I have been so on fire for Christ that I have prayed for hours and lived out my life as if it were an aroma to God. Yet, there have been even more times in my life when I have wrestled with knowing what to say to God. There are times in my personal life when I am really struggling and when God seems distant and talking to Him seems so much harder than talking to a friend who I have met and gotten to know in person over the past few years. To be honest, I have often been envious of Moses who was able to talk to God face-to-face in the way a man talks to his best friend!
Martin Luther once noted that, “It is the business of tailors to mend clothes and cobblers to fix shoes, and it is the BUSINESS OF CHRISTIANS TO PRAY.” Christians are to be about their Father’s business, always! It’s our vocation and our missional calling!
We know that prayer is important because it is perhaps THE most fundamental teaching in all of Scriptures. I know of few other topics which have as much teaching devoted to them than prayer and which have been modeled by Christ, Himself, as much as prayer. Works of justice, righteousness, and compassion are important to the Christian faith and Christians are called to engage in them – but they are secondary to prayer. Without prayer these works will cease. Without pray these works are not sustainable! That’s because, as Mike Bickle (founder and leader of the International House of Prayer movement in Kansas City, MO) states, “prayer and mission are inseparable and both need the prophetic ministry added on to them.”
WHY PRAY?Oftentimes when you meet a very mature Christian, someone who has been through the most difficult things in their own lives, but who still has an unshakeable faith the answer for why they are able to keep carrying on even amidst adversity lies in the fact that they pray! That they talk to God about whatever’s going on in their life and that He answers even if it is in unexpected ways. They trust Him to be faithful even when they are not.
Their prayer life has rooted them so deeply in Christ’s love and care for them that their hearts have a completely rock solid foundation. Even when the highest storm waves crash over the sea or the mightiest tempests blow, they are still standing firm. They are immoveable. They can sign with gusto the words to the song which says, “What though my joys and comforts die? The Lord my Saviour liveth! What though the darkness gather round? Songs in the night He giveth! No storm can shake my inmost calm while to the Rock I’m clinging. Since Christ is Lord of Heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?”
In the book of James we read the following, “Now the prayer offered in faith will make a sick person well. The Lord will raise him up and he will be healed. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Confess your sins then to each other and PRAY for each other so that you may be HEALED. The PRAYER of a righteous man is POWERFUL and EFFECTIVE.”
Have you ever seen mountains move? Have you ever seen the earth turn over and surrender to God? It’s because faithful people pray! It’s the prayers of the elderly grandmothers for their grandchildren that impact the world. It’s the prayers of the drunkard crying out in the dead of night that awakens God’s attention! It’s in the sinner’s cry, the beating of the chest that God hears – it’s NOT in the pious, overly zealous prayer that is full of empty words but no heart!
When we pray for our brothers and sisters, God promises to heal them of their afflictions. He promises to bring them comfort and relief. He promises forgiveness and complete absolution of any sins. But James doesn’t just end with that. He says that not only are we to pray silently in our rooms, but that we should also have prayer meetings where we gather with other believers and are mutually encouraged by the things that Christ is teaching them! How often I have been in a prayer meeting hearing another brother or sister pray something that the Lord has laid on their heart and in that instance known that that word was meant for me and that God was giving me the same encouragement that He had taught them! If you are righteous and if you’re living a life that follows after Christ’s heart than it doesn’t matter how long you have been saved, it doesn’t matter how much seminary education you have, and it doesn’t matter if you are able to sing or preach, your prayers are still effective. Your prayers are still heard by God and He takes notice of them!
A CALLING TO A LIFE OF PRAYER: Throughout my life, I have relegated prayer to the sidelines. I made it a point to pray before meals and before bed… often my “amen” being muttered in the morning when I had gotten up realizing that I trailed off before I even finished. As I got older and started to be more involved with non-Christian peers that soon ended up resulting in me not even thinking of praying before meals. Sometimes I went entire weeks without lifting my heart and voice to Christ! In the back of my mind, Christ was always there, but He was more like the One I called on when I needed something. I didn’t spend nearly as much time praising and worshiping Him as He deserved.
However, over the last few years Christ has started tugging on my heartstrings again and reclaiming His rightful place as center of my life. He has reminded me of my need for Him and how to a believer prayer is the food and water of the soul. He has reminded me that in order to grow into full Christian maturity I need to spend time in His Word discovering who He is.
With Christ, prayer is a 24/7 lifestyle, it’s not simply a once in a while type deal. It’s not good enough just to pray at breakfast. It takes effort, but we really need to carve out dedicated time for Him. Once we start intentionally making time for prayer and making time for Christ in our lives, then there is no possible way that we will stop being able to share our testimonies. No possible way that we will stop being able to share all that we have seen and heard! When we pray we will begin to see the hearts of families and of nations turned to Christ. Until we pray, though, we can utter with our lips that we want to see revival, but it won’t take place. It won’t take place because God sees our hearts and He knows that we are all talk and no action. That we don’t want it enough to spend even one hour with Him in order to help join Him in His reconciling mission of the church on this earth!
HOW IHOP CHANGED MY PRAYER LIFE: A large part of my IHOP experience was simply being able to spend unhindered time with Christ alone where He came and ministered to my soul. He delivered me out of my brokenness and set my feet on high places so that I could worship Him. During this time with Christ alone He continued to repeat over and over to my soul, “come with Me to the quiet place and allow Me to minister to you.” I believe that this is the same message that Christ echoes to each person – young and old, across all different nationalities and ethnicities, across all socioeconomic levels. It is a message of what true greatness really is. It is a reminder that all ministries need to be consumed with an attitude of prayer and completely covered with adoration to Christ!
We are often reminded in the Bible that worshiping and prayer never stops. In Revelation we read that, “day and night they did not cease worshiping the Lamb.” They kept saying over and over, “blessing, and honour, glory, and power be unto the Ancient of Days!” The Apostle Paul reminds us to be “steadfast in prayer and abundant in love.” Note here how prayer comes before love. That’s because it’s impossible for us to love without first experiencing the ultimate and true love of Christ! There are many non-Christian married couples who are deeply committed to one another, there are many non-Christian parents who truly do love their children, but they only love the best they know how to. They don’t know true love because they have never experienced what that feels like. I don’t doubt the fact that they are compassionate to their children and spouses, but the Bible tells us plainly that WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US! If you want to know true love, if you want your love for your significant other, spouse, or child to grow, you need Christ to minister to you! You need to come with Him to the quiet place so that He can love you and fill you with a love so great that you never knew it was possible to love someone to that extent before!
MY PRAYER LIFE WAS SHIFTED AT IHOP
In the first sermon that I heard Mike Bickle preach he told us, “Worship is an agreement of who Christ is. Intercession is an agreement of what Christ said He would do.” In order to have a vibrant prayer life – one that makes God take notice and one which will draw us into deeper Spiritual maturity with Christ, we need both of these elements. They are completely inseparable.
At IHOP we listened and sang music, but it was NOT a concert. I’ve been to many concerts before. I have many favourite secular as well as Christian artists. Oftentimes these concerts (primarily secular) are little more than mosh pits with the occasional overpriced beer or whisky. Yet at IHOP as we sang, we were lead into deeper worship and communion with Christ. Sometimes I sang, other times I sat there silently, there were a few times that I wept. Still other times I prayed and interceded so hard and felt assurance from Christ that He was going to bring healing to the people I was praying for. He confirmed many things to me during my time with Him. I promise you that if you spend that time with Christ, He will do the same for you! If you make an effort for Him, He will make time for you! He’s never too busy to hear the requests of His children!
RECEIVING PERSONAL ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRAY THROUGH MY TEAM
When I went to IHOP I traveled with a group of just under 50 young adults (ages 18-30). I got into a 12 passenger van with them and we drove all the way down to Kansas City, Missouri (which is a little over 15 hours from where I live). I didn’t know anyone before I left. I actually had a lot of anxiety. I am an extrovert and do really enjoy getting to meet other young adults, especially if they are Christian and I perceive that we might be able to have much in common and might be able to network. But when I left my hometown I had been through a very difficult past four months and was feeling pretty broken and the idea of having people I never even met before minister to me sounded pretty daunting.
I’m glad I didn’t let that hold me back! These young adults might have been primarily younger than me, but they had a certain spiritual maturity that really inspired me. This maturity led them to give up a shopping trip in St. Louis just so that we could spend additional hours in prayer at IHOP and continue to intercede and see the Spirit move and work! To be honest, I don’t know many other 18 year olds who would have taken our leader up on that offer!
Really, it’s crazy how I spent all day every day for 6 days, literally over 10 hours in worship and then came back to the hotel and continued praying and discerning the Lord’s voice. Even prophesying. Up until last week when I went to IHOP, this was the kind of stuff I had only heard about in books or from missionaries. I thought the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was confined to Africa and Asia. I never realized He was so present here in affluent and busy North America! I’ve never experienced worshiping this long before. When I was a student at Tyndale there were some intense times when I was caught up in the Spirit and worshiped for 3 hours…once even almost all night. But never all day AND all night! I’ve adopted this posture of prayer. At IHOP there were days when it was 1:30am and I just couldn’t stop praising Him. Some days I would get 5 or 6 hours of sleep because I was so caught up in the Spirit and in worship, and I would be fully recharged the next day, and usually I’m the type of person who needs 8 hours or I’m sunk.
I used to marvel that Africans went to church for hours, now I know it IS possible and it’s what I want. I feel like I could do this all day every day and never get bored of it. This must be just a glimpse of what heaven will be like when all nations praise God with the angels day and night before the Throne unceasingly!
CONCLUSION:Sometimes people think that I’ve gone IHOP crazy. That I’m all about edifying IHOP, but that’s not the case at all! IHOP was just one instrument that God used to encourage and strengthen me in my walk with Him. He could have used any other means and I would have been equally as grateful, but God spoke to me and got a hold of my heart through this conference. Any thanksgiving I have goes straight to God. I give IHOP props for being faithful to the calling God has laid on their heart and how they have ministered to thousands and pray that God will bless them richly both in heaven and on earth for it. But in the end of the day – it’s God I worship, NOT IHOP.
I want to encourage you to read my next several blogs about how the Spirit moved during my time at IHOPKC and all that He taught me while I was there. My next blog will be written on the topic of intercession primarily on how God called me and equipped me to pray during the Night Watch – one of the most intense and Spiritually demanding assignments He has ever given me, but a ministry for which I am glad to be a part. I hope you will join me in reading that blog and that the Lord may also call some of my faithful readers to join me in this vision of proclaiming the Kingdom of Christ until He comes again.
 From a sermon Mike Bickle preached at IHOPKC’s ONETHING 2013 Conference
 My Life Flows On (Text and Music By: Robert Lowry, 1869)