INSIGHTS FOR A FRUITFUL PRAYER LIFE
(By: Norm Rasmussen)
People can become frustrated with prayer simply because they may not understand exactly HOW to pray regarding certain matters, and when God isn't responding to them in the manner in which they are hoping He will ... they assume God doesn't want to respond to their prayer, or evidently it isn't His will. NOT NECESSARILY SO! Understanding how to pray WISELY in each situation is so important to a more vibrant, fruitful, God-glorifying prayer life!
Though there are many excellent teachings on prayer on the Internet, I personally believe this is one of the very best I've found. It was written by Pastor Mitch Horton. Following are his words, with the exception of where I've inserted in brackets a few thoughts of my own:
'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints' (Ephesians 6:18). Williams Translation of this verse reads, 'keep on praying in the Spirit, with every kind of prayer and entreaty, at every opportunity, be ever on the alert with perfect devotion and entreaty for all God's people.'
There are different kinds of prayer for the different needs that we have in life. And there are varying rules that govern the different kinds of prayer that we use. Many times we treat all prayer the same and don't realize that different rules apply according to who we're praying for and what we are praying about. Sometimes our lack of effective praying, or lack of praying that gets results, is due to praying about a certain thing using the wrong rules for that type of prayer.
We could compare the rules of praying with the rules that govern the different sports that are played. It would be silly to play basketball with tennis rules, or football with baseball rules, but that is sometimes what we do in prayer. We sometimes pray about the right thing the wrong way, and then don't get answers, and wonder why God did not hear and respond. And most of the time, it's not God's lack of hearing at all; it's our lack of following the rules needed to get an answer for a given request.
'When praying the prayer of faith, we are to believe the moment that we pray that God has answered our prayer.'
In the next few segments, we will discuss seven different kinds of prayer and the rules that apply to them, and then end with an important segment on praise. We will discuss: 1) The prayer of petition or the prayer of faith; 2 The prayer of supplication; 3) The prayer of intercession; 4) The prayer of consecration; 5) The prayer of agreement; 6) United praying; 7) Praying in the Spirit.
(Precious Testimonies staff note: I believe an additional type or kind of prayer can be added to this list, and that would be the prayer of thanksgiving. Jesus often STARTED His praying to the Father by offering thanksgiving, which I believe encompasses honor, faith and praise. Granted - being thankful is more than just and element of praying. It is an attitude; a mindset ... a very IMPORTANT - WISE mindset! - Norm).
Part 1 - THE PRAYER OF FAITH
In this segment, we will begin discussing the prayer of faith or the prayer of petition. The prayer of faith is a prayer that you primarily pray for yourself when praying about your own personal needs. The prayer of faith is based on Mark 11:24, where Jesus said, 'Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.'
When praying the prayer of faith, we are to believe the moment that we pray that God has answered our prayer. This is a prayer that you pray one time. It is not necessary to pray this kind of prayer for a certain matter more than once. Once you pray the prayer of faith, you begin to speak, act, and plan as though God has answered your prayer. That's the believing that you receive part of this kind of praying. Because there is a period of time between the time that we believe we receive and when the answer is manifested, it is important to stand fast, and, as much as possible, demonstrate that you believe that God has answered the request.
One of the best ways to stand in faith is to praise God each time you think of the thing you have asked for of the Lord. Romans 4: 20 reveals that Abraham was 'strong in faith, giving glory to God,' when he was fully persuaded that God was performing what he asked. That means that Abraham praised God even before he could see the answer to his request. Psalm 106:12 says, 'Then they believed His words; they sang His praise.' Praise is really faith in action! A strong praise life reveals a strong faith life!
I have prayed the prayer of faith hundreds, perhaps thousands of times over the 33 plus year period that I have known the Lord, and have found that He always brings the answer to my personal requests when I stand in faith after I pray!
This prayer is a past tense or present tense prayer. Keep it in the past or present, and never in the future tense. You must believe that God has answered - or is answering - for this kind of prayer to work. To say that you believe that God will answer is to put this kind of praying in the future tense. And the future tense is associated with hope and not faith. It's not hope that receives answers to prayer, it is faith. And faith is always now!
Part 2 - THE PRAYER OF SUPPLICATION
Let's continue discussing the different kinds of prayer for the different needs we have in life. Ephesians 6:18 reads, 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.'
Notice that this verse mentions supplication for all saints. There is a type of prayer called the prayer of supplication. To supplicate means to ask a favor of someone. Usually the prayer of supplication is prayed for someone else. You're asking God on their behalf for their needs to be met. We need the prayer of supplication when praying for others because the prayer of faith (see Part 1) may not work when prayed for another. I can always pray the prayer of faith for myself, but I can't always pray it for others. For the prayer of faith to work for someone else, he or she must agree with what you're praying, or at least remain neutral about the problem you're praying about. If a person is believing that they are going to die, and are talking like they are going to die, and you are praying the prayer of faith that they will live and not die, then their unbelieving words and actions will short-circuit your faith and believing, and will keep the prayer from being answered. The prayer of faith is primarily prayed for you yourself, and the prayer of supplication is primarily prayed for others.
The prayer of supplication is a prayer that is prayed over and over again for others.
The prayer of supplication is a prayer that is prayed over and over again for others. Yes, faith must be exercised, but it's a different application of your faith than the prayer of faith that is prayed only once. Many people get confused with what they read in scripture about prayer because they don't understand the different ways to apply faith when they pray. For instance, Jesus said in Luke 11: 9-10, 'So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.' The verbs ask, seek, and knock in this scripture are in the imperative present tense, which means there is a continuation of the present action. So these verses could be correctly translated 'ask, and keep on asking, and it will be given you; seek, and keep on seeking and you will find; knock, and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives, and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds, and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking ' it will be opened.'
I've had people ask me why Jesus said in the above verses to ask and keep on asking, etc., and then told us to 'believe that you receive, and you will have' in Mark 11:24. The reason He said seemingly two different things is because there is a difference in the way you manifest your faith when praying for yourself and when praying for others. The 'ask and keep on asking' in Luke 11 is what you do when praying the prayer of supplication for someone else and their needs.
It is often necessary to pray over and over again a similar prayer when praying for others. And there are two main reasons we need to supplicate for others by 'going over the same ground' so to speak in prayer. First of all when praying for another person, we many times have to deal with an obstinate, stubborn will. And when praying the prayer of supplication we are allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction that will remain at the 'door' of a person's will until they make the decision to yield to God. Supplication keeps pressure on the will to bend to God's will. Understand that God will not violate or force a person's will. He will woo and deal with a person and allow them to make a decision themselves. And the prayer of supplication allows conviction to stand at the 'door' of the will until a person yields.
A person's deliverance and victory in some area of life may hinge on your obedience to God in praying the prayer of supplication for them regularly.
The second reason we need to pray the prayer of supplication over and over again for others is because through this type of prayer, we can stop the hindrances of Satan in a person's life. Ephesians 6 tells us that we don't wrestle against human beings only, but against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenlies. And as we pray the prayer of supplication for another we can command the forces of Satan to stop hindering a person from receiving from the Lord. Jesus has given us the ability to 'bind' and 'loose' in prayer (see Matthew 18:18). Satan and his emissaries blind the minds of those who do not believe (2 Corinthians 4:4). We have the authority as we pray in the name of Jesus to bind these satanic forces and command them to stop their harassment of an individual. And we often must do this on a regular basis for those we are praying for to come to the Lord and to obey Him in various areas of life. The forces of darkness often work unceasingly in seeking to hinder a person's life. Because of this, we must be persistent in prayer!
Many times through the years I have prayed this prayer of supplication over and over for a person, reminded the Lord of what I have asked, thanked Him for hearing and answering; and also reminded Satan and his demonic cronies that they are bound from hindering this person. I have seen amazing answers to prayer for others as I have persisted in supplication for them.
The Lord wants to use you to pray the prayer of supplication for others. I want to encourage you to begin to pray for others and expect God to answer. Be persistent. Remind the Lord and your enemy that you are standing your ground in prayer and in faith for the person you're praying for to be delivered. As you persist in prayer, you'll be amazed at how the Lord is able to work in another's life. That person's deliverance and victory in some area of life may hinge on your obedience to God in praying the prayer of supplication for them regularly.
In Part 1 and 2, we discussed the prayer of supplication, and I mentioned that the prayer of supplication is usually prayed for someone else. We also found that the prayer of supplication is a prayer that is prayed over and over again for an individual, whereas the prayer of faith is a prayer prayed primarily for yourself, and is only necessary to be prayed once. I also mentioned that the prayer of supplication affects two areas: the human will and the forces of the enemy that seek to hinder a person. And because of the stubborn will of man, and the tenacity of the enemy's attack, you may find it necessary to pray this prayer over and over again, and to remind the Lord of what you are believing that He is doing in the person's life. It's a little different style of releasing your faith than is the prayer of faith, but faith must be exercised for the prayer of supplication to work.
'When we get 'in the spirit' in prayer, it is possible for the Holy Spirit to take the lead and to direct us as to what and how to pray for a person or a situation.'
In Luke 18, Jesus illustrates the need for persistence in prayer with the parable of the persistent widow. We read in verses 1-8, 'Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. (2) Saying, 'There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. (3) Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.'(4) And he would not for a while; but afterwards he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, (5) Yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'' (6) Then the Lord said, 'Hear what the unjust judge said.(7) And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? (8) I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.'
The unjust judge in this parable is Satan, for he neither fears God nor regards man. And because the widow applied continual pressure, the unjust judge carried out her request. And this is exactly what happens when in the prayer of supplication we keep continual spiritual pressure exerted against the forces of the enemy that are hindering a person, and we keep that same spiritual pressure exerted to challenge their will to bend to God's will.
In Isaiah 43:26, we are encouraged by the Lord to 'Let us plead together.' Here God is inviting us to plead our case before Him, and this clearly illustrates the prayer of supplication.
We also find an excellent example of the prayer of supplication in Abraham's prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-33. He just kept going over the same ground in prayer, 'pleading together' with the Lord on behalf of these two cities. There is another element of the prayer of supplication that I want to mention here, and that is supplication in the spirit. Notice that we just read in Ephesians 6:18, 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.'
While the Apostle John was on the Isle of Patmos, he related in Revelation 1:10 that he 'was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.' What he meant was that on that particular day he became more aware of spiritual things than of his natural surroundings. And during that time, the Holy Spirit showed Him some things.
We can likewise get 'in the spirit' by praying for a period of time with other tongues. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:14(Amplified), 'For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit by the Holy Spirit with me prays, but my mind is unproductive, bears no fruit and helps nobody.' When we take time to pray in other tongues, we are not praying with our minds, but with our spirits. Praying in tongues will enable us to become more sensitive to spiritual realities, and to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. And when we get 'in the spirit' in prayer, it is possible for the Holy Spirit to take the lead and to direct us as to what and how to pray for a person or a situation.
'This type of praying is a great benefit to us, and will cause us to deepen our level of intimacy and closeness with the Lord.'
Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 14:13, 'Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.' It is possible to interpret what we are praying in other tongues when we get 'in the spirit,' that is, when we pray long enough to become more conscious of spiritual things than natural things.
This type of praying is a great benefit to us and will cause us to deepen our level of intimacy and closeness with the Lord. It will also cause us to become more effective in prayer.
Back in the early 1980's, Kenneth Hagin exposed me to 'being in the spirit' in prayer in seminars that I attended that were taught by him when I lived in Tulsa. I was so moved by these experiences that I determined that I needed to pursue this in my personal times of prayer.
My greatest challenge was disciplining my flesh to allow me to pray for an extended time. Back then, I would take some time on my day off from work and spend several hours, 3 hours or more, just simply praying in the spirit, in other tongues. It was a difficult thing to stick with, because there were no feelings of excitement or ecstasy while praying in this manner. The only feeling I got was of being really tired and thirsty from so much praying!
But I continued, and eventually I had the experience that I did in the prayer meetings with brother Hagin, and that perhaps John had there on the Isle of Patmos. I became aware of the Holy Spirit within me! As I prayed with other tongues, it would seem as though I knew what I was saying at times in other tongues. Words would seem to float up from within me, from my spirit, to my mind, and I would find myself saying them out loud.
As I continued to pray this way, I found that the Holy Spirit would help me pray about a matter or person by taking the lead! I would feel an inspiration to pray about a certain thing a certain way, and the words would seem to float up from within me. This is supplication in the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit taking the lead in your praying about matters. It is a wonderful experience with the Lord, and this type of prayer is available to all of us!
I still pray this way at times, and it now takes me about 30 to 40 minutes to get 'in the spirit' when I'm praying. As I continue, I'm sure the length of time it takes will lessen.
I want to encourage you to pay the price for this kind of supplication in the spirit. God is looking for those who are willing to take time out of their busy lives to pray and to be involved in His business in people's lives. This will not be easy, and the enemy and the flesh will fight your spiritual advances in prayer.
There is so much work to be done for the kingdom of God before Jesus returns. And the prayer of supplication is so necessary to be prayed for God's kingdom to advance and His will to come to pass in people's lives. Invest your time in the kingdom of God in prayer. Allow Him to take the lead as you pour your heart out to Him on behalf of others. The prayer of supplication is a powerful tool in the hand of a yielded child of God. Yield and pray with supplication in the spirit today! Someone's eternal future may rest on your obedience!
Part 3 - THE PRAYER OF INTERCESSION
'Praying with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints' (Ephesians 6:18).
In this segment, I want to discuss the prayer of intercession.
To intercede is to take another's place. We never intercede for ourselves! This is a prayer for others only! When we intercede, we literally take another's place in prayer. This is only done by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can't make yourself intercede for someone. Last month, we discussed the prayer of supplication, which is also a prayer primarily prayed for others. And sometimes, when you're praying for someone else, you may start out praying the prayer of supplication, and end up in intercession.
Intercession is what Jesus is doing for us right now as He sits at the right hand of the Father. He 'ever lives to make intercession for us.' (Hebrews 7:25). He has literally taken our place in sin so that we can be free! Hebrews tells us that we have a high priest that was 'touched with the feelings of our infirmities.'(Hebrews 4:15). He feels our need, has taken our place, and stands in the gap to represent us before the Father.
The Holy Spirit helps us to 'make intercession for the saints according to the will of God' (Romans 8:27). And we must depend on Him to help us intercede.
There are two basic kinds of intercession. One kind is for the unsaved to come to salvation, and the other is for the new believer.
Isaiah 66:8 mentions Zion (a term used in reference to the church, see Hebrews 12:22) travailing to bring forth children. This is an Old Testament reference to a New Testament, Holy Spirit inspired, prayer experience the believer has for the unsaved.
When the Holy Spirit moves you to pray in intercession for someone, you often feel the way the person feels on the inside. If they are lost, oppressed, or fearful, etc., then you would actually have that sense of lostness, oppression, fear, etc., in your spirit when you are praying.
Many times, I as a pastor, have that sense of heaviness upon me before I preach. I have learned that when I sense this, the Holy Spirit is seeking to have me intercede for the people attending the service I will be conducting. God alone knows their true needs, and He places a sense of their burden upon my spirit so that I will pray.
Lives hang in the balance waiting on your willingness to be used of God in this way.
In reading from the memoirs of Charles Finney, we find that a man by the name of Father Nash would accompany Finney as he traveled from city to city in the northeastern United States. He would arrive a few days before Finney, check into a hotel, and groan and travail in prayer for the upcoming meetings. Sounds of guttural groaning and travail, much like a woman in the throes of childbirth, could be heard coming from the room. Hotel attendants would voice their concern to Charles Finney when he arrived for the meetings, and would tell him of the unusual sounds heard coming from Father Nash's room. Finney would tell them that Nash was praying and all was well. And there would be a great move of the Holy Spirit in the conviction of the lost in the meetings. Many would be born again.
"There is no new birth until there is spiritual travail for the lost. This is true intercession, and we need to bring it back into the church today!"
There is also intercession for new believers. Paul mentions this in Galatians 4:19: 'My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.' The word formed here means to take what is on the inside and let it be manifest on the outside! God wants the change that the new birth brings to our spirits to affect our daily lifestyle. And intercession and travail are necessary to help a new believer grow up in Christ and change habits and lifestyle.
I remember how God used me to minister to a Bible school friend years ago. We had both graduated from the same Bible school several years earlier, and I had seen him while shopping with my wife. He had fallen away from the Lord, and as we talked, he was flippant in attitude towards spiritual things. It grieved me inwardly to see my friend in such a condition. A few days later, I was in my place of prayer early one morning, and while praying I began to think of my friend. I began to pray for him and was shocked by what occurred. As I prayed for him, I was suddenly overcome by a sense of desperation and a sense of being severed from fellowship with the Lord. At the same time, I could sense how God felt about my friend turning his back on his faith. It was a feeling of hurt mixed with a yearning and longing for my friend to return to the Lord. I found myself literally groaning and travailing out loud, wailing and crying profusely for my wayward friend. I prayed that way for maybe ten to fifteen minutes, and then the travail and burden of prayer lifted, and I sensed a peace come over me about his condition.
Some time later, I received a call from him, and he told me that he had moved to another city, had come back to the Lord, and was faithfully attending a local church. I knew when he told me, that God had used me to help him get back into fellowship. This was intercession for my friend, who was a fairly new believer. Intercession brings results.
I want to encourage you to develop your prayer life, and to tell the Holy Spirit that you are available to be used in intercession for others as He wills it. If you are sincere, on occasion, the Holy Spirit may use you to make intercession! Lives hang in the balance waiting on your willingness to be used of God in this way. Open yourself up to be used in intercession today!
Part 4 - THE PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
'Use every kind of prayer and entreaty, and at every opportunity, pray in the spirit.' (Ephesians 6:18).
We're continuing to discuss the different kinds of prayer in this writing. As mentioned in previous segments, there are different kinds of praying for different kinds of issues we face in life. And there are rules to follow when praying, much like the different rules that are followed when playing the different kinds of sports. The Lord delights in one taking time to fellowship with Him, and He longs to answer our prayers. And although prayer is an intimate fellowshipping with the Lord, to be effective and to receive answers, we must also learn to follow the guidelines of the scriptures concerning our prayer life.
In the past segments, we have discussed the prayer of faith, the prayer of supplication, and the prayer of intercession. In this lesson, I want to discuss the prayer of consecration.
Jesus prayed the prayer of consecration in the garden of Gethsemane just before He went to the cross. In that prayer, He prayed for the will of God to be done in His life (See: Matthew 26: 36-46). He was consecrating Himself to do the will of God, regardless of His personal feelings or desires. If Jesus needed to consecrate Himself to do the will of God, how much more do we need to consecrate ourselves!
'We all want God's best both for our families and our own lives. But we only qualify for the best that God has when we choose to obey His will for our lives.'
When we pray the prayer of consecration, we are committing our whole being to do the will of God. And in this kind of prayer, the phrase 'if it be Thy will' is a good thing! The prayer of consecration causes us to flow into the purposes of God for our lives. It brings us into harmony with God's highest call for our lives. Instead of asking God to bless our plans, we are choosing to find out what His best is for our lives and are committing to follow Him fully.
We receive the best that God has for us only when we choose to pursue and obey His will and purpose for life. Isaiah 1:19 reads: 'If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.' Many problems can arise in life when we do not choose to fully pursue and obey God's will in life.
I came to a personal crossroads in my life when I was 18 years old concerning the path that my life was to follow. At the time, I had opportunities for lifelong careers in two different fields of endeavor. Those avenues of life looked favorable to me at the time, and it seemed as though following them would bring me the desired financial security and success I needed to raise a family. But as I prayed and sought God about His plans for my life, I began to see that He wanted me to take a different path, and that He had called me into the ministry of the gospel. Had I chosen my will instead of His will for my life, I would not be able to 'eat the good of the land,' that is, I would not be able to claim God's highest and best for my life now. We must be willing to yield to God's will for us if we want to have the best He has for all of life.
As a boy walking in the forest on a Sunday afternoon, I would come upon what looked like a clear-cut path through the trees. As I followed it, I would sometimes be disappointed by finding that the path ended at a boggy swamp. Sometimes what we think is best for us in life may find its eventual end in a life of hardship and unending tests and difficulties. I have had the experience of praying with people who chose the wrong path in life, and it seemed that a favorable answer was not to be given. It was as though I had prayed up against a brick wall, and I didn't know why. Later I would find that decisions were made by the individual that opposed God highest and best for them. And those decisions hindered them from receiving God's best for their lives.
God's instructions to the Israelites still stand as His instructions for us today:
'See I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess, I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live'' (Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19).
A number of years ago, when I was pastoring a church in South Carolina, I received a call late one evening from the wife of one of my church members. He had been rushed to a hospital emergency room and was gravely ill. When I arrived at the hospital, he was unconscious, and his wife asked me to pray for him. As I leaned over and laid hands on him to pray for healing, I had the most difficult time saying the word heal.
'Make yourself willing to perform any change or make any adjustment in any area of life.'
I felt an inward impression not to pray that way. I seemed to be restrained from praying for the man's healing, and I had never had that happen to me before. I repeated my efforts to pray for him several times, and each time I sensed a restraint from the Lord about praying for healing. I looked up at his wife, who had noticed my hesitation. And she asked me if I could talk to her privately.
We went into a chapel in the hospital, and she began to share with me what had happened to her husband. He had smoked all his life, and his friends had regularly encouraged him not to smoke; yet he continued. She told me that two weeks earlier his doctor had advised him to quit smoking immediately if he valued his relationship with his wife and family. The doctor had told him that if he did not quit, he would die. And his wife told me that was the reason I could not pray for him to be healed. He had refused to listen ... to the Lord, to his doctor, and to his friends!
Later that night with tears I watched as his family gathered around his bed and he breathed his last breath and entered into eternity. He really was a good man and exhibited wonderful fruit as a believer, but he refused to heed God's voice in this one area of life, and it cost him his life. I'm sure He's with the Lord today, but his life with his family was cut short due to his disobedience.
We all want God's best both for our families and our own lives. But we only qualify for the best that God has when we choose to obey his will for our lives.
I encourage you to pray the prayer of consecration on a regular basis. This is not a one-time prayer. It must be prayed over and over again throughout your life. Be willing to do whatever God says to you. Make yourself willing to perform any change or make any adjustment in any area of life. His will is that we all 'eat the good of the land!' But God's highest and best is only available to those who are willing to pursue Him and obey all that He is saying to them. The greater your obedience, the greater the blessing.
"Not my will, but thy will be done," coupled with a life of obedience, is a recipe for God's best being fulfilled in your life.
Part 5 - THE PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
In this segment, I feel to examine the prayer of consecration in a more personal context.
One major goal we should have as believers is to become like Jesus in our personal character and conduct. ''As He is, so are we in this world' (1 John 4:17). 'He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked' (1 John 2:6).
The older we get in the Lord, the more we should act, think, speak, and behave like Jesus. The apostle Paul admonished, 'Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ' (1 Corinthians 11:1), and we are encouraged in Ephesians 5:1 to ''be imitators of God as dear children.'
Paul gave us all an excellent ambition for our spiritual lives when he stated, 'I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 3:14).
The personal prayer of consecration helps us begin this journey to become like the Son! The prayer of personal consecration is a prayer that opens our lives to be examined by the standard of God's Word. It raises the bar of conduct and allows the Lord the opportunity to help us grow and change into His image and likeness in how we live life.
Our best witness is not just our words, but our lifestyle that shows others what we really believe! Remember that Jesus said, 'Let your light so shine among men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven' (Matthew 5:16). And the prayer of personal consecration will set us on the road toward personal change that will glorify God!
This personal prayer of consecration is found in Psalm 139:23-24, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.' It is stated another way by David in Psalm 19:14, 'Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.'
With this prayer, we give God permission to speak to us, and to deal with us and show areas that need His loving hand of guidance and change. Remember that God is a perfect gentleman, and He will not force Himself or His purposes on us. He respects the human will He gave us and will not push Himself on us.
He encouraged His old covenant people to make the right choices so that He could bless them in Deuteronomy 30:19, 'I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live.'
The same idea of God urging us to make the right choices for His highest blessing is found in the New Testament under the new covenant in James 4:8, 'Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.'
'One major goal we should have as believers is to become like Jesus in our personal character and conduct.'
God works in us only when we give Him the permission to do so. He gives us life, and we become the stewards of the time, abilities and talents He gives us.
In all four gospels, Jesus mentions our need to submit ourselves willingly to Him, so that He can fully reveal His character in us. In Matthew 16: 24 He says, ''If anyone desires to come after Me, let Him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.' He states again in Luke 14:27, 'And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.' And in John 12:24-25, He again mentions, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.'
And He mentions our need to willingly yield to Him once again in Mark 8:34 (Phillips Translation), 'If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all rights to himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.'
Taking up our cross, denying ourselves, and following Him are Jesus' ways of stating to us that we must willingly choose His ways over ours. A cross is a place where flesh dies -- a place where our will and the will of God meet. Our personal cross is a place of decision to allow Him to change an area of our lives that we have always lived a certain way, that may be against His highest and best for us. In taking up our cross, we are allowing Him to 'meddle in our affairs.'
A.S. Ways translation of Romans 12:1 goes well with this thought of personal consecration, 'I appeal to you then, by all the compassions of God, O my brothers ' bring your lives and set them by the altar, as a sacrifice, a living one, a hallowed one, acceptable to God.'
Our journey of personal holiness to the Lord begins when we choose to pray this prayer of consecration and allow the Lord to prod us toward change. There are so many areas of life that we just can't see clearly without His help and guidance. Psalm 90:8 in the Amplified Bible reads, 'Our iniquities, our secret heart and its sins which we would so like to conceal even from ourselves, You have set in the revealing light of Your countenance.'
Many years ago, during a time of personal discontentment with myself, I began to pray this prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 over and over again. Initially, not much happened. I could not see that God was doing anything differently in me, or that He was showing me anything new about myself. But it was not long until I began to see things about my life that I had never seen before.
God began to show me areas of my life where self-centeredness ruled, where I would not allow Him to speak, and where my 'old man' had left a residue that still ruled an area of life.
The Lord began to speak to me about my perfectionistic ways and how they affected my family and those close to me. He showed me that perfectionism is rooted in self, and that the more I put others first, the more I must be willing to yield to their wishes instead of my own. This had a direct effect on my marriage and on how I began to relate to my children. It began to change how I related to those I worked with on a daily basis.
'Our journey of personal holiness to the Lord begins when we choose to pray this prayer of consecration and allow the Lord to prod us toward change.'
He began to speak to me about my tendencies toward being a 'workaholic,' in that I just could not take a break without feeling worthless. My value of myself was not rooted in Christ; it was rooted in my accomplishments! And as I continued to ask the Lord to show me where I needed to change, He continued to reveal areas of my life that I had never opened up to Him. He continues to reveal Himself to me as I pray this wonderful prayer. The closer I get to Him, the more I see how unlike Him I am. Looking back over the years, I am so different than I was, but still so far from what He wants to be in me. But I see the changes He has made, and that's exciting.
I want to encourage you to begin to pray this prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 for yourself on a regular basis. Begin the process of allowing God to mold your life as a potter molds clay. Years from now, you'll look back and you'll see what He has done in you, and others will be affected as your light shines brighter! I want to leave you with this quote from Romans 12:1 (Amplified):
'I appeal to you therefore brethren, and beg of you in view of all the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies, presenting all your members and faculties, as a living sacrifice, holy, devoted, consecrated, and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable, rational, intelligent service and spiritual worship.'
So, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.'
Part 6, 7 & 8 -- THE PRAYER OF AGREEMENT - UNITED PRAYING - PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
We are encouraged to 'rejoice evermore,' to 'pray without ceasing' (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17), and to 'be constantly in prayer' (see Romans 12:11, Amplified). God's plan is that we walk continually in His presence and fellowship. Prayer is more than constantly petitioning the Lord. Prayer is an unending communion with God, and should be a delight! Praise is actually the highest type of prayer! You've heard the question, 'How's your love life?' I want to present you with the question, 'How's your praise life?' Few take advantage of the power that is available to the average believer. There is tremendous power released in praise!
Psalm 22:3, New King James Version reads, 'But you are Holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.' The King James Version reads, 'But thou art Holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.' The word enthroned or inhabitest (Hebrew, Yashab) means 'to sit down, to dwell, to remain,' and gives the idea of God's presence and power manifesting wherever He is praised from the heart by His people.
This same Hebrew word translated enthroned or inhabitest is also translated 'dwell' or 'dwells' in Psalm 80:1 and Psalm 99:1. 'Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!' 'The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved!'
'The power of the kingdom of God becomes available when we make a choice to praise God in the midst of the circumstances of our lives.'
These verses note that God 'dwells between the cherubim,' and are a reference to the presence of God that manifested in the Old Testament in the Holy of Holies over the Ark of the Covenant. You can see this clearly in Exodus 25:22, where God was giving Moses instructions concerning the construction of the Ark of the Covenant: 'And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I give you in commandment to the children of Israel.'
The Ark of the Covenant was basically a box made of wood covered in solid gold. It had a lid that was also made of gold, the mercy seat, and on the lid were two cherubim on each end facing each other with outstretched wings. There between those outstretched wings is where the presence of God would manifest during the Old Covenant. Notice 1 Samuel 4:4, 'So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim''
When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple, which separated the Holy of Holies (where the Ark of the Covenant was kept) from the rest of the temple, was torn in two from top to bottom (See Matthew 27:51). This veil was about twenty feet high and four inches thick, and was made of cloth. God evidently tore that cloth curtain Himself, signifying that His presence would no longer dwell in a place made by men's hands!
Now WE [Born again believers in Christ Jesus] have become the TEMPLE of God, and He dwells in us! 'Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?' (see 1 Corinthians 3:16) The word temple in this verse is the Greek word naos used to describe the Holy of Holies. You and I are now the Holy of Holies where God's presence abides! You may not always feel it, but God's presence never leaves you!
In Psalm 22:3, God reveals that His power and person, His glory, would manifest when His people praise Him! The power of the kingdom of God becomes available when we make a choice to praise God in the midst of the circumstances of our lives. God's presence is full of all that He is. Everything we need from Him is available instantly in the atmosphere of praise! The word for praise in Psalm 22:3 is the Hebrew word Tehillah, which is defined as, 'the singing of halal.' Halal is the word from which hallelujah is derived. And halal means 'to rave, to show, to boast, to be clamorously foolish, to celebrate.' Tehillah is actually singing spontaneous songs from our hearts to God as we adore Him! In Ephesians 5:19, we are encouraged to speak to ourselves 'in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.' This is the New Testament way to express Tehillah or these spontaneous, exuberant songs! When we do this, God says that He will enthrone Himself in our singing, and His power will manifest!
We see an example of this in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 at the dedication of Solomon's temple. When the musicians and singers began to worship, the glory of God filled the temple, and they 'fell under the power' of God! He overwhelmed the atmosphere of the room when they began to praise.
'God has the deliverance you need from the fear, the financial crisis, the illness, the relational problem, the impossible circumstance that looms large before you. Begin now to offer to your God the sacrifice of praise.'
In 2 Chronicles 20, the inhabitants of Judah were surrounded by the enemy. King Jehoshaphat did not know what to do. The odds were against the people of God, and it looked as though they would be slaughtered. Jehoshaphat called for a fast, and the people of God began to pray. God spoke through a prophet and told them that He would fight the battle for them. They were not to follow normal procedure for this fight, however. God instructed them to put the praise team, the choir, on the front line of the battle instead of their best soldiers. They began to sing their Tehillah praise to the Lord, 'Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.' And their enemies were defeated before them as God sent 'ambushes' (probably angels) against the enemy, and they were defeated! The only thing that Judah did was to praise God, and He did the rest!
In Acts 16, we see Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned after casting an evil spirit out of a young girl who made her masters rich by telling fortunes. Deep in a dark, musky, rat-infested dungeon, with their backs bleeding and their feet and hands bound in iron stocks, Paul and Silas began to sing Tehillah praise to God. Their singing was so loud that the other prisoners heard them. And the supernatural glory of God filled the prison as God enthroned Himself and inhabited their praise. The results were that an earthquake occurred, and they and the other prisoners were freed!
You may be having a rough time right now. God has the deliverance you need from the fear, the financial crisis, the illness, the relational problem, the impossible circumstance that looms large before you. Begin now to offer to your God the sacrifice of praise. Sing your halal to Him. Rave, show, boast, be clamorously foolish before Him as you worship and sing. He will fight your battles for you; He will show Himself strong on your behalf.
Put praise at the forefront of your life and give God a chance to enthrone Himself around you. If He delivered Paul and Silas, and the tribe of Judah as they praised, He'll do even more for you. You have a better covenant than they had that is established on better promises (See: Hebrews 8:6).
Remember that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
Jesus dealt Satan a major deathblow! Jesus 'spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly,' triumphing over them in His death and resurrection. Psalm 149:6-9 reveals that the judgment that has already been written against Satan and all his forces is enforced as we sing the high praises of God! Resist the enemy with the praises of your lips to your God and watch him flee from you (See: James 4:7)! Give God an opportunity to show Himself strong in your life. He is no longer between the cherubim. He lives in YOU! He stands ready to enthrone Himself in your praise!
We read in Acts 15:16-17, 'After this, I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; (17) So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord who does all these things. The tabernacle of David was characterized by free and spontaneous praise and worship.
We also read in Isaiah 60:1-2, 'Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. (2) For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you! The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.'
These verses reveal a move of the Holy Spirit in the days just before Jesus' return that brings multitudes to Jesus through the manifested Presence of God in believers' lives! And God's Presence manifests when we praise Him (See Psalm 22:3)! 'This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord' (Psalm 102:18). I believe this verse is speaking of our day! We are called to 'proclaim the praises of Him who has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light!' (1 Peter 2:9).
Philippians 3:3 (Amplified) reveals that we worship God 'in spirit and by the Spirit of God!' Jesus told us in John 4:24 that the Father is seeking those who are willing to worship 'in Spirit and in truth!' That simply means we are to worship as prompted by the Holy Spirit and according to the Word of God.
There are seven Hebrews words in the Old Testament that are translated 'praise,' and these seven words reveal to us the biblical ways that the Holy Spirit will lead us in our praise and worship of our Father God! As you read about them, make a decision to incorporate them into your life of intimacy with the Lord.
The first word is Yadah, and it means to worship with the extended hand. The word YAD is the Hebrew word for hand, and is also used for the claw of an eagle. It speaks of grasping something. This is worship with your hands raised up receiving from the Lord! It is found 114 times in the Old Testament (See Psalm 28:7; 42:5; 52:9; 63:4).
The second word is Towdah and is similar to the first word. This is worship with the extended hand, palms up, thanking God in adoration and worship for His provisions in life. This is the Hebrew word for thanksgiving. This is where we offer the sacrifice of praise as we stand in faith, even when it looks like the promises of God are not working! It's found 32 times in the Old Testament (See Psalm 42:4; 50:14; 50:23; Jeremiah 17:26; 33:11).
The third Hebrew word for praise is Halal, and it means to shine, to boast, to show, to rave, to celebrate, to be clamorously foolish! The word Hallelujah comes from this word. This is where you just 'go nuts' worshipping and praising your wonderful Lord. You're so filled with Him that your whole body has to be used to express your heart toward God! This could be expressed simply by dancing before the Lord heartily as David did when the Ark of God was brought back into Jerusalem! So the next time you go to a church, and the people are LOUD, EXCITED, and JOYOUSLY DANCING, just be aware that you're experiencing first hand what Hallelujah is all about. Don't despise them! Join them! It's the 'in Spirit and in truth' thing to do! Hallal is used 165 times in the Old Testament (See Psalm 22:22; 34:2; 35:18; 63:5; 69:30; Psalm 102:18).
The fourth Hebrew word for praise is Barak, and means to kneel, to bless God as an act of adoration, to bow down in a worshipful attitude, to bless God expecting to receive something. This word is often translated bless and is used 330 times in the Old Testament (See: Psalm 28:6; 66:20; 72:15; 100:4; 95:6). Kneeling before God is a wonderful way to express your heart to Him.
The fifth Word for praise is Shabach, and means to address in a loud tone, to command, to triumph, to glory, to shout! Far from commanding quietness only, the scriptures encourage outward expressions that reveal the heart. Shouting your praise with a loud voice will call your spirit to attention, and hinder the hosts of hell! This word is used 11 times in the Old Testament (See Psalm 63:3; Psalm 47:1; Psalm 35:27; Psalm 117:1; Psalm 145:4).
The sixth word for praise is Zamar, and means to touch the strings. This is worship with all kinds of musical instruments. I was shocked when I went into a church for the first time and saw drums, guitars, bass, trumpets, and synthesizers. I thought the only instruments allowed in church were a piano and an organ! My surprise turned to delight as a new found freedom to express my heart's devotion absorbed me during the praise portion of the service! This word is found 45 times in the Old Testament (See Psalm 21:13; 57:7; 108:1; 150).
The final and seventh word for praise found in the Old Testament is the word Tehillah, and means to sing, to laud. It is the singing of Halal! This is my favorite Hebrew word for praise. This is where you sing spontaneous songs of praise to the Lord. These are songs that the Holy Spirit gives you at the moment while you are engrossed in worshipping and praising your Father! This word is found 57 times in the Old Testament (See Psalm 22:3; 2 Chronicles 20:22; Psalm 34:1; 35:28; 71:8; 100:4).
Tehillah is mentioned in the New Testament as psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, 'Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord' (Ephesians 5:18). Tehillah praise is mention by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14: 14-15, as he encourages believers to pray and sing both with the spirit (in other tongues) and with the understanding. Time spent singing in tongues or in the spirit is time spent in Tehillah praise. This is the praise mentioned in Psalm 22:3 that accompanies God enthroning Himself in the very atmosphere! God actually inhabits our Tehillah praise!
In God's Presence is fullness of joy, pleasures forevermore, strength, and provision for every need in human life. Make a decision today to practice Yadah, Towdah, Halal, Barak, Shabach, Zamar, and Tehillah praise daily. Your life will never be the same!
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Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)