“Do not our hearts begin to acknowledge what a dishonor, what despite of God this is, that I dare to say I cannot find time for fellowship with Him?” (Andrew Murray)
The most prevalent sin in believers today all over the world is the sin of prayerlessness caused due to the perceived notion that we are so busy in performing various duties. Even the ‘shepherds’ appointed to feed, lead and guide His sheep have fallen prey to this sin. Prayer in itself is considered a means to offload our requests before God most times in a rather offensive manner like indicating to someone through a ‘missed call’ on a mobile phone our desire to speak to him. God loves us beyond measure as a Father who went to the extent of sacrificing His Son for our salvation but He still remains the Almighty God and the Scriptures declare “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and save them” (Psalm 145:19). On the other end is the dictum “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). How does one overcome prayerlessness and then worship God in spirit?
Overcoming prayerlessness- The greatest stumbling block in this is an accepted idea that I cannot find time for this, howsoever much I may try. The initial feeling of guilt then turns to despair and finally giving up altogether. The Lord Jesus wants to fellowship with us and is forever knocking at the ‘doors of our heart’ to have a spiritual meal with us. When in the power of His blood he can forgive us our all other sins, He has the power and willingness to cleanse us from this sin also. The only obstruction can be if we do not consider prayerlessness a sin at all. With the indwelling Holy Spirit He is there every single moment of my life in the ‘inner chamber’, in his love ready to keep and bless me. Any other belief is a faulty spiritual life and from a defective spiritual life the fruit will only be a defective prayer life.
I must believe in God’s infinite love, His omnipotence, omnipresence and the intercessory ministry of our Lord as the High Priest in heaven. I must believe in and tap into His power of overcoming sin and bring this sin of my prayerlessness, through genuine repentance, also under the same authority and control of the Lord. Then and only then will prayer become the natural and joyous breathing of the spiritual life enabling me to inhale the heavenly atmosphere into me to enjoy His presence and exhale the sinful life of this world. This would then result in my rejoicing in the Lord always for then I will be in close communion with Him always and everywhere. Overcoming this sin is not only necessary and important but also the first step in the preparation for the work of serving God and becoming useful for His kingdom.
How do I learn to pray in the Spirit? – The Scriptures reveal the state of all creation as a state of “groaning and labors” and even those “who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves, groan within ourselves”. This groaning is a result of sin that entered the world through disobedience and delivery from this is only through the Lord Jesus under guidance of the Holy Spirit. For “the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:22, 23 and 26-27). Since this explains the working of the Holy Spirit as an intercessor, these verses also clarify the way of prayer for us.
Practice- Prayer is a longing from the heart of the human soul for the ‘redemption of our body and all prayer is a spiritual art and perfection can only be achieved through continuous practice through spending long hours at it. Prayer warriors spend long hours in fellowship with God like an Olympics athlete spending long hours on the track training for the event. Apostle Paul, the great warrior, says that except with the working of God’s power from heaven in answer to the prayer of faith, prayed with importunity no results are possible for only “God gives increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6). So continuing in prayer is essential for two reasons- firstly for our own spiritual life and growth therein, for the power of the Holy Spirit can and will come only by prayer. And secondly, we must pray for the sake of those among whom we work and for whom we pray. The Holy Spirit will work in them through the Word is through prayer alone.
Admitting ignorance – The quoted Scriptures reveal our state of ignorance about what and how we should pray. One can only obtain knowledge about something when he admits his ignorance about it. We have an idea that this is a dialogue with our Father in heaven and it must be easy and in any case we have learnt this right from our childhood from our parents, ministers and others in Sunday Bible School. We carry on for years in this state with much unanswered prayers. To become powerful in prayer, the first thing must be to admit and come before God in ignorance and say Father, teach me to pray.
Seeking Divine guidance- Ask the question- Do I know what prayer is? Do I know how to take hold of God and hold Him fast? Do I know what the full fellowship and communion of God is? He commands “Be still an d know that I am God” (Psalm46:10) and to Abraham “I am El-Shaddai. Walk before Me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). We have to learn to sit still until we realize His holy presence and learn how unfit are we in our sinful nature to speak to or before Him. It is after this that we may ask “Lord, I know not how to pray. Search my heart and deliver me from my sin of pride/self will or whatever else is the impediment to prayer. For without delivery from such traits I may carry on asking various things without really knowing what to pray for. The Holy Spirit cannot teach us unless we break down the barriers of self knowledge, confidence or deceit or anything else.
Let Him pray and join in – The Holy Trinity has the Father seated on the throne as God, the Son sits on His right hand as Mediator and Intercessor and the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer to teach the blessings that Christ has for us and how to receive them. It is an unimaginable thing for us to see Christ doing nothing else but being involved in unceasing prayer for us with a steady stream of intercession causing an unceasing flow of blessings towards us from God. But when we are self sufficient and satisfied we cannot “be still in His Divine presence” to let His Spirit reveal the secrets to us. And God the Father, the Son and His Spirit are in union with each other knowing what is stored for us and the great spiritual supply chain is thus established for us. God the Father on the throne to give; the Son at His right hand to bless and the Holy Spirit in our heart revealing the same to us and preparing us thus to receive the Divine blessings. It is when we are weak that His grace is strongest in us and when we find ourselves failing in prayer heavily burdened by the sin of prayerlessness; that is the time to fall down before His throne. And His Spirit is ever ready to “help in our infirmities”.
Be still – If the Holy Spirit has to work in our infirmities we have to stand aside and let Him do the work. This is only possible by being totally silent in His presence to hear that “gentle whisper and Elijah covered his face with his coat (1 Kings 19:12-13). Elijah was prepared to hear that gentle voice like Samuel was as a child and Elijah covered his face. Isaiah saw the Cherubs covering their faces and feet with two wings each (Isaiah 6:2). But why did Elijah and the Cherubs cover their faces and feet in God’s presence? The awesomeness of the glory of God and their feeling of nothingness before the El-Shaddai forces them to cover their own glory (face) and their walk/self (feet) in His presence. It is in this state that we realize the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and we are ready to receive the same. Before, during and after prayer spend some silent time in His presence to wait for the “gentle whisper” to reveal Himself and His will to you.
Believe – We must realize that during and through our prayers we are getting involved in the exercising of power on heaven and bring down here heavenly blessings on myself and others and I must be very quiet before God. Having understood the willingness and involvement of the Holy Trinity in unison in showering blessings on us I must believe and this belief will also be instilled by the same Spirit for the Father has given Him to us for this purpose. He is our helper and teacher in prayer as in all other spheres of our lives. It is imagined that the filling of the Holy Spirit means great rush of emotion followed by long and beautifully worded prayers. But “the Spirit makes intercession for us with groaning that cannot be uttered” and while we are in ignorance He goes deeper than our thoughts and minds into the heart to pray with those groaning. Believe in Him and surrender ourselves to His power and He will lead us to fellowship with access to God with Spiritual intercession to give us boldness and power with God.
Join in the intercessory prayer – The Son of God came for our redemption and the Holy Spirit is also given to us for the same purpose. But God is concerned for His entire creation an d not only for a few and the Holy Spirit makes intercession in us “for the groaning creation and all the saints”. While the Son intercedes in heaven the Spirit intercedes in us for all the saints and all the creation to be freed from the curse. This is the privilege given to us to be priests for others through our prayers- for the yet unreached and lost, the missionaries, the leaders and all others. We must understand the intercessory prayer and its impact and pray for the whole Church in the world to be empowered by Him for His glory to be revealed to all. The Holy Spirit prays in us deep in our hearts and we must bring that prayer to surface through our own prayers for others to witness the working of His miraculous power in us. Pray for the enemies also, those who have hurt you, those who do not deserve your love and the underprivileged for we also are not blessed by God on the basis of our entitlement but through His grace only. The Holy Spirit is not selfish and His fruit is love and this love is seen by God in our prayers for others also.
Lay it all bare – God is aware of our inherent weakness of our being hesitant to ask so many things from Him for fear of being “greedy in prayer”. His Spirit searches our hearts for what we have not expressed or needs not spoken out and “He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God”. We must lay our hearts open to Him to search out not only for hidden sin to help us overcome it but also the seeds of plans placed by God and not planted by us in prayers to bear fruit. The Holy Spirit finds these and prays for and in us for all these needs not expressed by us due to any reason. God desires to know our intents and needs both to save us from ourselves for either not asking or asking with a wrong intent to lavish it on our worldly lusts. He reads all this through the heart of the Holy Spirit who resides in our hearts and knows our secret wishes.
With our limited knowledge we want to understand everything and then place our prayers also before God. But He is Spirit and we can never reach Him with our worldly knowledge and minds but through our hearts that are open to receive His love. He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). The power that works in us is the mighty Holy Spirit Himself who knows the will of God for us and seeks all that He desires to give us through groaning in prayer. The only role that we have in this is to surrender to this Power every time when we sit down to pray. Once our innermost being is humbly made subject to Him, He can take and make each one of us into a vessel fit for His dwelling to live and work His prayers into our hearts and souls, our wills and desires so that then we pray in the spirit and the Spirit prays in us. It is then that we will enjoy the blessed privilege of the intercessory prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit and then rejoice in the nakedness of our hearts and minds before Him. He will then answer us abundantly according to what He finds out through the Spirit as the real need- exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine.
Our prayer would then be, Lord I do not know how to pray and I have a lot of demands to make before You. But You, Father know what is best for me and what I really and urgently require, for You search my heart through the Holy Spirit. I surrender myself to You to lead me and teach me Your ways Lord and I join Your Spirit in me in prayer to seek Your Divine hand working in my life. In Jesus name, Amen and Amen!!