Joseph Herrin (01-24-2018)
Have you ever had a problem with prayer? Has it ever seemed like your prayers weren’t getting any further than the roof? Have you tried to pray for fifteen minutes but it seemed like hours? I have experienced all of these things. I want to tell you about a time that Yahweh changed all of this for me. It is from an excerpt in the book Evidence of Things Unseen.
Probably the greatest deficiency in my life was in my prayers. I hated prayer time. I prayed because I knew Christians were supposed to pray. I would intend to pray for an hour, and I was barely able to endure fifteen minutes. I would dispassionately go through my prayer list, and it would be exhausted, and so would I, after only five or ten minutes. I have often recounted to others that my prayer times were as dry as sawdust and that I had no sense of my words rising above the ceiling of whatever room I was in.
I cannot remember the exact time, but I believe I was about 23 years old, when I had an encounter that was to change my life. At the Southern Baptist church I was attending there was an elder by the name of Bill Martin. Bill is about twenty years my senior. It was at Bill’s house that the young people of the church would congregate, for he and his wife June had a sincere love for others and they were very hospitable. Bill, in particular, really enjoyed engaging young men and women in conversations about spiritual matters, and provoking them to think about things that they may not have considered before.
Bill was not your typical church elder, being considered by the more traditional members of the church to be a bit of a wild man. Yet there was no doubting that he was serious about his relationship with God and that he was passionate about encouraging others to greater depths of spirituality. I found myself hanging out at his house a lot, and when I was around 23 years of age I even lived with he and his wife and daughter for a month.
One day Bill and I went for a walk around a peach orchard that was located behind his house, and as we walked Bill shared some things with me that I really needed to hear. Bill began telling me about his prayer life, and I was both greatly challenged and encouraged by what I heard. I had been accustomed to formal, spiritual sounding prayers all my life, so I was amazed by what Bill shared with me.
Bill told me that he would pray to God often as he took walks, or during various times of day, and he began to relate to me the substance of his prayers. He said there was no sense in attempting to sound spiritual in God’s presence, nor to present ourselves to God as better, or more noble, than we actually were, for God already knew what was in our hearts. He saw every aspect of our lives, and was able to judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.
Bill went on to share with me how he would talk to God. He would tell God things like, “Lord you know when I saw that good looking woman today that I had lustful thoughts in my mind, and I don’t want to be a lustful man, so I ask You to forgive me and to deliver me from these thoughts.” Or he might say, “God you know that man at work provoked me today and I felt like punching him in the nose. I wanted to really hurt him Lord, but I know these thoughts are fleshly and not from You. I ask you to forgive me and deliver me.”
The frankness with which this elder brother in the Lord prayed, the lack of posturing and absence of pretense, was both refreshing and revolutionary to me. I knew his method of praying was right, for we cannot hide anything from God, nor can we deceive Him. He knows our thoughts from afar, and as I considered what I was hearing a thought began to grow in my mind. I had been attempting to hide from God the fact that I hated my times of prayer. I had never thought of confessing the fact to Him that I found prayer to be dry and lifeless, but as I considered it I understood that He already knew these things.
Some time later when I was by myself I prayed to God and I told Him very frankly how I felt concerning prayer. I confessed that I was only praying because I felt it was required of me, but that I found my times of prayer to be one of the least enjoyable events in my life, that I had no confidence my prayers were being heard, and that I did not want my times of prayer with the Father to remain this way. I asked God to change my heart and to place within me a desire to pray.
I cannot say that I had any great expectation that God would answer my prayer, for up until this time I had very little experience of praying with expectancy in my heart. I think perhaps that God did not require a great faith to attend my request at this time, for I was yet a babe in the area of faith, and all I knew to do was simply to make my request known and to leave the results in God’s hands.
God did answer my prayer, and He did so beyond my greatest expectations. It was not long after this that I began to find a hunger for prayer arising within me. I was given a key to the church building, which was located in a quiet spot out in the country, and I would go out on Friday or Saturday evenings when the church was empty and I would walk around the sanctuary and pray. I found God placing people upon my heart, attended by a yearning to intercede for them, and I found a great emotion welling up within me as I did so. No longer did I struggle to utter a sentence or two on behalf of a person, but an intense groaning would come forth at times and I often would weep and have tears streaming down my face as I prayed.
I suppose this type of praying went on for about ten years, and it became the highpoint of my week as I looked forward to my time alone with the Lord where I could pour my heart out before Him. Most of the other men I knew from work or church were spending their free time hunting, or fishing, or going out on the town, or pursuing some hobby. Yet I had no desire for these things. I wanted only to get alone with the Lord and enjoy His presence. Oftentimes I would look at my watch thinking I had been at the church about fifteen minutes, only to find that several hours had gone by.
How I delighted in these times. I would often walk among the rows of chairs and I would anoint each one and pray for the people whom I knew sat in the chairs week after week. Sometimes I would be filled with some message from God for the people and I would go to the front of the sanctuary where the pulpit was and I would preach to the empty chairs. Oftentimes the Spirit would fill my heart with a longing for a people to be raised up who would be a praise unto Him, and I would cry out fervently, often with shouting, that this people would come forth, as I prayed for the specific characteristics that the Spirit laid upon my heart for this people. At times I would simply sing words of praise and worship unto God.
How did my prayers change from a dry, lifeless time to something that became the greatest joy and longing of my heart? It was due to nothing I did. It cannot be attributed to my taking a course on effectual praying, or to my studying the prayers of Scripture, or any other such thing. It can only be attributed to a sovereign work of God as He answered the petition I had brought before Him, even when I had little expectation of an answer.
I have often heard of God taking away from a person some destructive appetite that they had long been enslaved to. I have heard testimonies given where a person, upon being born again, would have no more taste for alcohol, or drugs, or some other thing that had formerly enslaved them. It is little thought of, but God is sovereign even over our desires, and He is able to change them at will. Thus we read of God hardening some men’s hearts so that they will not repent, and others He brings to repentance. The apostle Paul gives us an interesting insight into this matter.
[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.
This was really the beginning of faith in my life, for I had asked God to change my heart regarding prayer, and I saw Him do a work that I could not account for in any natural sense. I often looked back and marveled at what God had done, for as miserable as my times of prayer were formerly, He made them all the more a delight. What had seemed a barren wilderness, He transformed into a fruitful garden.
Part of the transformation that God wrought at this time was the birthing of communion and intimacy with Him. I had a real sense that God was with me, attending to my words, and searching my heart during my times of prayer. I no longer felt that my prayers were stopping at the ceiling, but I envisioned God with bended ear leaning over to hear what I was speaking to Him. I also began to hear things from Him in return. He would place some burden upon my heart and teach me how to pray for people. I began to experience prayer as a real two-way communication between myself and God.
This was a critical development because, in order for me to enter into the walk of faith that God would bring me into, I had to be able to discern His voice. A walk of faith is not a walk based upon principle, or upon systematic theology, or upon proper Scriptural exegesis. It is a walk of obedience where we hear God’s voice and we obey.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
Hearing always precedes obedience. The verse above from Romans is literally rendered “So faith is out of hearing….” Faith arises out of hearing. If there is no hearing, there is no foundation for faith. Therefore, any man, woman, or child who would walk by faith must first have their ears attuned to the voice of God’s Spirit. What a wonderful gift is the ability to hear God’s voice to those who are willing to obey. Yet it is a curse to those who are not willing, but who are instead filled with disobedience and unbelief.
If you would also walk by faith, then you too must discern God’s voice. If you have not been able to discern it, if your times of prayer and communication with God have also been dry and lifeless as my own once were, then why not confess it to God. He already knows anyway.
Perhaps you have struggled to transform this area of your life yourself, but to no avail. Simply cast all over into God’s hands and ask Him to do that which you have failed to accomplish. Oftentimes we have not, because we have not asked. Ask that your joy may be made full.
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