Most of my life, I have been taught prayer is more about talking to God, than about listening to Him. I remember In my younger years of being discipled; being given a model on how to study the Bible, I was taught to posture my heart and body in Worship, and even, coached on how to share the great things that God had done. But, never once did I have someone come along side me and say, “Let me share with you how to pray!”
In fact, just the opposite.
I have encountered the religious Pray-ers, you know those people that go on and on, with the person praying loving to listen to the sound of their own voice, and preaching a mini-sermon in their prayer but never once shedding tears for the lost, the broken, or the sick. And I’ve seen the timid Prayer-er, with their shaking voice simply asking God if He even wanted to listen to what they had to say, maybe He would answer if He really wanted to. AND let’s not forget the charismatic Pray-er claiming everything to be as though it was, even when what was- was never going to be different than it was!!!! The problem was none of the prayer was grounded and rooted in scripture.
Actually it wasn’t until I went to Africa, in my early 20’s that I saw my first model of prayer that changed me. I had been living there for 7 months and the pastor announced an all night prayer meeting. I couldn’t even imagine! What could you possibly pray ALL NIGHT?!!
Honestly, I was a little excited for what I would experience; yet at the same time, a little scared that I would fall asleep as the night went on. I had no idea how that night would forever shape my view of prayer.
Around 10 pm the church was completely full. This in itself was a real miracle. I mean, who shows up for a prayer meeting?- let alone an all night one??
The pastor then proceeded to close the door and lock it. Being in a church, in a country 97% Islamic-through the night was risky in itself, but to pray all night long made it even more risky. This country was full of people who hated Christians.
While there I had grown to learn about the supernatural realm and how the spiritual manifested in the physical. It was not long before I had already encountered more than my little Baptist background had a category. I had seen the demonized delivered and the sick miraculously healed. I had seen first hand, manifestations of witchcraft and I had personally witnessed the persecution of Christians by those under the veil of Islam. I knew the spiritual implications of this prayer meeting was more than just a gathering. It was outright warfare against the enemy and I anticipated pushback.
The night began with worship. If you’ve never worshipped in an African church, then you’ve never experienced what Heaven will be like. They dance, they sing, they fall, they pray, they testify, they abandon their cares and they give Him all their worship. It’s like all the cares of the world fall off as they enter the presence of God. There were so many with empty stomachs and no money for food for the week, but their hearts would be full of gratitude for the constant provision and deliverance of the Lord. They would testify of His faithfulness for hours and they would worship God’s bigness in song and dance. They held nothing back. They weep, they shout, they bow low, and they jump high. It’s exciting and freeing, but humbling and sobering. And that was all in the first few hours. We still had 21 hours to go!
As the night moved on the worship become more intense. Deliverance began to happen. Repentance fell on the meeting and many people begin confessing sin and reconciling with those they are at odds with.
Then the prayer finally began. Multiple languages were spoken. Some I understood a bit, and others were entirely unknown. It was like a holy blanket came down and overshadowed the meeting. The intensity of the presence of God grew as the wee hours of the morning came upon us.
No one was sleeping, but all were contending for more of His presence. Prophetic words come forth and weeping began, as people experienced the love of God. The more we labored in His presence in prayer the more He would spoke to us. The more we experienced His presence, the more I learned that I had never been taught to pray.
That night changed me.
I understood more the parable of the widow and the judge. ( Luke 18:1-8) Where the woman kept knocking, kept asking, and kept seeking. She wouldn’t give up until the judge opened the door and relented to her request. In the pressing in, she became more confident of her need. She knew the judge would concede f only she remained persistent. In the same way, as we contend, labor, wait, persist, and tarry in prayer the Lord shapes our requests and He fills our heart with faith in His hearing, responding, and answering.
In Africa, I first learned to persist. To labor. To tarry in the presence of God.
But, during the covid quarantine, I learned to go one step further.
Back in Africa, all I could handle was learning to labor. I had no idea, years later in the midst of Covid, I would learn to listen in the persistency.
I can sit in the presence of God for hours and It only ignites in me a hunger for more of Him. In prayer, I’ve always come with my list of requests. Asking God to move in supernatural unusual ways. I weep for laborers to rise up, for the lost to be found, for the broken to be whole, and for a generation to be revived.
The more I pray, the more I’m learning that my ears have been deaf to His voice, because my voice is still too loud.
I thought prayer was about praying the heart of God. But now I’m learning prayer is about hearing the heart of God.
You see, I have all access to God, but does He have all access to me?
As I have begun to listen, instead of simply filling my prayers with my words, I have discovered that God has a lot to say. He is always speaking. His Word is always my guide but often the things He says, isn’t directly in the Word.
For example, many times when I’m out and I’m listening to Him, He will tell me to talk to someone or to pray with a particular person. Often, as I pray for my day and the divine encounters that He has for me, He will give me a name, or a location, or even a picture. Then, as I go about my day, I will encounter exactly what He showed me in prayer. I like to call this ‘listening prayer’.
Just like Philip was told by the Spirit of the Lord to take the back road to Gaza ( Acts 8) ( even though he never made it to Gaza) ,I pray for God to speak His instructions to me, to confirm the direction He is sending me for the day.
In one encounter I had in prayer recently, God gave me the name ‘Kevin’. As I went out my first encounter was with a man named Kevin. I offered Kevin groceries, prayer, and even a gospel conversation. He rejected them all. But when I finally asked him His name and showed him in my notes I had saved in my phone, how God had given me his name before we met. Kevin was taken back. ( Honestly, so was I!!!) His eyes filled with tears. As the Spirit led, I shared with Kevin how God was not angry with him, but loved him and desired a relationship with him. I’ll never forget the look on Kevin’s face when He realized God really knew him, saw him, was pursuing him, and was not angry with him.
As you pray today, how much of your prayer is about what you have to say, and how much is about what God has to say?
Does He have all access to you?
Let me encourage you. It’s never too late to stop and listen. You may be surprised at what God is wanting to tell you.