by Graham Wells
Graham is based in Atlanta, Georgia where he serves as prayer coordinator for OM USA.
It was pitch black as we made our way to the prayer meeting. No street lights or lights shone from around the huts. This wasn’t Atlanta, Georgia, but right on the border between Thailand and Burma. There was no electricity. The only light was from candles burning, showing where the meeting was going to take place. Climbing up a bamboo ladder, we joined the assembled village Christians, sitting cross-legged around the perimeter of the room with 8-10 candles in the middle.
I was scared the flimsy bamboo mat floor wouldn’t take the weight of four large, Western men. Then I was worried that I would knock over one of the candles and burn the meeting room down! Suffice it to say, neither happened, but what remains with me today are some significant reminders about prayer. We came to bless these faithful people, but actually what they imparted to us was far, far greater. Sitting in that environment brought home to me again how uncomplicated prayer is and yet how profound is the mystery of it. Here are some lessons I’m learning about keeping prayer vital, fresh and enjoyable!
We can make prayer and prayer meetings too complicated. In this small hut meeting room, there was no PowerPoint, live music, video clips or pizza! Just simply people committed to meet and pray, knowing that God would meet with them. There was no program or agenda or personalities, or egos–just time spent before the Throne.
Richard and I (another Englishman) lead many prayer meetings together, and he coined the phrase that we try and follow for these, which are sometimes a hour long, or two hours, a weekend or 10 days of 24/7. Our prayer meetings are simply Unstaged, Unhurried, Unsafe, Unscripted, but not unprepared. When we come to listen, be guided, by the Holy Spirit and ask the Lord to mess us up, it’s surprising what can happen!
It’s not about numbers (there were only maybe 8-10 people in that hut), but in God’s eyes it’s an army. And that’s what counts! I meet with 4-8 people each week early in the morning for prayer. Right at the beginning God told us not to worry about numbers. In His eyes, one plus Himself is a majority! Very often it’s a small group that meets, but that’s enough to pull down strongholds because the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds. There is nothing there about needing a certain number before that will work. Numbers, size, strength are man’s ways. God’s plumbline is about holiness, humility and unity.
Nor is it about location. Anywhere is good enough to pray. We don’t need comfy chairs or kneeling benches. In fact I rarely sit when I am praying. Walking around helps keep me concentrating (and awake!). Jesus used a mountain, a quiet place; Paul used a prison; Koreans use caves; some prayer fanatics in a Southeast Asian country use long-distance buses!
It’s not about performance. Jesus said to His disciples, Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and He knows better than you what you need.” Matthew 6:6-8. (The Message)
God listens to broken and desperate people with hearts totally dependent on Him. The outward show is nothing. It’s the heart and history we have in God in secret that matters.
But it’s about His promises.
“For apart from me you can do nothing.” And yet there is a lot of nothing we engage in. We have His promises throughout scripture, and we can know them, memorize them, meditate on them, pray them, and believe them.
And lifestyle. Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists have a prayer culture, whereas we Christians have a prayer meeting. God never intended prayer to be merely a value or a duty but a lifestyle. “Engaging in continual prayer and fasting means embracing a way of life before the Lord that challenges everything in us. When the church corporately (or the student group) embraces and approaches prayer as a lifestyle and not a meeting, she will begin to take significant steps toward her ultimate destiny, which involves partnering with God to shape history, affect the spiritual atmosphere, and influence nations.” Dave Sliker
Let us learn the secret of crying out to Him day and night to see justice released into our community, nation and world! (Luke 18:7).
“Fan into flame a passion for your name,” sings Tim Hughes, a worship leader from England. This is a prayer I pray many times: “Lord, fill my heart with passion for You and Your presence.” The villagers that night were passionate in their prayers and relationship with the Lord. It was not just a matter of duty but a passionate desire for Him. Just how passionate do we want to be? It is you and I who make that decision, not God. We set the limits, not God. We can go as far as we want, but so often we put barriers up and allow other things to captivate and fascinate our hearts. We are content with so little of God when there is so much more. He is the God of all pleasure. “In your presence there is fullness of joy, and at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11) As we meditate on this God of all pleasure and beauty, our hearts cannot fail to grow in our passion and love for Him.
It’s what we do in our own time that prepares us for the group times of prayer. We cannot be worshipping idols of entertainment and then expect to be full of passion for God in the prayer room. As our hearts are moved in His presence, everything else pales in comparison.
One of the best ways I have found to deepen my passion and love is regular fasting. While fasting is voluntary weakness, it reveals so much the true intents of our hearts. It also makes a statement that I am serious about this relationship and want to grow deeper into the things of God.