Prevailing prayer is that activity during which we seek, discover and humbly participate in those concerns that are most important to the heart of God. So, Jesus taught us to pray that ‘Thy kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’.
For me, growing up in a ‘non-instrumental’ church meant that we heard the richness of a hymn’s melody and harmony in our worship songs. Often, a deep appreciation for the music of a hymn preceded an understanding of its message. As a child, I often hummed a melody BEFORE I memorized the words. Like all churches, mine had favorites that served to sooth the souls of our fellow worshippers.
One favorite church hymn from my childhood fellowship was ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer’. To this day, when that song is played or sung, I can almost smell the musty fragrance of the old hymn books we used and hear the echos of the singing voices of saints now residents of the courts of Heaven.
When this song was sung in our fellowship, a couple of questions would linger on the outskirts of my tiny mind: 1) What would it be like to spend a WHOLE HOUR in prayer? For me, telling God everything I was thinking about took somewhere north of two minutes. An hour–really? 2) What were we doing telling God what ‘all our wants and wishes’ were?
Dutifully, at first, then habitually, I recited to God all the things that I wanted. And, though, it could have been that all my thoughts were selfish, not all of them were. I prayed for rain to help with the crops, both ours and the neighbors. I prayed for God to spare my dog, ‘King’, when he got run over by a car. I prayed for God to help dad when he came to me holding his stomach while telling me that he had to go see the doctor. He was in the hospital for 30 days suffering from pancreatitis–a very tough time for the family. Most of all I prayed for forgiveness.
Legitimate were these prayers and yet they took on a markedly shallow form, almost repetitious. And I carried them into adulthood. I’d pray for the things that concerned me and seemed pressing to me in ministry, but I’d rarely go deeper. My prayers usually involved listing the ones in our fellowship that were sick or bereaved (help all the ones who are sick among us), reminding God how much month was left at the end of the money (help me be a good steward), asking Him to bless our church and pleading with Him to help me stay faithful to my call. Not bad prayers or bad praying, just somewhat routine.
Lately, I’ve been adding a new dimension to my time in prayer. Still beginning with praises and thanksgiving because we have such a GREAT ‘Father in Heaven Whose name is to be hallowed’, I’ve begun adding one simple request, “Father, what is on Your heart today?” And whether thoughts begin to come quickly or I wait for several minutes, I don’t move on until He impresses my heart with the concerns of His heart. These, then, become the topics of my petitions to the Lord and the preparations for the day’s ministry.
Growth and consistency is one of my goals in this type of praying. Still working on that. But one benefit has emerged: prayer time is much less routine and significantly less self-centered.
So, at the risk of offending the song’s publishers or hymn purists, I’ve added a couple of new words to that wonderful hymn. Where it says ‘make all my wants and wishes known’ in the second line of the first verse of that hymn, I’ve substituted the words, ‘make His concerns my very own’.
A couple of cautions: simply because thoughts come to your heart after you’ve asked God to share His concerns with you doesn’t mean that those concerns are valid and from Him. Check EVERYTHING with scripture and accept only those that agree with scripture and that ‘hallow His name’. Also, remember that He IS concerned about what concerns you. See I Peter 5:7. So don’t be afraid to tell Him what you’re thinking about.
Now, let’s follow the encouragement of scripture: ‘Let us approach the throne of grace boldly’ …Hebrews 4:16.