Spending an Hour With God – Intercessory Prayer
There are five markers for intimacy with God in the Song of Solomon:
- An Intoxicating Passion – 1:1-2.
- A Place of Prayer – 1:4.
- A Daily Appointment/Rendezvous With God – 1:7.
- Time at the Table – 1:12.
- Unhurried Seasons in the House of Wine – 2:4.
Our time with God is to marked by passion! Micah, Saul’s daughter, and David’s first wife, despised David, for His passion for God. When the Ark was returned to Jerusalem, and she saw David wildly dancing in the street before the Ark – she despised him and bore no children. Hannah, on the other hand, was barren. Before the Ark at the Tabernacle, she poured out her soul to God until the world on top of this world became real to her. Lost in the presence of God until Eli considered her intoxicated – her barrenness was broken. Acts 2 and Ephesians 5 contain reminders of worship with passion! The worship scenes in Revelation are passionate!
Everyone needs a place of prayer – at home. Buddhist have prayer rooms in their homes. And Muslims carry around their prayer mat. American Christians pray less than 4 minutes a day, typically on the run. A place of prayer, whether it is a room, a closet, or a corner – ought to be a special meeting place between the believer and God. Such areas mark our homes as sacred sites! Prayer at home fills the house with a fragrance that draws the presence of God. A prayer room should include an altar, a chair, carpet, or rugs that allow for prostration before God. A Bible should be handy with a notepad to record impressions and messages from God. Dim lights are helpful, as is soft music. The room should be without distraction. The walls can be used to hold prayer reminders or models – pictures of family, lost loved ones, mission prayer focuses, etc.
Everyone should have “prayer goals.” The daily appointment with God should be a non-negotiable. In addition to a morning or evening prayer appointment with God, look for spontaneous moments when “God comes” and invites you into his presence.
No prayer life is complete without a dialectic between prayer and the word – read and pray, and pray and read! Learn to “pray scripture.” Let scripture reading inform your prayer. Pray with your eyes open! And out of the word. Hide the word in your heart in these prayer times.
Consider a personal prayer retreat – one day a month when you pack your Bible and “runaway” with God! Do it as a couple, if married. Or with a child! Or do it alone with God. These unhurried seasons in His presence deepen the relationship. During these times, your soul is renewed. You are filled with the Holy Spirit. God whispers insights that are often life-changing and mark you forever. His word comes alive. It speaks.
The discipline of daily prayer will be fought by the flesh. But if you will persist, discipline will turn to delight! Discipline defines your passion for God. It prioritizes your commitment to seek His face, to be with Him. It demonstrates that you are not merely casual in your commitment. It crunches the flesh. And the flesh screams for relief. Like the runner whose body aches in every joint after he finishes his jogging, he knows that he must persist – or his flesh will rule him forever. Day after day, he jogs with pain. He is weary from the expenditure of time and energy. His flesh complains. Then one day, after a season of discipline is over, he experiences something he has never known before. It is commonly called “the runner’s high.” In this moment, a runner experiences ecstasy. Running is now sheer pleasure. Discipline has given way to such delight. It has borne fruit.
There is no quality prayer-life without being intentional in prayer. The incidental and spontaneous Acts 3 kind of moments come out of intentional prayer times. Peter and John were on their way to the temple (intentional prayer) when God gave used them to heal the man at the gate Beautiful (intentional and spontaneous prayer).
All prayer fits into one of these categories. We seek to pray with balance –
- Prayer as communion is relational. It sees God as Father, Jesus, as the lover of our soul. It takes us into heaven as a Tabernacle, the house/home of God.
- Prayer as a petition is the legal dimension of prayer. We argue our claims based on the covenant law in the courtroom of heaven. Here we interact with God as Judge, with Jesus as our intercessor attorney.
- Prayer as intercession takes us into heaven as a war room where interventions are launched into the earth out of prayer. Here we meet God, the warrior, and Jesus as the Lord of Lords, the commander in chief of the army of angels in heaven.
A major dimension to intimacy with God is learning the power of silence! Someone has said that we live in a noisy and busy world, and most of us live with “doors open.” Ideas and distractions parade through our minds. We entertain dozens of sensory perceptions simultaneously. The stage of our mind is cluttered, and our brain is filled with a cacophony of clanging sounds. In contrast, the voice of God is heard most clearly and deafeningly in a soul at peace. He is not in the wind and fire and earthquake – he speaks in a still small voice.
Peace is the indication that we are resting in God’s sovereignty – and that rises out of faith. Without faith, fear comes. Joy is God’s “noisy fruit,” which manifests in the context of that peace. These go together – faith in the sovereignty of God brings me to the end of my struggle and issues forth into rest. And God’s gift of rest brings peace. And out of such peace comes joy. These are transformational dimensions which begin to mark my life, give my witness credibility, and let me walk in fullness and vitality.
To pray effectively, you must “close the doors” to all these distractions and focus on Christ. At first, the distracters will bang on the door, demanding attention. They will make desperate claims on your attention. Responding to them will reinforce their authority. Ignoring them will be incredibly challenging. Their cries will seem incessant. But after some season – sometimes days – the cries will diminish and will come to a place of quiet. It is here, in such sweet and quiet meditation, with your mind completely on Christ, that you will have the richest prayer times. You have not prayed well, until you have prayed yourself to peace.
~P. Douglas Small, President: Alive Ministries – Project Pray