At the risk of losing my "audience," I am going to write something about prayer, specifically intercessory prayer. Just kidding, sort of. But I know the general population of Bible-believing churches face low numbers in often dull prayer meetings! That's is terribly unfortunate--a travesty really since it is one of the marks of the early church (Acts 2:42).
I've been serious about intercession for at least three decades—yet I still go through seasons that are decidedly not fervent. There have been times when I have prayed long and passionately about a given topic, and other times when I couldn't concentrate on it for five minutes. There's no question about it: intensity levels in prayer can fluctuate.
Perhaps you, too, have experienced times when you prayed the right words, but felt passionless about the topic. Here are some suggestions you can try the next time that happens:
Embrace God's heart: When we see things from God's perspective, our passion increases. For example, when we see unbelievers as our heavenly Father sees them, our prayers get more urgent. When God reveals the seriousness of some condition in our home, community, or world, we intercede with a greater zeal. Ask God to give you His heart about any issue you are praying over.
Expand your vision: When our troops first went to Iraq, I tried to pray as consistently as I could. But as important as I knew my prayers were, I would lose focus. Then I scheduled a prayer meeting and invited families of soldiers to attend. When several small children showed up, I was struck with the reality that they could become fatherless at any moment. My prayers for the military took on renewed fervor. I started carrying in my pocket the names of the men and women from our church who were in harm's way. I frequently placed my hand over the list and asked God to protect each one.
Increase your sacrifice: Sometimes we need to step into a new adventure with the Lord that really costs us something. For example, a mission trip can make your vision for the Great Commission come alive. Or try staying up all night in prayer. My prayer intensity for my city flared when I stayed up one Friday night asking God to increase my heart for my community. Fasting is another sacrifice that can increase fervor for prayer.
Ask for prayer: One time when our church was praying for a crucial issue, I could not get my heart into it. During a prayer meeting, I saw someone really crying out to God for this issue. I asked the person to pray for me to have that same intensity. After only a brief prayer, I was deeply moved by the issue, and my prayers for this topic have never been the same.
Empathize: The more a request touches me personally, the more fervent I become. As a pastor, I've been asked many times to pray for people who were having back surgery. I could see their pain, and I prayed the best I could. Then I had back surgery. After walking through that excruciating agony, I found I could pray with more intensity for those in pain.
Continued tomorrow . . .