If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)
We've been spending the last few weeks looking at some of the conditions for having prayer answered. This is not a 5 step programme for getting what you want from God. On the contrary, it's about putting yourself in a position where the Lord can use you, through your prayer life, to accomplish His plans.
Last week we considered the overriding importance of seeking God's face rather than seeking His hand - the need for our prayer to be based on a love relationship with Jesus. This week I want to continue thinking about the purpose of seeking His face.
Seek My Face
I once heard Andrew Wommack say that 95% of our prayer lives should be about seeking the face of God and that only a small proportion of our prayer should be intercession. That is not to diminish the value of praying for our needs or the needs of others, but to emphasise that in order to pray effectively and according to the will of God we need to spend time in His presence getting to know Him and understanding His desires.
When we look at our world, the little bit of it in which we live or the bigger global picture, we see problems. But we only see these problems at a surface level. If we begin to pray about these situations before we have sought God's face we may actually end up praying contrary to the will of God, even though we have the best of intentions and a desire to see Him putting things right.
A Case Study
An example which comes to mind in this Olympic year is China. For years missionaries worked to take the gospel to the Chinese peoples and a small church was formed. Suddenly all the missionaries were expelled from the country and Christians around the world wondered what on earth the Lord was doing in removing the support that this fledgling church so desperately needed. There was genuine concern that under the communist regime the church would experience such persecution that it might die.
Missionaries waited on the borders praying that they would be allowed back in to the country so they could once again minister to these baby Christians. It never happened. Instead the Lord used the persecution to strengthen and establish the church. Now, despite being forced underground, it is possibly the fastest growing national church in the world. God's solution was very different from man's.
The Real Purpose of Prayer
The purpose of prayer is not to see our desires met, but God's plans fulfilled. Before we start interceding we need to spend time seeking God's face for His will. That means giving Him love, worship and adoration so that we take our focus off our own desires and recognise His absolute sovereign authority. It means reading Scripture for the purpose of understanding His character and His passions. It means having the humility to ask Him how we should pray and seeking Him for the gift of discernment to see beyond the surface of problems into the heart of what He is working to achieve.
Prayer College Assignment
When praying for people this week, take time to ask the Lord how you should pray and what you should pray for. Allow the Holy Spirit to prompt you by seeding your mind with ideas. When you begin to pray in this way you will start to see more answers to your prayers because you will be learning to pray in accordance with the will of God.