When we come to God in prayer, we must know who He is and what He is willing to do for us. We must know that He is our Father, our provider, our deliverer; that we are forgiven so that we can become ambassadors of forgiveness. We must have an assurance in our hearts that God is faithful to protect us from every weapon of evil that is formed against us.
“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?” (Luke 11:5-6).
Once we are completely at rest in who God is, fully trusting in His provision and keeping power, there is a shift that ought to take place in our prayers. Prayer should no longer be all about us but should also be focused on others. This is where the true power of prayer is found.
Please notice that verse five tells us that it was midnight. I am sure by now you are aware that we are living in the midnight hour. Everything as we know it is moving into a last and final rebellion against all the ways of a holy God. It was at midnight, as well, that Paul and Silas found themselves in an inner prison, yet they chose to pray and worship (see Acts 16:25). Suddenly, there was an earthquake that shook the prison’s foundations. All the prison doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed. If only you and I can learn to pray like that in this dark hour!
We can be sure that Paul and Silas were not simply praying, “Forgive us for our sins and give us our daily bread.” No! I believe they were crying out, “God, it’s midnight, and there is a need here that is much greater than we can handle. Friends have been set before us, and these friends are in prison—shackled and hopeless. You have entrusted us with this inner prison, so now You must give us the strength to make a difference.”
How did God respond to their prayer? He put a song inside of them! As they began to worship God for answering the cry of their hearts, suddenly everything began to shake and miracles started to happen. Even the Philippian jailer and his entire household surrendered their lives to Jesus!
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.
There are scores of well-trained ministers today, highly respected men of advanced learning. They've spent years in seminary, studying theology, philosophy and ethics. And they've been taught by gifted teachers, esteemed men who are experts in their fields.
But when many of these trained ministers stand in the pulpit to preach, they speak only empty words. They can tell you many interesting things about the life and ministry of Christ. But what they say leaves your spirit cold. Why? Because they have no revelation of Jesus, no personal experience with Him. Everything they know of Christ has been filtered through the minds of other men. Their insights are merely borrowed teachings.
In Ephesians 4 and especially verse 20, Paul was asking, "How did you learn Christ?" In other words, who taught you what you know of Jesus? Did it come from the many sermons you've heard or your Sunday school classes? If so, that's good. But is that the limit of what you know of Christ? It doesn't matter how powerfully your pastor may preach, or how anointed your teachers may be. You need more of Jesus than mere head knowledge.
Many believers are satisfied with what I call an initial, one-time revelation of Christ's saving power and grace. This is the only revelation of Jesus they've ever had. They testify, "Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. He's the Lord, the Son of God." Every true believer experiences this wonderful, life-changing revelation. Yet that's only the first step. What lies ahead is a lifetime of deeper, more glorious revelations of Christ.
Paul knew this. He received an incredible revelation of Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was literally knocked off his horse, and a voice spoke to him from heaven. No person ever had a more personal revelation of Christ than this. Yet Paul knew this was only the beginning. From that moment on, he "determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Consider Cornelius, the centurion. This man was not a preacher or a lay minister. In fact, being a Gentile, he wasn't even numbered among God's people. Yet, Scripture says this soldier was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always" (Acts 10:2).
Here was one busy man. Cornelius had 100 soldiers under his immediate command, yet he prayed every spare moment. And one day while in prayer, he heard the Lord speak to him. An angel appeared, calling Cornelius by name. The centurion recognized it as the voice of God and answered, "What is it, Lord?" (Acts 10:4).
The Lord spoke directly to Cornelius, telling him to find the apostle Peter. He gave him detailed instructions, including names, an address, even the words to say. Meanwhile, Peter was praying on a housetop when "there came a voice to him" (10:13). Again, the Holy Spirit gave detailed instructions: "Peter, you're about to hear some men at the door. Go with them, for I have sent them" (see Acts 10:19-20).
Peter followed the men to Cornelius' house for a truly divine appointment. What happened there shook the entire Jewish-Pentecostal church. The Lord opened the gospel to Gentiles. Yet, the hardest thing for the Jewish believers to accept was that God had spoken to a common, untrained Gentile. They could not understand how Cornelius had heard God's voice so clearly, and spoken with such power. It challenged every believer there.
Paul also received a revelation of Jesus directly from heaven. He testified that the things he was shown about Christ weren't taught by any man. Rather, while on his knees in prayer, he had heard the voice of Jesus Himself. "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). "It pleased God . . . to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (1:15-16).
Now, there were great teachers in Paul's day, leaders mighty in God's Word, such as Apollos and Gamaliel. And there were the apostles, who had walked and talked with Jesus. But Paul knew a secondhand revelation of Christ wouldn't be good enough. He had to have an ever-increasing revelation of Jesus—from the Lord Himself.
Tragically, many ministers today preach lifeless sermons. Their messages neither convict of sin nor answer the deep cries of the heart. This is absolutely criminal. Empty philosophies spouted in a time of great hunger will only cause greater sorrow in hearers.
John the Baptist taught, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled" (John 3:29). The literal Greek meaning translates, "The friend of the bridegroom, who abides and continues with him." John the Baptist was telling his disciples, "I've heard the bridegroom's voice and it has become my greatest joy. Its sound fulfills my soul. How was I able to hear His voice? By standing near Him, listening to Him speak His heart."
You may wonder: How did John learn the sound of Jesus' voice? As far as we know, the two had only one face-to-face encounter, at Christ's baptism. And that was a very brief exchange, consisting of only a few words.
John learned to hear the Lord's voice just as Jesus did: alone in the desert. This man had isolated himself in the wilderness from a very early age. He would not allow himself any pleasures of this world, including tasty foods, a soft bed or even comfortable clothes. He had no teachers, no mentors, no books. During those years alone, John fellowshipped with the Lord. And all that time, he was being taught by the Spirit to hear God's still, small voice. Yes, Christ spoke to John even before He came in the flesh.
John learned everything he knew by being in continual communion with the Lord. That's how he received the message of repentance, recognized the coming of the Lamb, perceived his own need to decrease while the Messiah increased. John learned all these things from the Lord. And the sound of God's voice was his joy.
If we give ourselves to this kind of daily communion, the Lord will be faithful to direct our lives, even down to detailed instructions.
I have been asking the Lord if it's possible today, in this time of grace, to live as He did. Can we be totally dependent on the voice of the Father in glory? Is it possible to hear His direction for our lives day by day, moment by moment? Is there such a walk laid out for us, so we also can say, "I speak only what I hear from the Lord, and do only what I see Him doing"?
I know the joy that comes from being shut in alone with Christ. It comes from worshiping Him, ministering to Him, waiting upon Him to reveal His heart. I call this Jesus' feeding time. I sit in His presence, listening for His still, small voice. And He speaks to me, teaching me, ministering to me by His Holy Spirit, showing me things I could never learn from a book or another person. His truth comes to life in my spirit. And my heart leaps within me!
Of course, I haven't arrived. This kind of occasional experience still hasn't become a way of life for me. So, I've been asking the Lord, "Is the wholly-dependent life possible? Or is it just wishful thinking? Am I dreaming of something that's impossible to fulfill?"
I believe most of us live way beneath the privileges we have as children of God. For example, I read of Elijah standing before the Lord and hearing His voice. I read of Jeremiah standing in God's presence, hearing His counsel. He cries, "Who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? Who hath marked his word, and heard it?" (Jeremiah 23:18). I read a similar cry from Isaiah: "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (Isaiah 30:21).
Why wouldn't God speak in our generation, when there's so much fear and uncertainty? The world is in turmoil, searching for answers. Why would the Lord be silent now, when we need to hear His voice more than ever?