Have you been taught by Jesus in your secret closet of prayer? Have you sought Him for things you can't get from books or teachers? Have you sat quietly in His presence, waiting to hear His voice? The Bible says all truth is in Christ. And He alone can impart it to you, through His blessed Holy Spirit.
A question may now arise in your mind: "Isn't it dangerous to open my mind to a still, small voice? Isn't that why so many Christians get into trouble? The enemy comes in and mimics God's voice, telling them to do or believe some ridiculous thing—and they end up deceived. Isn't the Bible the only voice we're supposed to heed? And isn't the Holy Spirit to be our only teacher?"
Here is what I believe on this matter:
The Pharisees and Sadducees came and demanded that Jesus show them a sign from heaven (see Matthew 16:1). Jesus responded, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas” (Matthew 16:4). Later, Jesus called His disciples together and asked, "Whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:15-16).
Jesus declared, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). Christ was saying, "You didn't get this revelation just by walking with Me, Peter. My Father revealed it to you from heaven." In short, Peter received the glorious, initial revelation that comes to everyone who believes. The glory of Christ's salvation was being revealed in him.
Yet, we read, "Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ" (16:20). Why did Jesus say this? Hadn't heaven itself already announced that He was the Lamb of God who had come to save the world?
The fact is, the disciples weren't ready to testify of Him as the Messiah. Their revelation of Him was incomplete. They knew nothing of the cross, the way of suffering, the depths of their Master's sacrifice. Yes, they had already healed the sick, cast out devils and witnessed to many. But even though they had been with Jesus for those years, they still had no deep, personal revelation of who He was.
The next verse confirms this: "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples" (16:21). In other words, Christ began to reveal Himself to them, showing them deeper things about Himself. The rest of the verse continues, "how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day."
Solomon wrote, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). Solomon is warning that oftentimes it’s the little, nagging issues that keep us from walking fully in God’s calling to abundant life in Him.
Do you remember when you gave your life to Jesus? Like other new Christians, maybe your heart was filled with purpose. You experienced God’s healing love, and you longed to share it with others, evangelizing, reconciling and serving. As you moved forward in this new life, you began to better discern your role in God’s kingdom and your gifts for serving Him. Maybe you even sensed a calling to ministry of some kind.
But then you noticed something peculiar happening. Almost daily, your singular focus on Jesus got crowded out by other demands. Little things popped up, capturing your attention and distracting you so that slowly you lost your focus on Christ.
My father, David Wilkerson, was very familiar with this aspect of the Christian life. He was determined to have an intimate life with God through prayer, and nothing could interrupt that. Dad prayed between two and four hours every day of his life, sometimes setting aside a whole day for prayer and letting us know not to interrupt him.
The need for intense focus is demonstrated by the famous Wallenda family. They are tightrope walkers dating back seven generations. Just over a year ago, Nik Wallenda added to his family’s legend by walking on a high wire across a gorge in the Grand Canyon. The wind was fierce that day, and Nik was unsure about the event. But once he made up his mind, he had a laser-like focus. He emerged from his quarters with an expression that inspired awe. The entire media grew quiet, and the cameras zoomed in on Nik’s face. His every breath was in sync with his task and the blowing winds that day were no match for his focus. Pole in hand, he strode forward to the wire—and walked all the way across the gorge, never distracted for an instant.
Nik Wallenda’s focus was literally a matter of life or death. Yet we in the Church of Jesus Christ have an even higher calling—but do we have his laser-beam focus? How often has our distraction turned into days, months, even years of meandering and mediocrity?
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).