The first level: Praying to receive
The first level of prayer most of us experience is praying to receive.
Years ago I was conducting a revival meeting in Mississippi. One evening, following the service, we went to dinner at a beautiful old antebellum home that belonged to some church members.
While we were eating I noticed an odd chain that extended through the wall near the dining table. Mystified by it, I asked the homeowner what it was. He explained that it was a "servant's chain," from the days of slavery. When the slave owner's family was ready to be served their dinner, they summoned their servants by pulling the chain.
Prayer is often seen as a way for us to "pull God's chain," to persuade Him to meet our needs. We have a need, we pray, and God responds with an answer. Isn't that often our perception of prayer? This is the most elementary understanding and application of prayer, not unlike a hungry baby who cries for his food.
But there are other aspects of prayer that we grow to understand and experience.
The second level: Praying to relate
Over time some of us may learn that prayer should be more than our "pulling God's chain" to get something from Him. We begin to see prayer as a way to relate to our heavenly Father. Prayer becomes an act of worship, an intimate spiritual relationship between a bride (us) and a groom (Christ). No other religion attempts to pray at this level. Their gods have no interest in a loving and personal relationship with them.
At this point we move beyond simply approaching God for things, even good and important things. In fact, our focus is no longer on ourselves at all. It is now on our "heavenly lover."
Some are so programmed toward serving God that they never discover this intimate aspect of prayer. They elevate what they do for God above relating intimately to Him.
When you enter this level of prayer you learn that it's not primarily about your needs being met. It's about meeting Christ's needs of worship, praise, and adoration. (See John 4:23.) But there's a third level of prayer. I believe it is the highest level.
My wife, Alice's, personal life message has to do with intimacy with God. Her classic bestseller Beyond The Veil
, and her latest book Spiritual Intimacy With God
delve deeply into this level of prayer. If you haven't, I strongly encourage you to read them.The third level: Praying to produce
God is beginning to reveal to us here at the beginning of the twenty-first century how prayer to receive blends with prayer to relate to become prayer to produce!
Consider for a moment a man and his wife who cannot produce children. From ancient times barrenness has been thought of as tragic. The childless couple has affection for and an attraction to each other. They are intimately engaged with each other. They find great personal fulfillment in their relationship. But they desire more. They want a child. They are programmed for reproduction. If they cannot produce children, they feel unfulfilled.
The same is true with prayer. Through prayer our basic needs are satisfied. We pray and God responds. Through prayer we experience intimacy with God. We exchange vows of love, we adore Him, and He adores us. But the ultimate purpose of our divine romance is to produce fruit. What kind of fruit? Every tree produces fruit after its kind. We are expected to produce kingdom fruit that will in time produce more kingdom fruit.
One day God's glorious kingdom will be fulfilled on this earth. Today, we can experience a "pre-fillment" of His kingdom in our hearts. We, the King's bride, in concert with Him, are to produce kingdom results to see the kingdom of God displace the kingdom of darkness through spiritual warfare. Through prayer we will soon see the kingdoms of this earth become the kingdoms of our God! Key to this is our being heard in heaven.
My book, "How To Be Heard In Heaven" is about change. Writing it changed me. Reading it will change you. If like me, you are dissatisfied with the general ineffectiveness of your prayer life and want to step up to a new dimension with revelation that will unlock the heavenlies and release God's power, both in your own life and in the lives of those you love, then welcome aboard. Fasten your seat belt! You are the very person I've been waiting for.
There is a prayer protocol in heaven. It isn't complex, but it is very real. How we see and approach God is critical to our being heard by Him. It isn't true that He hears every prayer. We can and should learn how to present our cases in heaven's court in ways that increase the likelihood of our being heard and winning our petitions. I'm calling you to a place of spiritual maturity in prayer.
When Robert, our eldest son who is also a minister, was four years old, he and I were sitting in a shoe store while his mom shopped for shoes. Like any four-year-old boy, he began to grow a bit restless. Frankly, so was I.
As he walked by me I said with a serious tone, "Son, when are you going to grow up?"
His big brown eyes rolled up and to the left as he grasped for a thought. He said, "I'm gonna do it right now."
With that, he rose to his tiptoes, threw back his tiny shoulders, gritted his teeth, and exerted all the effort he could muster to stretch himself taller. After a couple of fruitless and frustrating moments, a look of disappointment fell across his cherubic face. He said, "I think I'll let myself do it." He learned right there that growing up takes time.
Spiritual maturity, like physical maturity, doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. But it also takes determination.
One man challenged me, saying, "Brother, I figure that if God can hear the prayer of a toddler, he can hear me regardless of how I pray."
I assured him that he was correct. "Sure, God can hear you as well as He can hear a toddler. However, is anything more disappointing than a forty-seven-year-old toddler?" Why would anyone settle for such a low goal rather than strive to become the best? Let's discover the elements required to release God's power when we pray. Let's set our sights on becoming those God looks forward to hearing from.
Alice and I once spoke to our children in "baby talk." But as they grew older we changed the way we communicated with them. They are all adults now. Talking in "baby talk" to them would be ridiculous, in spite of the fact that they would understand what we are saying.
It's the same way with prayer. God appreciates the prayer of toddlers; He loves to hear them pray. Who doesn't? However, there comes a time when we should move from "baby talk" to clear adult communication with God. Prolonged immaturity dishonors Him. What He can hear, or is even willing to hear, isn't the question. The point is what He deserves to hear, what brings Him pleasure.
God has delegated dominion of the earth to us and invites us to be His partners in prayer. (See Genesis 1:27-28 and Psalm 115:16.) It's time that we mature in prayer and become intentional, trained allies with God in extending His kingdom on the earth.
Once we become kingdom-oriented, we graduate from problem-centered praying to purpose-driven prayer. We discover that prayer's higher purpose is to accomplish God's eternal agenda. When we begin to "tune our prayers into that frequency," self begins to fade, and Christ becomes the focus of our prayers. Then God will be honored to hear them.
Zachary, one of our grandsons (who was three years old at the time), was spending the night with us. He was having difficulty going to sleep, and because of it, I was having difficulty going to sleep! After warning him several times to stop sneaking out of his bed, making noises, and whatever else he could think to do to stay awake, I heard him talking. That was it! I climbed out of bed again, lumbered down the hall to his room, turned on his light, and said sternly, "Zachary Myles Smith, who are you talking to?!"
He sat upright, looked at me with his big brown eyes, and said angelically, "I talkin' to my room."
How about you? Like Zachary, have you felt like you've been talkin' to your room? Have you elevated yourself and your needs above God's agenda? As you grow to maturity, you'll come to understand that prayer is not primarily about you; it's about your heavenly Father and His kingdom.
Prayer's prime purpose has to do with the heart of God. In fact, He promised us that if we'd focus on His kingdom, He'd focus on those things we need. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33, emphasis added).
He has called us to a joint venture with Him in the family business, which is building His kingdom! Great communication skills are required to build any effective family business. Prayer is the ultimate wireless communication.
May ours always be more than "talkin' to our room."--------------------------------------------------------
The above article is adapted from Eddie's book "How To Be Heard In Heaven." ORDER=============================================================================
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