Great Answers to Prayer Often Require
a Sense of Urgency
“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask
when you pray, believe that you receive them,
and you shall have them.”
This promise is a continuation of Jesus telling us to speak to our mountains in faith and they will move. There is something both fascinating and critical I want you to understand about this promise. The word “ask,” or “desire” as some versions use, is different from what we might suppose. The word Jesus used, aiteo, includes the idea of a craving that might cause one to beg.
The point is not that we must beg God in the sense that we’re trying to get Him to do something He doesn’t want to do. It is that when we pray we need to understand that what He considers asking may be quite different than our definition.
Window Shopping Is Not Praying
For instance, a young child may walk down the aisle of a store and see the bright colors and point to item after item saying, “I want that!” The smart parent keeps walking until the interest dies down. Adults have fleeting interests, too. Have you ever gone window shopping? “Oh, that’s beautiful. I’d love to have that,” you say, but you keep walking.
When God says we can get what we desire through prayer, He specifically excluded window shopping type prayers. This doesn’t mean He won’t often lavish you with a love gift that’s way out of proportion to your obedience, faith, or prayer. (I mean, my goodness, what is salvation?) But as a general rule, He doesn’t answer prayers that don’t originate from a strong desire. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, mountains or strongholds by definition are too stubborn to yield to prayers that lack a desire strong enough to keep the praying person praying.
Think of Daniel needing to hold on in intense prayer for twenty-one days before the answer came (Daniel 10:1-14).
Second, this brief life is our training ground for eternity, and He uses our prayers as part of the training.
We may not think of it often or seriously contemplate ruling and reigning with Christ throughout eternity on the new Earth, but He is dead serious about this. Everything He does in regard to our prayers is within the context of Him conforming us to the image of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, and us ruling with Him.
The significance of this is He never passes up an opportunity to further us along in our spiritual growth. Every prayer is answered, delayed, or denied within the context of growing us up and getting us ready for eternity.
We see through a glass, darkly, and we have partial knowledge. So no matter how wonderful our motives or dire our situation, we nearly always pray from a position of deficiency. So how is this deficiency overcome? How can God grant mountain moving, world changing power to people in this compromised, often sinful, condition?
My understanding is that since we often operate at such an acute deficit of knowledge (or character or faith or love or a hundred other things!) when we pray, we come before Him boldly as sons and daughters, but are nonetheless in utter dependence upon His goodness and wisdom to bring whatever we pray for to pass. And a tool He uses to overcome our deficit is the time interval between the prayer request and its answer. Time is a tool in the hands of God when we are praying.
How God Uses Urgency and Time to Answer Our Prayers
No matter how dire the situation or noble our interest, when we pray God’s primary concern is answering the prayer in such a way that you are transformed. This normally takes time. However, if there’s not enough desire, or urgency, in your heart for the object you’re praying for, chances are you won’t hang around long enough for God’s work to be done in your heart.
Unless God decides otherwise, this often results in what appears as God saying no to your request. Actually, He’s not saying, “No.” He’s saying, “Get yourself back in here so we can finish the transformation process in your heart. You need to be changed so I can answer the prayer.”
If you stay in prayer long enough, the Holy Spirit will search your heart and bring thoughts to your mind. These thoughts will give you a portion of God’s perspective on whatever you’re praying for. They’ll also reveal to you things about yourself.
This is a coveted place to be! It’s the transformation process. If you respond honestly and patiently to these thoughts, you will be changed and barriers to your prayers will disappear.
And as I said when I opened this chapter, some situations are so complicated or so reinforced with demonic power that only sustained prayer power will secure the victory. Sustained prayer. Just another way of saying desire or urgency.
How to Get More Urgency in Prayer
Since urgency is often needed for our prayer to qualify as true prayer from God’s perspective, how do we get more urgency? Good news, it’s not a matter of will power. If it were, most of us would be in permanent trouble because creating willpower is like grasping fog in your hand.
Time to smile. There is a backdoor way to get urgency without short-lived, exhausting efforts of trying to will yourself into it. The secret is to use the right tool. Who changes a tire by using brute force to lift the car off the ground? We use a car jack that allows us to lift thousands of pounds with relatively little effort. Similarly, there is a prayer tool that lifts our urgency level higher than we ever could by will power alone. That tool is exposure to something that automatically produces urgency.
The Bible is filled with examples of people getting spectacular answers to prayers that required great intensity, focus…urgency. None of these people tried to manufacture urgency. Let’s look at one of them to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Hannah’s prayers overcame her infertility (1 Samuel 1:1-20). She didn’t try to have urgency. Nor did she try to pray longer or more regularly. Her urgency, length, and regularity in prayer came automatically by what she was exposed to. She was constantly exposed to the daily taunting of a human tormentor, which aggravated her sense of loss and drove her to her knees.
Do you really want more urgency in prayer? You want to pray longer and with more focus. Be like Hannah. Allow your circumstance to drive you to your knees. But what if you don’t have a daily tormentor like Hannah, so to speak? Something like pain or immediate danger to make you get off the internet or turn off the TV? What if you just want more urgency, duration, and focus when you pray about regular stuff?
Is the regular stuff important? How important? What happens to the object of your prayer if you don’t pray? If the perceived repercussions of not praying aren’t serious to you, you’re not going to have a sense of urgency. Conversely, if you feel there’s a chance of something bad happening by you not praying, you will find a sense of uneasiness inside of you. What you want is to inflame that sense of unease to a strength level that displaces your other time eating priorities—at least for a while.
You can increase the sense of unease by deliberately putting before your face things that make you think about the object you desire to pray about. You want to pray about someone more regularly? Put their name on your prayer list. Look at their name as you pray. Better yet, use a picture of them if you can. You want to pray for them more urgently? As positive as you might be, make yourself think of worse case scenarios concerning them. Now pray.
I know how that last statement sounds. So let me give you an example that hopefully will put my statement in context. You’re praying for someone’s salvation, but not with any real sense of regularity, duration, or urgency. Make yourself think of what happens if this person isn’t saved. There’s only heaven or hell. The prospect of someone spending eternity in that horrible place will automatically help you pray for them—if you think on it honestly. You can do this for anything you’re praying about.
Finally, perhaps Jesus’s own words will help clarify. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn…” (Matthew 5:3, 4). The blessing is not in simply being poor in spirit or of mourning. The blessing is that the person knows he’s poor in spirit.
When you know you’re poor in spirit, it produces a spiritual mourning. The end result is you’re driven to Jesus by a revelation of your need.
Now apply the concept of what Jesus said to whatever it is you’re praying about. Just as a sinner is driven to Jesus by an awareness of his spiritual poverty, you can be driven to Jesus by an awareness of spiritual poverty. The poverty is, What is the present condition of my prayer object? What is the worst case scenario of my prayer object if the situation doesn’t change?
Now just as the sinner must think on his condition honestly enough and long enough for the Holy Spirit to change his heart, you, too, must do the same. You will find your heart getting softer and your emotions getting stirred.
If this still seems a little on the negative side for you, do the exact opposite (whatever works!). Think on the good that can happen if you keep praying. Either way…
Here comes urgency!
Lesson One. God wants to see real desire in my prayers. If I am only window shopping, I will take steps to intelligently increase my desire.
Lesson Two. I will remember that God uses the time interval between the prayer and the answer to grow me up into the image of Christ and to prepare me to rule and reign with Him on the new Earth throughout eternity.
Lesson Three. I will stop wearing myself out in the flesh trying to be a better prayer warrior, and will instead increase my sense of urgency in prayer by using the tool of honest exposure to the need. I will remember how it worked for Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:1-20).
Pray, “Lord, I know that every prayer doesn’t require me to pour out my soul. And I know that You love me, and that You’re so kind and longsuffering that You often answer prayers even when we should pray better. But I know that some things require more fervency and urgency in prayer.
“I’m going to do my best to expose myself to things that remind me of the importance of this prayer being answered. Will You please help me in this? I know You will; so I thank You now that my sense of urgency in prayer is growing.”
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