Over four-plus decades of following Christ, the most consistent correlation I’ve discovered is this: As goes my prayer life, so goes my life. Prayer sustains me, thus it is incumbent upon me, to sustain prayer.
Sustainable prayer, is my being intentional, to maintain communion with God as an ongoing, consistent process and is expressed in three arenas. Communion is fellowship with God; simply enjoying Him; being in His Presence. Petition is making request for something I need. Intercession is making request on behalf of another person or situation. I see these separate features as “prayers without boundaries”, wonderfully blended and integrated together. We may commune, petition, and intercede, all in the same paragraph. Husbands and wives that commit to being consistent in these arenas, will never lack the resources needed for a healthy marriage and family.
In retrospect, my view on prayer has always been that of an umbilical cord attaching us to God, supplying the sustenance needed to remain spiritually strong. Then, once we die, or the Lord returns, we have no further need for prayer. But consider the example of Christ. He prayed during His earthly ministry (in all three arenas) and the Word tells us that He is still praying, 2,000 years later. Jesus, in a heavenly, glorified body, is still engaged in prayer. Heb. 7:17,25 Could it be that if Jesus, our example, prayed in His human frame and has continued to have a prayer life in His resurrected, glorified, heavenly body, then perhaps we will too?
In the Book of Revelation we are told of a scroll, or book, in the Father’s hand. Rev. 5:1-5 This scroll represents the title deed to the earth, containing God’s plan of restoration in the context of end-time judgment and cleansing. Jesus is the only one worthy to take the scroll and open its’ seals. He accepts this role to cleanse and rule over the earth, and we discover that our prayers are involved in the process.
“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” Rev. 8:1-5 (emphases mine)
What a solemn moment – silence in heaven. The prayers and the incense burn together and arise before God. No believing prayer that you’ve ever prayed has ever been in vain. They have been stored on the altar of God, and resound in the midst of a symphony of millions of prayers prayed over thousands of years. The silence is shattered with thunder, lightning and an earthquake. Imagine your prayers in the mix, ignited by fire, scented by fragrant incense, being hurled to the earth as the end time judgments unfold.
I wonder, if every prayer of intercession that’s ever been prayed, will touch down on its destination when the seventh seal is broken and the scroll is opened? If this was true, and you believed it to be true, would it change your prayer life in this present day? On the flip side, if my prayers have an abbreviated “shelf life”, only effectual for the moment, and no eternal value, I may have a different approach to my level of investment in prayer.
Prayer does not influence or change God’s purpose; it does however influence His action. He has chosen to limit His actions, to the extent that His people partner with Him in prayer. One person expressed it this way: “Holy Spirit, pray in me the Father’s will. Father, what the Spirit in me is praying, that is my prayer, in Jesus name. “ Taking cues from Holy Spirit as I pray, is the obvious way to improve the accuracy and efficiency of my prayers.
Sustainable prayer has a circular motion. God makes His purpose known to me; it stirs my heart and mind; I then speak it back to God in the form of prayer. God takes pleasure in my partnership with Him. He enjoys teaching me and leading me in prayer. In the end, I give Him all the glory, attributing my inspiration and stamina to His Presence within me.
Husbands and wives, engaged both individually and corporately in sustainable prayer, are contributing to the “prayers of all the saints”, stored on the altar of God. While those prayers are releasing God’s kingdom purposes here and now, they are also mysteriously integrated into the unfolding of God’s end time purposes. When I catch a glimpse of this future horizon, I’m inspired to sustain my heart connection, with the One who lives to intercede for me.