(This is part three in a five-part article about the “H.O.P.² E.” acronym taken from the book, “They Told Me Their Stories,” where the environment of faith was described that attracted God's healing power to the Azusa Street revival. This article deals with the third letter in the acronym – Prayer.)
Recently, I read a testimony of a group of young men and women who went to Disneyland for a day. As they enjoyed the rides they stopped at the Food Court and noticed a young man whose arm was in a sling. One of the group felt impressed to pray for his healing. When the prayer was over the young man was completely healed and could freely move his arm. He started crying with joy because he was the star football player for his school and the injured arm would have sidelined him for the upcoming season.
For the next four hours over one hundred people lined up in the Food Court at Disneyland and got healed through the prayers of those young men and women who stepped out in faith. An equal number of people gave their hearts to Jesus because they saw the power of God. It all started because someone followed the nudge of God's Spirit to pray. The “Happiest Place on Earth” actually became its namesake when God showed up in power.
The release of God's presence and power through prayer takes place when we come into agreement with the will of God. When we pray in agreement with God's will His supernatural power is released into areas not accessible by human logic and reasoning. The continual and persistent prayers of the church are the battering rams of heaven that bring down the strongholds of hell in our lives, our community and in the earth.
In the Azusa Street Revival of the early 20th Century a small group of believers gathered for months to seek the face of God in prayer. They had a passion to pursue God and that passion worked its way out into fervent prayer, calling down the power of God into a building once used as a a livery stable.
Aimee Semple McPherson, the great revivalist and founder of the Foursquare Church commented on the Azusa Street Revival and said, “Hungry hearts were praying earnestly, however, and the Lord answered prayer in a wonderful way. They who had lost their first love caught the flame and re-consecrated their lives to service.” The seeking heart will always be found by God.
Frank Bartleman, one of the leaders at Azusa Street, wrote Evan Roberts in the Welsh Revival to get instructions on how to experience an outpouring of God in Los Angeles. Roberts wrote back and said, “Congregate the people who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God's promises. Hold daily meetings. May God bless you is my earnest prayer.”
Robert's advice was taken and history reveals what happened when people gathered to pray for God to make Himself known.
In Luke 11 Jesus taught His disciples about this kind of prayer,
“5 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
It is easy to study the mechanics of prayer and create a methodology of how we should pray. When we do this we can forget what actually motivates people to pray – the need for results. To pray without the hope of God showing up and actually doing something will soon shift our praying into a labor intensive effort where the answers fall back on us for fulfillment. At this point we burn out and the joy of prayer lifts.
Closed doors will open when we pray.
When Jesus taught His disciples in Luke 11:8 He gave us insight into what happens when we pray. “If you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.“ When we seek God and knock, closed doors will open.
When Jesus used this illustration from His culture the image he employed is one of a home all buttoned up for the night. In the Middle East people left their doors open all day long, but at night the family and livestock would bed down in their one room home. At night this single living space was crowded and easily disturbed. Any knock at the door would wake up everyone and everything in the house. When the door closed at night it was only opened for emergencies.
When God answers this kind of prayer, doors will open that may even violate cultural norms like doors being closed at night. This kind of prayer greases the hinges of obstacles and swings them open to access the realm of heaven. When heaven is manifested upon the earth supernatural things begin to take place, like star athletes getting healed at Disneyland or someone healed in line at your local supermarket.
In the Azusa Street Revival, those who chronicled the miracles said that when the church would begin to sing in the Spirit the manifestation of miracles, signs and wonders would increase. These prayers, when sung in the language of heaven, opened up access into the heavenlies and what was hovering above this kind of prayer fell into the midst of those gathered. Sometimes we don't know how to pray but the Holy Spirit does if we will simply partner with him.
Supernatural provision will come when we pray.
Jesus said, “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Everyone.
In the illustration Jesus used the persistent prayer of the friend to release the bread of heaven. Like the manna, the bread came because God was the only one who could provide it. The bread of answered prayer exists behind doors only opened in agreement with God's will.
So much of what is missed in understanding prayer has to do with our perception of God. Jesus went on to say in Luke 11: 11-12,
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
The word “confession” means to agree with God. This is usually associated with sin and our confession of sin. Confession is my agreement with God about something He sees in me and wants me to come into agreement with Him about. When we confess, we are agreeing with what God sees. Once our understanding about anything comes into agreement with what God is seeing, whether it is confession of sin or asking and knocking in prayer, real change is possible. This is why so much of prayer is about seeing what God sees. As we see God as He truly is we will begin to pray differently because we see Him as our Father who wants to bring His goodness to us. Confessing His goodness in prayer opens our spiritual eyes to see his heart and purposes more clearly.
We can reduce God down to someone who only gives to us based on how good we are. When we make that deduction we are saying that our actions change His character. God's character is intact and unchangeable by human frailties. He is good and will remain good throughout all eternity. He is good, not because we fully understand prayer, He is good because He can be nothing else but good. God loves to open the door to us if we will come into agreement with Him.