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The Secret Place

Pray without ceasing

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As missionaries-in-residence at Nyack (N.Y.) College, my husband, Barry, and I didn’t expect to learn so much from our students—specifically about prayer that touches God’s heart. Anel’s testimony is one of many we have heard from these passionate intercessors:

When a group of us students were traveling home from a prayer conference in Kansas City during Christmas break, we were so excited! We decided to ask the Holy Spirit to lead us to someone He wanted to touch with His grace. As we prayed, the Lord showed each of us a characteristic of a person to whom we were to reach out with Jesus’ love. One of us saw someone with a nose ring; another saw a woman with dark hair; still another saw someone in pain; we all saw the color blue.

We stopped for lunch, and sitting at the table next to us was a group of people wearing blue Best Buy uniforms! God led us to one who wears a nose ring, a 17-year-old girl from a Christian background. As we talked with her, she confided that she was under incredible pressure from her parents. We were able to encourage her with the love of God, who led a random group of college students traveling from Kansas City to New York to stop at her lunch destination to remind her that He cares about her.

On a missions trip to Ecuador, we were teaching on Jesus’ prayer model and the parts of the “Lord’s Prayer.” At that time, we were focusing on the meaning of “our Father” and how it speaks of our being in relationship to God. The woman with whom I was speaking said, “Wow! I’ve been praying like a beggar, and I’ve been a daughter this whole time!” She mentioned that she had pain in her knee. We prayed over her knee, asking her Father for healing. Praise God—she walked around the room with no pain!

Another Nyack student, Stephanie, asked for permission to set up a prayer room in our basement— a “secret place” to be alone with God. Most of the dorms have prayer rooms, but Stephanie’s doesn’t. Her full-on pursuit of God and her desire to spend hours every day worshiping and praying have really challenged us. Being addicted to God’s presence, a phrase used in a book on intercessory prayer, describes her well! Here are some of her experiences and insights:

Before coming to Nyack, I prayed but didn’t know the depths of the power of prayer. In my freshman year, after attending a friend’s church in New York City, we had a great time of intercession. The next day, I felt like God said, “Go to your room and lie flat on the floor.” When I obeyed, I started speaking in a prayer language. Before that, I’d had limited exposure to the gift of tongues.

Later that year, I received a prophecy that the Lord would bring me like-minded friends. I began to meet other students who had a deep longing to know God. Now there are seven or eight of us who get together to pray. Sometimes we put one of us in the middle of the group and start praying over that person. Or we go to pray for another student. Being part of a community that prays is so important, as is having leaders who pray.

Prayer is your connection to God. As your prayer life deepens, your relationship with God deepens. You can listen to God. You can be quiet in His presence. Sometimes, prayer is moaning and groaning in your spirit.

I started learning at church about intercessory prayer and discernment, and I realized God was giving me those gifts. Stuff that only the person and God knew would show up as I was praying for someone. I just prayed whatever came to my heart, petitions that hit the mark and really ministered to the person.

During a class in divine healing at Nyack College, we were assigned to pray for others’ healing. As I was praying for a friend, God gave me a mental picture about a time when this friend was emotionally scarred, when her talent was being abused. I mentioned it to her, and she remembered the incident. God showed me how to pray for this woman’s healing. He showed me what truth to speak into her life; Jesus showed me what He was saying to her. When I spoke that over her, she cried as God brought healing to her.

Those experiences pushed me to deeper intimacy with God. I also used my guitar to pray. I would sing prayers to God for people.

You need to just begin praying . . . prayer should be effortless, because true prayer is speaking out your heart to God, praying whatever’s on your heart for others, and often feels natural—though sometimes there’s a block. When that happens, I read Scripture or thank God for my identity in Christ.

Some of this I learned at a prayer conference in Kansas City in December 2012. The event catapulted me to want to spend prolonged time with God. Five minutes isn’t enough. It takes time to settle my heart and mind, to come into His presence. Sometimes He asks me to wait. He knows if I just need to vent or if I’m ready to pray for others—or even if I need a nap.

One of the testimonies at the conference that really spoke to me was from a Harvard Law School graduate student. God challenged her to give 10 percent of her time to Him—2.4 hours a day. The first week was tough for her, as she didn’t get enough sleep. But then it became unbelievably great—besides spending amazing hours with God, she got enough sleep and did so well at work that everybody praised her.

After the conference, God asked me to spend 20 percent of my time in prayer until school started again. Prayer, as the apostle Paul said, is constant, but I can relate to people working 9 to 5 (I’m student teaching now). Even when you get home, there’s a lot of work to do. But as many mornings as I can, I wake up an hour early because I can’t go on without God. This is why the evil one attacks prayer life and reading the Word the most, because communion with God is the source of our strength. Prayer is continual in that you keep awareness of God in your mind constantly, talking to Him and hearing from Him, or having praise and worship on your lips.

To activate the Word, you need to speak it out loud or have it in your mind. So if you’re lacking in either prayer or the Word, it’s like walking with only one leg. Worship, prayer and the Word all go together. It’s like a triangle, with each aspect connected to the others.

I think sometimes prayer is boring for people because they’re not connected to the Holy Spirit. First, ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit. He’s your Counselor. Ask Him what to pray.

Also, don’t look at prayer as wasted time if nothing happens at first. Keep persevering in praise and reading the Word/praying Scripture. God will meet you and speak to you.

Prayer will enhance your intimacy with God, and this will increase your prayer life. As you draw near to Him, your sensitivity to God will increase and your desire to draw near to Him will grow. Jesus is with us. He’s a Person. Speak to Him as a friend.

In his foreword to the book The Happy Intercessor by his wife, Beni, Bill Johnson says, “The secret to effective prayer is to love God, period. Because loving God develops a partnership. And it’s much more fun to pray with God than merely to pray to Him.” With that definition of being an intercessor, it’s easy to see we are all called to intercession, for we are all called to love God. Stephanie prays because she loves God! Her secret place is a call to us to love God more.

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