You become so involved in prayer that communicating with God is always there in the back of your mind. When a problem or situation comes up the thought doesn’t come into your mind, “Oh! I need to pray about this.” You are automatically praying about it. You could say that talking to God has become a habit. The discipline of “practicing the Presence of God” is no longer a practice. You’re simply aware that God is there. And you view everything that happens to you and everything you’re involved in through the filter of the spiritual life.
This type of lifestyle intercession is not something that comes automatically. It’s something you work at through discipline. Through taking advantage of
∑ Knowing that God is present
∑ The right to hear God speak
∑ The opportunity to sit with Him in silence
∑ Permission to take all your cares to Him
∑ The ability to pray in tongues
∑ The privilege of having a Bible and knowing how to read
∑ Having learned – and practiced – the need to get direction from Him as to how to pray.
For most of us, these are not lifestyle choices that came to us automatically the moment we were born again. We have to work and purposefully put them into our lives. So I want us to look at each of these aspects in more detail.
Knowing that God is present. For me, this did come when I gave my life to the Lord in the back yard by myself when I was 2 years old. I can honestly say that I have never experienced a moment when I wasn’t aware that God was there. In 2008 I was asked the question, “What is your favorite name or description of God?” I immediately thought “Lord” or “The Carpenter” (because of how much He’s had to hammer and saw and chisel on me). But, taking the question very seriously, I meditated on the matter and asked God what He would say my answer was. What I realized after a couple days was that I’d have to say that my personal, favorite name for God is, “Jehovah Shammah” – “The God Who is there.” Many or most people don’t have this kind of an experience right at the beginning of their born-again life. Many years ago a monk wrote a little pamphlet called, “Practicing the Presence of God.” That pamphlet and just that title have helped many people retrain their thinking.
When I was a sophomore in college, I discovered the verse, “Pray without ceasing.” “How in the world do you do that?” I asked myself. Well, since I’m a visual learner, I decided that in order to obey this verse, I’d need to be reminded – often – to pray. So I wrote the word, “Pray without ceasing” in tiny, tiny letters and cut them out. It was so tiny that I could tear off a piece of scotch tape, put it over the words and there would be enough tape on all four sides that I could stick somewhere. And that’s what I did. I stuck “Pray without ceasing” all over my dorm room. On the mirror, the chest of drawers, the door of the closet, my headboard. I don’t think my roommate ever saw them because they were so tiny. At least she never mentioned it. But, knowing they were there, I would see them and when I saw them I’d pray. This really enhanced my prayer life which resulted in some major changes. At the time, I did not know about Deuteronomy 6:9. Talking about the Word of the Lord, verse 9 says, “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” I believe this is a verse that needs to be taken literally.
Fast forward quite a few years. I was married with three children who were in elementary school and junior high. Gary came to me one day and said, “Ok RaJean. I give up. I get up in the morning, shave, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and I’m on my way to work before it even dawns on me to pray. But you! You get out of bed talking to God. How do you do it? Give me some advice.” I didn’t say a word. All I did was to get my darkest, red lipstick. Then I stepped into his shower and wrote with the lipstick in really big letters on the back wall of the shower, “Good morning God!” Around the faucets I wrote, “Thank You Jesus!” On the third wall I wrote, “Come Holy Spirit!” That’s all I did. It wasn’t long before Gary didn’t have to remembering to pray.
This is a teaching tool that God has ordained. Do you use it? When I finally wiped the lipstick off the shower wall, it was very difficult to get it out of the grout but I didn’t care. It had done its job and that’s worth a residue of color left in the grout. I often recommend that people go to Sylvia Gunter’s web and order her pamphlet entitled, “Who I Am In Christ.” When you get it, tear the pages out and tape one or more of them on your mirror or on a bathroom wall. I’ve learned that whatever words are in your bathroom, you’ll soon have memorized. Put them in your children’s bathroom. I’ve taught out at a local Christian rehab center for women who have been incarcerated. It took a while but I finally got them to tape a different page on each of the bathroom stalls. And you know what? Without even trying, the women began to memorize these scriptures and it changed their failure, good-for-nothing attitude about themselves and God’s opinion of them.
The right to hear God speak. I didn’t know that God delights to speak to His children until I was 24 or 25 years old. When I learned this, that’s when I dug into the scriptures to find out how the huge God of the universe is able to make His voice so tiny that a mere mortal can hear and understand. It is why, whenever I begin a teaching series on prayer I always start with that topic – because I’ve discovered that most Christians don’t know that God does talk to them. And when they do, they don’t recognize all the ways given in scripture for how He talks. This ignorance either robs them of clear direction and comfort or they don’t know how to distinguish His voice from the voice of the enemy or their own voice. I’ve sometimes been amazed at what people have told me that they “heard” God say – things that are in direct violation of Scripture. I’ve also had people tell me God told them to do such and such. Then when they took a good look at what God supposedly told them and it is distasteful to them, then they tell me that God changed His mind and they don’t have to do it anymore. No. That doesn’t line up with scripture. One of those times, they simply attributed their own voice for God’s voice.
The opportunity to sit with Him in silence. This is often very difficult for Americans because our cultural mindset is that we have to always be doing something. Many times I’ve been awakened at night and know it’s the Lord calling me to be with Him. So I’ll tiptoe out of the bedroom and go to a place where I can have a light on. I get out my Bible, pen and paper and I’m ready to listen and write. But nothing comes. So I sit in silence. One, two, three hours have sometimes gone by before I get permission to go back to bed. When this happens I’m always curious and wonder, “What was that all about?” Invariably I don’t hear anything. But the next day, difficult circumstances fall into place or I suddenly have insight or direction about a matter. I’m convinced that God sometimes wants to know if we’re willing to just “live and move and have our being” in Him.
Permission to take all your cares to Him. I’ve heard some people say that some things are just too small to bother the Lord with. And I have to ask, “Is anything large to Him?” We need to stop trying to make God in our own image. What about your anger? Back in the 90s, Robert Duvall made a movie called, “The Apostle.” Some Christians loved the movie, others took offence at it. Regardless of how you felt about it, that movie helped a lot of people just because of one scene. It’s a scene after Duvall, a preacher, learned that his wife was having an affair just like he’d been doing off and on for years. It made him mad because in his mind what was good for the goose was NOT good for the gander. So he spent all night ranting and raving in prayer, pacing around the room, yelling at God, saying, “God, I’m MAD at You! I’m mad at YOU!” That scene shook up a lot of people and they left the theater saying, “I didn’t know you could be mad at God.” Well, of course we can and often are! People just don’t know that it’s OK so they live in denial and never deal with their anger. But in reality, it’s like my husband always says, “Who’s big enough to be able to handle your anger?” And I always add, “Do you think He doesn’t know you’re angry at Him?” We can take everything and anything to Him.
The ability to pray in tongues. I often tell people, if you don’t have a prayer language, get one. God wants to give you one. How can I scripturally say this? 1 Corinthians 14:1 tells us to seek or desire the spiritual gifts. Tongues are one of the spiritual gifts. So ask God for it. He’s a good Father and He desires to give His children good gifts. Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer? Thy will be done as it is in heaven? Well, do you really think that English is the language of heaven?
Why is the gift of tongues so valuable? Because of all the gifts, it’s the only one that is directly to God. All the others are used in service to others. For tongues to be useful to others it has to be accompanied by another gift, the gift of interpretation of tongues. It’s an unlearned language that gives you an unhindered pipeline to God. That’s why the devil hates it so much and why he stirs up so much misunderstanding, unbelief and animosity toward the gift and those who use it. Praying in tongues is prayer that doesn’t have to go through your own mind, your cultural training or your own prejudices and theology. As Paul said, “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” 1 Corinthians 14:14-15 I know that we can pray in English by the Holy Spirit, but in context, these verses are talking about praying in tongues when it talks about praying in the Spirit. Notice also that it is prayer that comes out of your human spirit – that part of you that was born again.
A man at church couldn’t wait to tell me about a change he was making in his spiritual life. Since he has an hour commute to work, in the past, he’s filled that time by listening to teaching tapes or music CDs. Recently he’d felt led to forgo these and spend the entire hour praying in tongues. He said it was hard at first but he very quickly began to notice a change in his life. “Even though I don’t get an interpretation,” he said, “later on things happen. I’m having thoughts I’d never come up with on my own. Ideas. Direction.” He was so excited he could hardly get the words out of his mouth fast enough to tell me about it. Praying in tongues like this is often like sitting with God in silence. It’s effective.
Let’s back up to verse 13 of 1 Corinthians 14 – Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. This is, of course, talking about using the gift of tongues in a public setting. But we can use this as a guideline for our private use also. Let’s say you’re praying about a matter and you don’t know how to pray so you use tongues. Many times when you feel it’s OK to stop, you automatically receive direction for how to pray in English. What about when you don’t? What I’ve learned is that He will either give you the interpretation or He’ll give you His response back. Sometimes you just have a knowing that you were worshipping and praising or an understanding of what you were praying about. Other times, God will simply give you His response back.
One night years ago, I felt led to really pray for a certain woman. Not knowing what to pray, I sat down and began to pray in tongues. When the burden lifted, I asked God, “What was that all about?” Clear as a bell I heard, “RaJean, you did want I wanted, now get up and go to bed.” I giggled all the way down the hallway because I knew, even though God hadn’t said it, I that if He’d told me what I had been praying, I’d be tempted to gossip about it.
Another time I got really mad about something. I mean, REALLY mad. Gary was working the night shift so as soon as I got my babies to bed, I plopped myself down in a rocking chair and I began to rock – hard – back and forth, back and forth. “God,” I stormed. “I’m really mad about this. And I know that my attitude stinks and I can’t change it. So I’m going to sit in this chair and I’m going to stay here until You do something about it. I’m not going to budge until something changes. If this mad isn’t gone by morning, You’ll just have to send someone to take care of my babies because I’m not moving.” And I rocked and rocked and rocked, praying in tongues all the while. Pretty soon, the rocking wasn’t as vigorous. Eventually it even became calm. Sooner than I ever thought possible, I was calm as well and I went to bed in peace. Whatever I was so angry about had been reduced so small that soon thereafter, I couldn’t even remember what had made me so mad. But I haven’t forgotten the results of that night. Honesty – I’d admitted that my attitude wasn’t holy. Determination. And how marvelously God is able to use the gift of tongues for our own personal benefit. So I repeat, if you don’t have the gift of tongues, get rid of all the excuses you’ve used and ask God for the gift. It’s not a matter of, “Well, if God wants me to have it He’ll give it to me.” He’s already told you that He wants you to seek the gifts of the Spirit. Some people have told me, “Oh but you know that we all have different gifts.” Yes, but as we grow spiritually we will each begin to experience ALL of the spiritual gifts. That’s why we’re told to seek them. God is saying, “Keep growing, stretching, changing.” Why would He want that? Well, the fruit of the Spirit is the character of Jesus. The gifts are His abilities. He wants us to do even greater works than He did so let’s start with just doing what He did.
The privilege of having a Bible and knowing how to read. This is a privilege I know that I don’t take advantage of often enough. But actually, this is a HUGE blessing. While teaching at a Women’s Conference in far north-east India one year, we had sessions where we ministered one-on-one to the women. One woman came to me and asked for prayer that she could remember the scriptures when they were read in her hearing. Well, I want this for myself but for her, it was even more critical because she didn’t have a Bible, didn’t know how to read if she had one and even if she did, her Hindu husband wouldn’t allow her to read it.
For all of us, the more scripture we have memorized, the greater benefit we have. Memorized scripture is something that man can not take away from us if we are indeed, living in the end times and we ever experience incarceration for our faith. Being in the Word of God is also a good way of sharpening our minds. Bill Gothard tells the story of how he flunked one grade in elementary school. Everyone assumed that he simply had a low IQ. Somewhere along the line, he began to really delve into Scripture. The result was a literal experience of the Word being “sharper than any two-edged sword.” He finished school in the top of his class, went on to college, and you’re all familiar with what an incredible research and teaching ministry he’s had for decades.
I was in a serious car accident in 1994 that affected my brain. Besides now experiencing a touch of dyslexia, at times, for whatever reason, I have felt a dullness or a slowness begin to affect my ability to think. When that happens, I have come to realize that I’ve slacked off on the amount of time I’m in the Word. So I start reading more and I get back to normal.
Having learned – and practiced – the need to get direction from God as to how to pray. As I’ve shared when I taught on how to hear God speak and how to get into intercession, this is absolutely invaluable for anyone who takes prayer seriously. Giving another example of ministering in India – one time a little bitty woman came to me for prayer. She was even shorter than I am and I’m 4’10”. Tiny lady. But she had a big round stomach as if she were pregnant. I had no idea what she wanted prayer for or how to pray. In situations like this I often don’t want to be told so that what I hear from the Lord can be confirmed by the person I’m praying for. If it doesn’t fit, then I know I heard wrong. So I just got still and waited for the Lord to show me how to pray for her. I immediately had a vision of a little baby girl. So I told the pastor who was translating for me what I saw. He said, “She doesn’t have a little girl.” So I prayed some more. I still got a picture of this little girl. So I told him again. This time, he asked the woman about it. Unknown to him – and certainly to me – she had given birth to a little girl before she turned from Buddhism to Christianity and she was worried sick that because she was not a believer when the baby died, that the baby went to hell. She was so worried about the child that she was experiencing pain in her stomach and her stomach had swollen as if she were pregnant. Theologically I didn’t have an opinion about this. All I could think of was, “What do I do now?” I felt so inadequate! So I closed my eyes again and saw the same vision of the little girl. But this time, Jesus was playing with her. So I was able to tell her what I saw and pray over her. She was immediately slain in the Spirit while the Comforter confirmed to her that her child was safe. The pastor was amazed because he had no idea what had been wrong with her and I was ecstatic because I had, indeed, heard from the Lord!!! It’s always so nice to have things confirmed.
Bottom Line: Lifestyle Intercession is when you move from prayer into hearing God tell you, show you or impress upon you exactly how to pray for a specific person or situation, using the various tools He’s givens us as guidance. It is a discipline all Believers in Jesus are called to undertake.