Developing a More Passionate Prayer Life
One of my most life-changing experiences regarding prayer, occurred one Sunday night when I was just twelve years old. While our family watched television together, we were unaware that our rural Indiana farmhouse was in the direct path of a rapidly approaching twister that had already killed thirteen local residents.
As soon as my parents saw the TV tornado alert, they directed us to take shelter in the basement... and only minutes later, the tornado’s thundering winds collided with our home. The structure shook violently with the noise of breakage and groans of twisted timbers. And yet in the background, I remember also hearing my mother’s pleas, praying and calling out to the Lord for His help. “Dear Jesus, please help us! Dear Jesus, please help us!” she kept repeating.
My mom’s prayer was the first I can ever recall of someone praying so intently as though their life depended on it... which God apparently heard and answered, saving our lives. While there was destruction all around us, we were unharmed and our home was left largely intact. I was stunned later when a neighbor told me how he watched the twister rise over our house and come back down on the other side, which coincided with the exact moment of my mom’s passionate prayers.
There may be things that none of us may fully understand about prayer, but I can definitely attest to the fact that God pays close attention to the desperate, faith-filled prayer of a godly person. As James wrote, “...The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Such prayers often emerge from urgencies that cause believers to drop everything else, to pray passionately and unashamedly... as though their life, or the life of a loved one, depends upon it.
This kind of passion was likely what the late Leonard Ravenhill meant, when he said, “God doesn’t answer prayer. He answers desperate prayer!”1 And in the words of pastor/author, Jim Cymbala, “When God is sought in desperation, he responds. Even in hopeless situations.”2
Author E.M. Bounds, also offered what might be one of the most eloquent descriptions of passionate prayer, undoubtedly shaped by his prior perspective as a chaplain in the Confederate army. Among his many heart-wrenching experiences, he comforted scores of wounded and dying soldiers who prayed and called out to God in the trenches during the horrific Battle of Franklin, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. He wrote, “Prayer must be aflame. Its ardor must consume. Prayer without fervor is as a sun without light or heat, or as a flower without beauty or fragrance. A soul devoted to God is a fervent soul, and prayer is the creature of that flame.”4
The question is, however, how can we pray with this same desperation, even if a tornado isn’t barreling down on us... or if our life doesn’t depend on it? There are legitimate matters that are deserving of our ardent prayers, even though they may not always rise to the level of life and death.
I can remember many of my past attempts to arouse the need for prayer in church members, who were unable to see the urgency of lost souls, or the crisis of spiritual opposition that we faced as a church. I’ve also personally struggled at times to pray passionately for things that I knew needed the fervent attention of my prayers, but I could not bring myself to that level of urgency.
Unfortunately, as long as things are going well, without any any urgent crises or problems, many Christians can easily fall into a slumbering state of passivity or apathy... unable to perceive or realize the need for urgency.
While preaching about this matter years ago, I made the facetious remark, “We need to do something to wake ourselves up, to see the need, to realize how urgent our prayers are needed. Maybe like taking a 16 ounce hammer and slamming it down hard on our big toe!”
Folks laughed, but it brought home an important point. We all must find a way to stay stirred up with a need to pray, and mustn’t wait for anyone else to do it for us. That is, we must all take responsibility for stirring ourselves up, instead of passing the buck to the pastor or somebody else to stir us. As Paul said, “I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you...” (2 Timothy 1:6).
Steps To Renew Your Prayer Passion
(1) Dwell and Meditate on God’s Word – People often lack a burden for souls or other spiritual priorities, because they’ve become distant from the passions of the Gospel and the purpose for why Jesus willingly suffered and died on the Cross. Keeping your thought-life focused on God and His Word, instead of the cares and distractions of this world, will help feed your faith and stir your spiritual man with the kind of inspiration and passion you need to pray effectively. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:14).
(2) Maintain a Regular Regimen of Prayer – Passion could be interpreted as fiery or excited, but can also be understood as persistence and determination. Remember, it's easier to build a bonfire on top of smoldering embers than on cold wet wood.... and if you get a fire going, just keep pouring on fuel and don’t let it go out. Your persistence to pray faithfully is the framework on which passion can grow to support an even more powerful and vibrant prayer life. “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice” (Psalms 55:17).
(3) Fast and Pray – Combining the Biblical discipline of “fasting” together with our prayers, is an important and valuable spiritual practice. Among other things, fasting is a voluntary form of self-denial and affliction, that arouses a sense of urgency or need... that helps stir the sincerity and intensity of our prayer life. “Now, therefore," says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12).
Pray in the Spirit
– This is one of great reasons that believers need to be filled
with the Holy Spirit, so that His indwelling presence may help us
pray in our moments of need or distress. The Holy Spirit is our
comforter and helper, Who enables and equips us with the power to
serve God and live the Christian life. “...the
Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we
should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes
intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans
Pray Together With Other Believers
is no substitute for a personal private prayer life with the Lord,
but having frequent opportunities to pray with other believers is
also absolutely essential. Such prayer adds to our faith and
spiritual encouragement, provides examples for how to model our own
prayers, and acts upon the promise of God’s Word... that Jesus will
manifest His presence, and honor their prayers of agreement between
each other. My view is that all Bible-believing churches should have
prayer meetings... and all believers should attend, both to
encourage, and be encouraged. “Again
I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything
that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For
where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in
the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20).