Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on Prayer School – On Lesson 06 – Birthing Prayer; Date: 06 June 2010

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Birthing Prayer

 

The king became sick – very sick – and then a prophet paid him a visit. He said to him – 2 Kings 20:1 – I read from the Bible: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.’” Bad news. This is not the kind of prophetic word that anyone wants to hear: “You are going to die.” The king was Hezekiah – (he reigned about seven hundred years before the birth of Christ) – and the prophet – (who had come with this challenging word from God) – was Isaiah.

This is what happened next – 1 Kings 20:2-11: “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’ Then Isaiah said, ‘Prepare a poultice of figs.’ They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered … ”

This is teaching us much about prayer. Frequently, there is a prophetic word from God where he tells you what he has in mind for you and others. In this case: “Put your house in order, because you are going to die.” Then, the prophetic word serves as a launching pad to get us praying. In this case: King Hezekiah pleaded with God and argued with God, saying: “Remember how I was faithful and devoted to you.” King Hezekiah expressed to God that he did not agree with his plans for him and then he wept bitterly with the result that God changed his mind – on the spot – (while Isaiah was still on the palace ground) – and gave him fifteen more years to live. How much God must love us to be swayed by our response to his declared will!

The prophetic word from God served as a launching pad for Hezekiah’s prayers and tears and – in like manner – much of our praying is informed by hearing from God. Prayer is a dialogue. What is God saying to you? What are you hearing from him when you read the Bible? This is important because when you hear from God, then you know more specifically what kind of future you are praying into. Hezekiah began to plead (more earnestly) for healing.

So many times we pray and haven’t heard anything. For instance, you may petition God that you get a certain job and you get all upset because it is not happening but you have not heard from him and therefore, you pray with not much understanding. If you had heard from him, he may have wanted to tell you all along that there is something better waiting for you than the current job on offer. [Another example: You may pray to God for a certain prospective marriage partner. Another example: Tatjana wanting another child but God delayed the pregnancy so that the child would also be born in Australia.] Stop pleading with him or you will get second best. Hear from God first and then pray.

When Hezekiah heard from God, then he was able to respond with the appropriate prayer for healing. And we learn from him. Hear from God first and then how you respond to God’s prophetic word is always going to be absolutely crucial. God absolutely values your prayer response. We find another clear illustration of this principle in the Bible book of 1 Kings in chapter 18. After more than three years of drought the prophet Elijah announced to the king Ahab – verse 41: “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. While Ahab celebrated the good news of coming rain, Elijah began to pray – on top of a mountain – and prostrated himself before God. Once he had spoken the prophetic word, he proceeded to pray it into existence.

Some people think that a prophetic word is foretelling the future which will happen no matter what. This is wrong. Prophetic words are conditional and depend on our reaction to the word that God is releasing to us. Are we taking in the prophetic word and step out in faith? Are we in agreement with the will of God? Do we repent and humble ourselves before God to avert the coming judgement (cf. Jonah)? Are we bringing forth the prophetic word by co-labouring with God in prayer. Elijah did and he did so with the perseverance which comes when you know what is going to happen – when you know that your prayers are undergirded by the prophetic will of God. I read from the Bible – 1 Kings 18:42-45: “ … Elijah … bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. ‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said. Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’ The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’ So Elijah said, ‘ … go down before the rain stops you.’ Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on … ”

This is practical. Seven times Elijah kept praying with his face on the ground and seven times he sent the messenger to look whether the rain was coming. Elijah persevered because he knew that he was praying a prophetic word from God into existence. He knew that God was using him and his prayers to bring forth the declared will of God. What are we hearing from God and what are we praying into existence?

What are we hearing here at Living Grace? The Bible teaches that music can bring on prophetic revelation. For instance, we read in 2 Kings 3:15-16: “ … While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha and he said, ‘This is what the Lord says: … ’” (cf. 1 Samuel 10:5-6; 1 Chronicles 25:1-3). At our prayer watch last week something similar happened to Christina (Weston) while Marty (Pocock) was playing worship songs on his guitar. This is what Christina thought that she was receiving from God for Living Grace. Listen to it with discernment:

 

“With a starting point of being behind the silver curtains that we couldn't see through, our church kept pressing in to God and as we moved forward the curtains faded and disappeared to reveal 2 huge wooden doors.  As the doors opened there was a crowd of people including adults, children and youth.  The crowd had their hands out as if asking for something, our church began mingling with the crowd and then as Marty began playing 'this little light of mine' the crowd and our church began dancing and generally having a good time.  There was lots of laughter and joy.  As Marty then moved on to playing 'turn your eyes upon Jesus' the whole group turned to the left with their hands and heads raised towards the cross.  There was almost complete silence as the group focused on Jesus.  Marty then began to play 'come Lord Jesus come' (or something similar) and again the whole group bowed nearly in unison, laid or knelt on the floor. The spirit of the group was one of quiet and peaceful expectation as people were simply waiting and opening their hearts for the coming of God’s Spirit into both their own lives and the lives of others around them.  There was no sense of urgency to move on from this point as the group somehow knew that it was important to wait for God’s timing and for everyone who needed to be ready to be ready.

The last image I’m not sure what was being sung (in real life) but the group has mostly risen to their feet, there was all kinds of ministry happening with people being healed, burdens being lifted, barriers/blockages and walls being pulled down.  There were people praying together, people crying and laughing.  Overall there was a huge sense of freedom, joy and happiness and the oppression and dullness that had been there when the doors first opened were nowhere to be found … ”

 

This prophetic word confirms a previous word about these being the days of small beginnings and it also confirms the current warfare experience. It is also true that we have a sense of great expectation but it is (indeed) like being behind silver curtainswhich still block a clearer vision of the future. Yet, Christina’s vision includes two huge wooden doors that are going to open and there will be a huge sense of freedom, joy and happiness – in Jesus Christ – among many. What are the two doors? When will they open? Can we respond to this word by praying the opening doors into existence – co-labouring with God?

We hear from God and then we pray. I come back to king Hezekiah because there is more to learn. He heard from God and then he prayed with the positive outcome that he lived for another fifteen years. What were the components of his prayer experience? Suzette Hattingh – in the prayer school that we are studying together – identifies three basic components that together form our prayer experience: a) prayer burden [others refer to it as “identification”], b) travail and c) warfare.

I quote from the prayer school manual: “A burden is receiving the concern of the Lord and travail is the action of bringing the burden to birth, characterized by weeping, groaning and pleading. While travail is the action of bringing the burden to birth, warfare is the action of working the burden through, which is characterized by aggressive binding and loosing [wielding the word of God as the sword of the Spirit], resisting and claiming the victory” (Suzette Hattingh & Gayle Claxton: Prayer School Study Book,West Midlands: Voice In The City 2009, p49). Another quote: (Here the prayer burden is not mentioned but is taken for granted.) “Warfare is addressed to Satan and his forces, as we rise up in the Name of Jesus with all of Heaven backing us up. Travail is addressed to the Father, something that flows from deep within your spirit as a cry or sorrow before the Lord.”

This is wonderfully precise: a) prayer burden, b) travail and c) warfare. Now – what component or components were active in Hezekiah’s prayer for healing? I read again the relevant Bible verses: When he heard that he was going to die, “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” I would say that the strongest component of Hezekiah’s prayer experience was his prayer burden. He did not want to die. This was personal. He was burdened with worries about his own life and this is what drove him into prayer. Then, Hezekiah also travailed in prayer but – again – not so much expressing the concern of the Lord as his own concern for survival. Like the prayer burden – it was still very much about him and his own personal needs and agenda.

Yet, it worked because God loves us beyond what we can imagine. God told Hezekiah – I quote again the Bible: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” When we are burdened with something and then pray, God will listen. God said: “I have seen your tears.” Your burden in life is also going to be his burden because he loves you. Your tears will touch the heart of God. He has compassion on you. At a time when God’s people had drifted away from him (they were not praying to him) but were oppressed in slavery, God was (nevertheless) touched by their burden. We read in the Bible – Exodus 3:7-8: “ … I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them … ” In like manner – this is at the very heart of the Christian faith (always) – Romans 5:8: “ … God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners [and suffering from the consequences of our sin], Christ died for us” (expand). [James 5:16: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”]

Hezekiah was burdened for himself and then he travailed in prayer for himself. This was okay. We all do the same when we pray through our own personal prayer lists for family, friends, personal property and health. Only – (and this is important) – our prayer life cannot stop there. What about other prayer burdens – the burdens that God is carrying for the world – people beyond us? Hezekiah showed an amazing lack of maturity – especially for a king (someone in leadership) – when another prophetic word came to him in the very same Bible chapter of his sickness and promised healing.

I read the verses to you – 2 Kings 20:12-21: Messengers from Babylon visited Hezekiah in Jerusalem because the king of Babylon had heard that Hezekiah was sick. Hezekiah showed them all of his riches. “Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah … and said: ‘Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ ‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’ … ”

These verses break your heart. When it was about his own personal health, the prophetic word swung Hezekiah into prayer action. When it was all about him, Hezekiah carried a burden for prayer. He did not want to die and then he experienced that God answered his prayers – did not ignore his tears – and he lived. However, the next prophetic word was not immediately impacting Hezekiah himself. It was about a catastrophe befalling his descendants, the wealth of Jerusalem and even the riches of God’s temple. The Babylonians would carry off everything. Hearing this – Hezekiah should have prayed again. He should have shed tears again.

And didn’t he know that this is precisely what God wanted? The prophetic warning went out for someone to carry God’s burden for Jerusalem. Before it was about Hezekiah’s own personal health burden but this was now about an entire cityJerusalem – the nation – God’s people and therefore God’s burden because he loves them. Hezekiah should have prayed like the prophets of old: “Oh God, don’t do this to your people. You love them. What will the other nations think, if you abandon them to their enemies? They will say that you could not protect them. So, please, for the honour and glory of your name, forgive your people.” God is looking for such a response which is pleading his burden for his people. On another occasion he said in the Bible – Ezekiel 22:30-31: “I looked for a person among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will [I must] pour out my wrath on them … ” Yet, God looked in vain for Hezekiah to be such a man who would stand in the gap. Hezekiah thought: “Everything will be okay in my lifetime.” He thought: “At least I should be all right and live the rest of my days in peace.” Therefore, he said: “The word of the Lord is good.” No!!!

God loves to show mercy. We cannot be like Hezekiah. It cannot always just be about us – our health, our wealth. There is more. You and I – become burdened with what is burdening the very heart of God. What am I talking about? What does this kind of prayer look like? Not many Christians seem to know.

One recent convert writes (abbreviate and retell in your words):

 

“I had been very fond of my legal profession … In those early days of my Christian experience, the Lord taught me many very important truths in regard to the spirit of prayer. Not long after I was converted a woman with whom I had boarded (though I did not board with her at the time) was taken very sick. She was not a Christian, but her husband was a professing Christian. He came into our office one evening … and said to me, ‘My wife cannot live through the night.’

The burden of prayer almost crushed me, the nature of which I could not at all understand, but with it came an intense desire to pray for that woman. The burden was so great that I left the office almost immediately and went up to the meeting house to pray for her. There I struggled, but I could not say much. I could only groan with groanings loud and deep.

I stayed a considerable time in the church in this state of mind, but I got not relief. I returned to the office, but I could not sit still. I could only walk the room and agonize. I returned to the meeting house again and went through the same process of struggling. For a long time I tried to get my prayer before the Lord, but somehow the words could not express it. I could only groan and weep without being able to express what I wanted in words. I returned to the office again and still found that I was unable to rest, and I returned a third time to the meeting house. At this time the Lord gave me power to prevail. I was enabled to roll the burden upon him, and I obtained the assurance in my own mind that the woman would not die, and indeed that she would never die in her sins.

I returned to the office. My mind was perfectly quiet and I soon left and retired to rest. Early the next morning the husband of this woman came into the office. I inquired how his wife was. Smiling, he said, ‘She’s alive, and to all appearance better this morning.’

I replied, ‘She will not die with this sickness; you may rely upon it. And she will never die in her sins.’ I do not know how I was made sure of this, but it was in some way made plain to me so that I had no doubt that she would recover. She did recover and soon after obtained a hope in Christ (Charles Finney: The Autobiography Of Charles Finney, condensed & edited by Helen Wessel, Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship 1977, p39-40).

 

This new convert did not know what to make of his experience. He could not stop praying for this woman. The inner urging was so strong – with weeping and groaning – which could be so intense that no prayer in English – no rational thought in human terms – was possible. What was this? An older Christian soon explained it to him. This is the Spirit of God who comes upon you with what is burdening God and then – under this burden – you travail (much like a woman in child-birth) until you have prayed this burden through to a positive conclusion and have attained the answer to your prayers.

Some Bible passages on this – Galatians 4:19: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Colossians 4:12-13: “Epaphras … he is always wrestling in prayer for you … ” Romans 8:26: “ … the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

On the positive side: when this experience comes, you no longer have the problem of wondering how you can (possibly) pray for more than three minutes. When God places his burden on you, you cannot but pray because you need to find relief. This is an experience and one woman describes it in this way:

 

“Travail goes beyond the tears of identification. It’s a cry that so grips your lower abdomen, it’s impossible even to express it in sound. Along with the agonizing and deep inner groaning there’s a sense of pushing against tremendous pressure. As mothers in the group often testify, it’s just like being in labour to give birth. Accompanying the travail is usually a deep sense of grief, almost anguish, similar to the identification and warfare, but going deeper to touch a new depth of the heart of God. The labour often is so strenuous that the temptation is not to push through. But if we can hold on and don’t give up, then as release comes it’s accompanied by a joy greater than anything I’ve ever experienced. It compares with the thrill of a mother, who, having gone through the trials of pregnancy, finally holds her long awaited infant in her arms. The grieving pain is forgotten. Tears are washed away and hearts rejoice that a child has been born” (June Coxhead: Tears Of Intercession, Chichester: Sovereign World 1990, p169-170).

 

Hands up, please – who has already experienced this kind of praying? Who has experienced that God’s grief and burden has come upon you in prayer and you knew that you were praying something through that was God’s agenda and not your own? I don’t think that I myself have ever travailed in prayer. It is not everyone’s calling and the manual of our prayer school says it well – I quote: “Is everybody supposed to travail? No, not everybody is supposed to travail! It is entirely the prerogative of the Spirit of God that decides whom he wants to use for travail or not. Does that mean I am not spiritual enough or good enough to be used if I have not experienced travail? No, it has nothing to do with your own spirituality. It is once again entirely up to the Spirit of God! Some he uses for travail – others for warfare, others for both and others for just worship” (Suzette Hattingh & Gayle Claxton: Prayer School Study Book,West Midlands: Voice In The City 2009, p54).

However – at the same time – it could well be that God is wanting to use more of us in travail – in birthing something in prayer – but we are still too much like Hezekiah – just concerned with our own burdens – not ready to take on God’s. What do we need to do? We need to get out of the way of God. What we need to do is that we doless in prayer. Yes – by all means – we pray through our lists and what burdens us but then we stop being busy. We stop our many words that come from an active and analytical mind. We let go of our plans and still the mind. We become quiet before God and then let thoughts flow – not from an analytical mind – but from intuition. As we are in the presence of God – we let the Holy Spirit direct the flow of our thoughts and emotions without us taking charge of them. This is the most frequent way that God speaks to us. It is a still small voiceand then can become a more intense birthingexperience.

For me it is hard to still my mind in prayer. I am used to double-tasking and rushing around with much to do. Thoughts are racing through my mind and they make it difficult for me to wait on God and let the Holy Spirit bring up his flow of thoughts. One method that helps me to overcome this problem is prayer walking. As I walk – or better: as I stroll along – the quiet body rhythm of walking settles me down and I manage to let my mind drift under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Other people find that when they wake up, they are still in this relaxed state (maybe not quite fully awake) which is a good time for prayer and listening to God as the Holy Spirit makes our thoughts and emotions flow in his direction. [For me this is always a good time for (prophetic) inspiration.] Still others relax in country driving or listening to worship music.

[Further, flowing thoughts are not coming out of a vacuum but the previous study (with the analytical mind under God) of the Word of God. However, after the study there is a surrender of mind control to the free flowing sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.]

It may take a while before we learn to distinguish with greater assurance what then is from God and what is just our human day-dreaming but I think that – after today’s message and teaching – we will be more open to recognize the travail – the prayer burden from God – when it comes.

The recent convert from before also made the experience that his travailing was cut short and he simply could not continue with his prayers. He writes:

 

“Soon after I was converted, the man with whom I had been boarding for some time, who was a magistrate and one of the principal men in the place, was deeply convicted of sin. He had been elected a member of the legislature of the state. I was praying daily for him and urging him to give his heart to God. His conviction became very deep; but still, from day to day, he deferred submission and did not obtain a hope. My concern for him increased.

One afternoon several of his political friends had a lengthy interview with him. On the evening of the same day I attempted again to carry his case to God, as the urgency in my mind for his conversion had become very great. In my prayer I had drawn very near to God. I do not remember ever having been in more intimate communion with the Lord Jesus Christ than I was at that time. Indeed, his presence was so real that I was bathed in tears of joy and gratitude and love, and in this state of mind I attempted to pray for this friend.

But the moment I did so, my mouth was shut. I found it impossible to pray a word for him. The Lord seemed to say to me, ‘No, I will not hear.’ As anguish seized upon me, I thought at first it was a temptation. But the door was shut in my face. It seemed as if the Lord said to me, ‘Speak no more to me of that matter.’ It pained me beyond expression. I did not know what to make of it.

The next morning I saw him, and as soon as I brought up the question of submission to God he said to me, ‘Mr. Finney, I shall have nothing more to do with it until I return from the legislature. I stand committed to my political friends to carry out certain measures in the legislature that are incompatible with my first becoming a Christian and I have promised that I will not attend to the subject until after I have returned from Albany.’

From the moment of that exercise the evening before, I had no spirit of prayer for him at all. As soon as he told me what he had done, I understood it. I could see that his convictions were all gone and that the Spirit of God had left him. From that time he grew more careless and hardened than ever … (Charles Finney: The Autobiography Of Charles Finney, condensed & edited by Helen Wessel, Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship 1977, p42-43).

 

There is a need to discern where God is leading us in our prayers. [Another point: Praying and actively sharing the Good News belong together. The testimony above is confirmed in the Bible where the greatest prayers were the greatest missionaries and leaders. Even Anna in the temple shared the good news with others. There is not so much a special category of intercessors that stay permanently in the prayer closet.] Another teacher gives us further help. He outlined four principles which we need to apply to position ourselves for hearing God: 1) We need to make sure that our hearts are clean which means that we give God time to convict us of any unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18). 2) We need to die to our own imagination and desires so we can hear what God has to say. While our minds are still buzzing with our own concerns it is not possible to hear accurately. 3) There is a need to bind (aggressively) any interference by the enemy (Satan) and resist any attempts on his part to confuse our thinking (James 4:7). 4) Then, we need to wait, listen and believe that God would speak (John 10:27).

This teacher also said (and this is further encouragement in not dismissing everything as day-dreaming): “Remember. The first voice you usually hear is God’s. The second is your own voice questioning the truth of what you’ve just heard (‘Is that really you God?’) and the third is the voice of the enemy reinforcing your doubts (‘That’s just your own imagination. That’s not the Lord.’) … ” (June Coxhead: Tears Of Intercession, Chichester: Sovereign World 1990, p163).

In closing, what is important again is that we do this in community (as the “body of Christ”). In the Bible what people heard from God was frequently tested by others in the church (1 Corinthians 14:29) because we learn to recognize the voice of God together. We may be blind to what is our own wishful thinking and not God’s voice. However, another Christian may have greater wisdom and maturity. We learn to pray together and – as we have heard – not everyone is given the same prayer function by the Holy Spirit. Some the Holy Spirit uses more for travail (they are weeping and groaning). Others he moves into warfare (they bind and loose – speak out the will of God – with power). Still others undergird everything with praise and worship. We are meant to flow together and complement each other. For instance, in our Friday night prayer watch what God is doing with different people makes the whole group healthy. We are not becoming one-sided but at different times different people give leadership through what God is doing with them and then all of us benefit.

I summarize some of the points that have been made: 1) Hear from God and then pray. Frequently, there is a prophetic word that serves us a launching pad for prayer. 2) Pray into existence what you hear from God or petition him to “change his mind”. Prophetic words are conditional. 3) There are three prayer components: a) prayer burden, b) travail and c) warfare. 4) God responds to our prayers and tears. 5) Be ready to pray for more than your own personal burden. 6) When God’s burden comes upon you through the Holy Spirit, you may weep and groan until you have prayed the burden through and given birthto a positive prayer outcome. 7) Not everyone travails. 8) Still you mind so that the Holy Spirit can give you his flowing thoughtsand emotions. 9) We do this together.

King Hezekiah just carried a burden for himself (his own sickness) but God saw his tears and healed him. This is what God is like. He is so good. He will not ignore us when we pray. Our tears touch his heart. However, just imagine that as a church we are getting ready to carry more than just our own burdens. God loves our city and nation. We allow him to share his burden with us and we allow him to make us shed his tears over a sinful people – lost for eternity. He will not ignore us. He loves our prayer watch. “Holy Spirit, fall on us with travail so that we birth the healing of thousands.” Amen.