Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
The apostle knew that Timothy’s prayer life would be the secret of his power with God and with people. Paul yearned to see his spiritual son mightily used of God, but he knew something of the costly route to such power. He knew that despite Timothy’s brilliance and giftedness, his praying could be hindered by carnal compromise, a stricken conscience, and a guilt-ridden heart. The old warrior longed to see this promising young leader join with the stalwarts of the faith and boldly approach the Throne of Grace, having complete confidence that he would receive all that he asked because he was in obedience to the Lord and doing all to please the Lord.
Just who are those who get answers to prayer, who see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven? Who are those who know how to ask according to God’s will, and know even as they ask that their request will not be denied? What kind of people are those who prevail in prayer?
The Apostle James tells us that they are the righteous. He declares that, “The passionate prayers of the righteous have a powerful effect” (James 5:16, Free Translation). He is not referring to the self-righteous, of course, but those who have been justified freely from the guilt of sin and made righteous in the heart by the cleansing of the Holy Spirit from the power of sin. The righteous are those who are justified freely and sanctified holy. They are the ones who are promised a hearing with God. Their hearts have been purified so that they do not “ask amiss” or with wrong motives (James 4:3). Also, the righteous are those who have confessed and cleared their hearts with one another. So the righteous are those who are right with God and with one another.
The Pure in Heart
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). We hear a great deal about the power of the Holy Spirit in these times. This writer has emphasized it again and again, and I shall continue to do so. But if our interest in power exceeds our passion for purity, we are not ready for the baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is the divine order to purify the heart before empowering for ministry. God is more interested in our being than in our doing. Mark Rutland so accurately declares:
The true Pentecostal blessing will not be found by glib experience-mongers hoping for a slightly higher-volt tingle. Baptism in the Spirit is the fruit of full surrender, not the coincidental fall-out from being “slain in the Spirit.” It is no accident that both the record of Christ’s ministry of deliverance in Luke 11 and His teaching on the Holy Spirit are prefaced by the Lord’s Prayer. In the day of promise of Luke 11:13, the condition of verse two is easily overlooked: “The kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (KJV).
The Finger of God, pp. 53-54 (Bristol Books, 1993)
The first and most important sign that we are filled with the Holy Spirit is not sensational spiritual gift or a phenomenal manifestation of power, but an inward purifying, uniting, healing of our redeemed heart in order that we might love God and people with an unconditional love. Unless and until the Holy Spirit is allowed to pour out the love of God into and through our hearts (Rom. 5:5), we should not claim the fullness of the Holy Spirit. John Wesley believed purity of heart to be purity of intention. He wrote, “It is giving God all our hearts, it is one desire and design ruling all our tempers. … It is the renewal of the heart in the whole image of God. (The Works of Wesley, Vol. X, p. 444, Naz. Pub. House & Zondervan, 1958). Soren Kierkegaard defined heart purity as being able “to will one thing.” (Purity of Heart, Harper & Row, 1948, pp. 218-219). Such singlemindedness was personified by our Lord Jesus Christ throughout His entire life on earth. He willed but one thing, and said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30, NKJV). E. M. Bounds declared holiness to be essential to a successful life of prayer, saying, “It takes the whole man to pray, and prayer affects the entire man in its gracious results. As the whole nature of man enters into prayer, so also all that belongs to man is the beneficiary of prayer. The largest results in praying come to him who gives himself, all of himself, all that belongs to himself, to God. This is the secret of full consecration, and this is a condition of successful praying, and the sort of praying which brings the largest fruits.” — (The Essentials of Prayer, pp. 9-10, Moody Press, 1980).
The Way of The Cross
Holy living and prevailing prayer are not for the fainthearted. There is a price to pay, a sacrifice to make, a cross to bear. We have heard the truth often said that there can be no Pentecost without first a Calvary. Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:34-36, NKJV).
Prayer warriors pay a price; really, they pray the price. Spirit-inspired praying requires self-denial. When it comes to a life of prayer, there is no way to ignore the issue of the cross. Christ chose to experience agony of soul in Gethsemane and at Calvary. Isaiah declared that “He poured out His life unto death … and made intercession for the transgressors” (53:12). Can we not choose also the way of intercession, taking up our cross, disciplining our lives so as to give time daily to costly, intense, burdened prayers for the changes so desperately needed in our own lives, in our loved ones, in our churches and communities and nations?
Prevailing prayer is cross-bearing. It is the kind of praying that seizes divine promises and wields them as a weapon. Such praying overcomes the temptations to doubt and quit. It struggles through mental and physical and emotional weariness and all kinds of natural opposition. It frustrates the strategies of principalities and survives the very onslaughts of Satan. Prevailing prayer will endure even the delays of our Sovereign, All-wise God. Prevailing prayer will simply not be denied!
A Burning Heart
Oh, how I pray that more and more of us shall tarry before our Holy God until He purifies our hearts, so that we can tear away from this world’s interests and the cares of life and give ourselves completely to the urgent business of prayer. May He make us hungry to be a part of what He is doing in our world at this time. Oh, that we might be so yielded to Him that He Spirit would melt us, break us, cleanse us, fill us, and then pour into our minds the very burdens and agenda of our Interceding Savior! It is then that the Spirit can really help us pray, as we share Christ’s burden and compassion for a lifeless church and a sinful world. May the Holy Spirit pray through us according to the will of God, weeping through our eyes, groaning through our spirit. Let us not miss out on the great outpouring of His Spirit of intercession at this hour. Remember, Heaven cannot resist the fiery prayers of those whose hearts have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Dear readers, my soul leaps for joy even as I close this article and prepare to mail it to you. You see, I’m convinced that we are on the verge of the kind of revival in our day in which the Lord Jesus is able to capture the heart of His Church and takes her to the heights and depths of a holy fervency not demonstrated since Pentecost! Oh, don’t miss out on what He is doing!
Just simply start clearing your calendar to spend more and more time with Him, praying out to Him as the Holy Spirit helps you! And He will help you pray (Rom. 8:26-27), or He can’t help you do much of anything.