Confess to one another, therefore, your faults – your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins; and pray (also) for one another, that you may be healed and restored – to a spiritual tone of mind and heart. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available – dynamic in its working. Heb. 5:16, Amplified NT
Confess to one another, therefore, your faults – your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins; and pray (also) for one another, that you may be healed and restored – to a spiritual tone of mind and heart. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available – dynamic in its working.
Heb. 5:16, Amplified NT
The Holy Spirit was so faithful to deal patiently with me in the early 1980s to venture out into a ministry that majored in prayer instead of theology, preaching, administration and scholarship. I recall several sobering thoughts during those years that He used to get me to finally take the plunge in 1986: A number of times I had the sense of standing before Christ at the Judgment Seat and hearing Him say, If only you had believed Me when I said, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23); If only you had followed My instruction to the apostles and “tarried in prayer until you were clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8, 14, 2:1-4); If only you had “devoted yourself to prayer” (Col. 4:2); If only you had believed My Word that My Kingdom is not built by human ability and effort alone but by Spirit-anointed Prayer (Zech. 4:6), your ministry would have been in great power and your eternal rewards would have been far greater!
Those “if onlys” still ring in my soul and call me back to the Upper Room for fresh fillings of the Holy Spirit so that I might minister in power instead of mediocrity. May none of us learn too late at the Judgment Seat of Christ what might have been if we had only devoted ourselves to Spirit-anointed prayer!
I want to share an age-long formula for spiritual power and effectiveness in living and ministering for Christ. It worked for Jesus as He, though divine, operated in His humanity while on earth. It worked for the apostles, the reformers, and it has worked for the revivalists and reformers in more recent centuries. The formula is: Prayer + Purity = Power, and it still works today! Please understand that the Holy Spirit is both intrinsically and intricately related to each of these factors in the equation.
The Spirit of Prayer
Before Jesus launched His public ministry, He was anointed by the Holy Spirit following His baptism (Luke 3:21-22). With this anointing, He went to the wilderness for a six-week prayer retreat and a period of temptation by Satan. Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all (Luke 4:14-15). In the power of the Spirit, Jesus continued to give prayer first place in His busy life. Sometimes He rose early and went out to pray in the morning darkness. At other times, He took some of His apostles and went to the mountain for a few days of prayer. On one occasion, in the midst of a healing revival, He disappeared, and His disciples found Him alone in prayer.
In His training of the Twelve, Jesus made sure they understood the role of the Holy Spirit in their ministry of prayer. They could not have a ministry unless they were filled with the Spirit, and they could not be filled with the Spirit unless they had a life of prayer. One of the greatest evidences that they were filled with the Spirit would be their manner of prayer and the fruit of their praying. In fact, nothing would happen apart from the Spirit, and the Spirit would work only in those lives that were devoted to prayer. It is clear from the Scriptures and from church history that God does not pour out His Spirit on a prayerless people. He cannot trust the fullness of His Spirit to a prayerless life.
Once a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit, he or she will be led to pray according to the will of God (Rom. 8:27). And the apostle John insists that we can pray in confidence (in faith, in assurance) when we are praying according to God’s will (I John 5:14-15). So, it is no wonder that the apostle Jude commanded believers to build themselves up in their most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit (v. 20). Or that the apostle Paul urged, Pray at all times – and on all occasions, in every season – in the Spirit, with all (manner of) prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints … (Eph. 6:18, Amp. NT).
I will not claim that a Spirit-filled person will never get off in the flesh and pray other than according to the will of God; but I will claim that the more sensitive we are to the Holy Spirit in our praying, the sooner we will discern that we are asking amiss and we then can return to the leadership of the Spirit in our praying – His enlightenment, His energizing, His emboldening of our faith to believe that we have what we have asked for and therefore we will settle for nothing less than His perfect will.
The Spirit of Power
As the believer reads the Bible, thinks with the Spirit and prays, he/she must sooner or later come to the realization that God has planned for him/her to live in power. Jesus spent most of His teaching time with His apostles trying to prepare them for the coming of the Holy Spirit into their lives. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, He told them (Acts 1:8). The apostle Paul elaborated on this truth, showing that God desires to work mightily through each of us. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:10-12).
Consider with me how this power that emanates from the prayers of a purified heart manifests itself in life and ministry:
- In loving God with our total being, in loving others as we love ourselves and in loving our enemies in forgiveness and intercession for their salvation. Love is the cardinal evidence of a sanctified heart. It expresses itself in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, godliness, gentleness and self-control.
- In worshiping God in spirit and in truth and surrendering our total self to Him. Worship is both a public and a private expression of the Spirit at work in our lives. Daily – hour by hour, moment by moment – our hearts are filled with praise and thanksgiving for the attributes of our Glorious God, and we pour out expressions of these throughout our conscious hours.
- In prevailing with God in prayer and seeing His will done on earth and prevailing against the forces of evil at work against God’s Kingdom as we are able to discern it. I have no doubt that God intends our prevailing prayers (getting YES answers) to be our greatest means of witness for Him in this life.
- In fruitful witnessing and winning the lost to Christ. We are all commissioned to witness for Christ. God has ordained that we become the connection between His Son and those lost loved ones and neighbors. As we lovingly tell the story of how we found Christ to be our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit will convict our hearers of sin and give them a spirit of repentance and faith, and we are enabled to lead them into the new birth experience.
- In humble fellowship and service in relationship with the Body of Christ. The will of God for every believer includes the church. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit for us to take our proper place in the church for worship, holy living, edification, giving and service.
- In living in watchfulness and readiness for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must keep on being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) in order to refrain from falling into fleshly, carnal living, in order to guard against the wiles of the devil, in order to overcome the world. We must know fresh anointings of the Holy Spirit in order to resist temptation and continue to prevail in prayer.
The Spirit of Holiness
The same Holy Spirit who anoints and inspires prayer in the believer is also the Spirit of holiness and He purifies obedient believers’ hearts so that they may pray with pure motives, pure faith, seeking His will and His glory above their own. A friend of mine wonders if doubt and disbelief are impurities that the Spirit would deal with in preparing us for prayer. I believe so! Whether doubting God’s character in keeping His promises or doubting the outcome of our prayers, I believe our unbelief should be confessed as sin, and as this happens we must claim forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9), and go on to state our case before the Lord in pure faith. The Early Church did not ignore their impurities (Acts 5, 10), but underwent the cleansing of the Spirit and went on to experience a sustained anointing in the power of the Holy Spirit for the completion of their mission. May we choose the same wise and powerful path!