When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. –Mt. 6:6
If you have ever gone through months or even years of not having a disciplined Bible study and prayer life–then let me tell you: it can be exciting if you find yourself renewing it. I am going through such a season; and an “open heaven” of sorts is occurring; I’m getting a lot more presence, and dreams, and visions, and voices from God. And I’d like to share about how this has happened. But first I will share how a spirit of prayerlessness got a hold of me, so you can ward it off in Jesus’ Name.
1. Prayerlessness enters through spiritual confusion and discouragement. It does not enter through unbelief, as may be suspected. Unbelief is too serious, and results in backsliding and apostasy and loss of salvation (Heb. 3:12). Prayerlessness, however, can influence the believer, who is still persevering in sainthood, practical obedience to the moral law, etc. In other words, it is totally possible for prayerlessness to enter into a Christian’s life who is otherwise preoccupied with his work ethic and a generally ethical relationship with God. Prayerlessness does not mean backsliding or loss of salvation, but it does mean losing a lot of the charismatic aspects of Christian life: a great decrease of feeling God’s presence, dreams, visions, and the voice of God. It is not a state of apostasy, but is definitely a degree of spiritual depression. I’ll tell you how it entered my life; and I hope to never give it leeway again! In 2009 I finished my first manuscript on charismatic prayer life, called How to Experience God; it almost reached a total of 400 pages! If I plan on getting it published, I think I’m going to have to downsize it to 200 pages or something; but all I’m saying is, that all of that came out of a disciplined prayer life I developed in college. Then something happened. What was it? 1. Confusion About Ministry. When I got married, I was spiritually confused about what church and ministry were. A lot of my prayer life in college came from a pressure to be holy and becoming a minister; it also came from a hunger to receive divine revelation from the Holy Spirit so I could share it with others. In other words, a lot of it was ministry-driven. But we were wed by a minister with a Church of Christ background who was a “house church only” guy; and he urged us to avoid any type of ministry that was not an independent, non-denominational house church. Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity, he argued, sufficiently proved that preaching sermons as a pastor is not Biblical! Because of this, I figured, “Well there’s no reason to have a disciplined prayer life anymore; I’m not called to be a prophet between God and man, or an intercessor, so there is no point. I’ll just focus on my work ethic and an evangelical relationship with God.” 2. Discouragement About Preaching. But I still had a strong desire to preach; I was like Jeremiah, who had given up on preaching, “But His Word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (20:9). Eventually we geographically distanced ourselves from the “house church only” minister, although we still have some level of respect for him. I took to more regular open air preaching in 2010; and when I could, I kept preaching. I had a dream of Steve Harper’s The Way to Heaven; and after that, I started studying Wesleyan soteriology; and I sharpened my Gospel presentation every time I went out street preaching; resulting in a gospel of “repentance, faith in the cross for substitutionary punishment and moral influence, justification for the forgiveness of sins, and regeneration as the desire for holiness”; this gospel saves men from eternal punishment in Hell; and results in a life of Biblical good works. Romans 3-8 is now always my core text when street preaching.
2. Returning faith in true Pentecostal church ministry. Up until the end of 2014, I remained confused and discouraged about involvement with pulpits, pastors, and denominations. But I was starting to warm up to the idea again. I thought, “What if there are exceptions to the seeker-sensitive apostasy in the churches?” And this thought kept me wondering. You see, a lot of the house church movement seems to be an overreaction to the spiritually immature ministry approach of the seeker-sensitive movement in traditional churches. But independent house churches are also a very invisible and not so much an evangelistic movement; they are not so great on theological depth either. Watchman Nee is about as deep as they get, which is pretty deep; but that’s about it. After looking for ministry opportunities with a Christian & Missionary Alliance church, and asking the pastor a lot of annoying questions–I found he was a bit more devout than other ministers I’d seen, but he was ultimately seeker-sensitive, and he rejected my views of salvation; seeing them as too offensive to talk about. He only wanted to talk about “the love of God” and how it doesn’t matter what ungodly movies you watch and what carnality is in your life, because we’re all sinners. God loves you; nothing can separate you from God’s love, etc, etc. It was cheap love and cheap grace for sure; and he rejected my view that God’s love starts at the cross (Rom. 5:8)–that we love Him because He first loved us and died on the cross for us while we were yet sinners: see my article “The Christian’s Love for His Neighbor.” But because this view was too “controversial” he rejected my view–and fell back into his simple view of “God loves you” regardless, and refused to keep sin, righteousness, and judgment in his ministry scope (John 16:8). After this emotionally painful ordeal, I drew the conclusion that most churches are seeker-sensitive, but especially denominations. It is usually in their best financial interests to take such a stance. Being in that church did nothing good for my spiritual health; in fact, it made me even more spiritually discouraged, depressed, and disappointed with pastors. But I had a dream that I was involved with a small black Pentecostal church; and that I would be one of the “church’s street preachers!” From that point on, I sought out small black storefront Pentecostal churches. I found a good one in Fayetteville, NC across from Methodist University; and the pastor was a prophet, who read my mail and strongly encouraged my faith. But we could only stay there for a short time because a new job opportunity opened up from me in another town.
3. The return to a disciplined Pentecostal prayer life. In the past 3 months or so, I found a great storefront Pentecostal church. I believe the storefronts are usually closer to Holy Spirit revival than a lot of other places; it seems to keep the pastors humble and more focused on the spiritual life; and also, seems to have more of a hole-in-the-wall Azusa Street feel. Blacks, whites, and Hispanics are all present. The pastors are prophets; have read my mail; and they preach sin, righteousness, and judgment; as well as love, grace, and the presence of God. I haven’t experienced such a revival in church in years. The pastor encouraged me to renew a disciplined prayer life; he said this is the only way to start feeling the presence of God again during the praise and worship service. Now I am practicing contemplative prayer every evening for 15 minutes to an hour. I’m also studying the Bible more, because a prophet said the more you study, the more accurate your words of knowledge will be (a view that incidentally agrees with Benedict XIV in Heroic Virtue, vol 3). My spiritual journal composition notebook is starting to have more divine dreams, voices, etc in them. Because I am choosing to draw near to God–He, in turn, is drawing near to me–in his presence, dreams, visions, voice, and signs in the day (James 4:8).
Church – Keep it storefront, make sure black people are there, keep it Pentecostal/charismatic, make sure the pastor is a prophet (gets words of knowledge), preaches on sin, righteousness, and judgment, Hell, etc. Doesn’t just encourage but also urges and warns (exhorts) (1 Cor. 14:3, KJV); and casts out demons. If you haven’t found a church like this, then keep looking until you do. You will die if you look anywhere else.
Prayer Life – Set your alarm in the morning or evening for a prayer time to remind you. Sit or lay prostrate for at least 15 minutes to listen to the Holy Spirit; look unto Jesus (Heb. 12:2); look for inner visions; write the visions and make them plain on tablets, in your journal (Habukkuk 2:2); and don’t ever, ever stop doing this.
Further Reading on the Pentecostal/Charismatic Prayer Life
Boruff, John. How to Experience God. (charismatic)
Bounds, E. M. The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer. (holiness/Methodist)
Brandt, R. L. The Spirit Helps Us Pray (GPH/Assemblies of God)
Foster, Richard. Prayer. (charismatic)
—–. Celebration of Discipline. (charismatic)
Goll, James. Wasted on Jesus. (charismatic)
—–. The Prophetic Intercessor. (charismatic)
Murray, Andrew. Andrew Murray on Prayer. (holiness)
Prince, Derek. The Secrets of a Prayer Warrior. (charismatic)
Warner, Wayne, ed. The Essential Smith Wigglesworth. (Pentecostal)
Wilkerson, David. Hungry for More of Jesus. (Pentecostal)
Wimber, John. Power Points. (charismatic)