Corporate prayer loses its effectiveness when intercessors get off track. Here's how you can stay in the flow of the Holy Spirit.
As I walked down the corridor toward the large prayer room, several women rushed past me in a panic. They had been praying with more than 50 intercessors from various denominations for pastors in the United States. Eager to find out what was happening, I hurried into the room.
An unbelievable sight met my eyes. Lying on the floor in the middle of the room was a woman intercessor, curled up in a fetal position and groaning as though she were being tortured. Crouched over her was a male intercessor, who was stroking her hair and speaking words of encouragement.
Standing around “the entertainment” were dozens of intercessors—watching. No one was praying now. Their faces revealed many emotions: Some were in shock; others didn’t know what to think; most were simply disgusted.
Asked to correct the situation, I bent down, asked the man to move away and softly whispered into the intercessor’s ear: “Please stop what you are doing. This is not the way the Holy Spirit would lead.”
Gruffly the woman turned her head toward me and growled, “This is the Holy Spirit.”
These kinds of activities are becoming too common in prayer rooms across the nation. If the prayer movement does not establish biblical boundaries and acceptable corporate conduct within the next few years, the work of prayer could be drastically derailed.
Here are some of the flaky intercessory activities with which we should be concerned:
1. Competition in prayer. Moses’ and Aaron’s authority to lead was challenged by Korah and his band with the argument, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord? So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face” (Num. 16:3, NKJV).
Notice Moses’ answer to Korah and his rebellious associates: “Hear now, you sons of Levi: Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking the priesthood also? Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord” (Num. 16:8-11).
Intercessors have a unique position. We are called to draw near to the throne, hear the voice of God and stand on behalf of others. We who occupy this position should set an example of love, grace, mercy and humility.
Yet I find that among intercessors there is sometimes strife, jealousy and competition, just as there was among Korah and his band. In some cases, the prayer room resembles the New York City stock market trading floor, with each participant trying to pray more frequently, prophesy longer and shout louder than the others do.
Why the spiritual tug of war?
No doubt about it—all intercession is war! But like all of life, intercession has its ebbs and flows. Our friends would wonder about Eddie and me if, after three decades of marriage, we were passionately kissing every time they saw us in public. You might see this type of thing in the movies, but meaningful, real-life relationships are developed in private. Eddie and I don’t need to impress anyone or prove our love to others. Our outward displays of affection are merely an indication of an already secure and stable private relationship.
There are times when, in the heat of battle, the corporate prayer room seems intense, loud, demanding and pushy. After all, Scripture says the violent take the kingdom by force! (See Matt. 11:12). But constant warfare should not be the way every prayer time is handled.
Effective, sincere corporate prayer should reveal all the attributes of God—His gentleness, His tender mercy, His unconditional love and His burden for the lost. There are times when the group will experience total silence before God. At other times, a deep travail for the condition of lost souls will be felt. Joy, expressions of love and celebration should occur occasionally among the intercessors. To reduce group prayer to anything less reveals our immaturity in the private place before God.
2. Emotionalism. Our emotions are a part of our soul (mind, will and emotions). They were given to us by God to serve His purposes. But to function properly, they must be brought under His dominion. Paul instructs us, “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts [emotions] on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:1-2, NIV).
Our emotions are as flexible and undependable as an elastic measuring tape. One minute we feel happy; the next, we’re sad. We can have a wonderful time of intimacy in prayer, and in five minutes be yelling at our child for spilling milk on the carpet. Emotional expressions are not necessarily an indication of either the presence, or the lack of the presence, of God.
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