It was a dark and desolate night. At 3 a.m., one solitary car drifted down an empty freeway on a mission few would dare undertake. The dashboard lights illuminated a grim, determined face staring straight ahead. Mournful, foreboding music droned in the background:
Theres a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
…If you give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road…
Riders on the storm…”
Exiting the freeway, the only movement in sight, the car swung sharply into a parking lot and the driver emerged and hesitated. What would greet him inside that darkened building? It was a warehouse, an eerie scene from a murder mystery.
He stepped inside and suddenly entered a different world: people were everywhere, lights were blazing, an overhead projector the splashed the wall with colors from Powerpoint slides. An intense conversation was underway, and Keith’s entry was barely noticed: it was a conversation with Creator God. It was prayer.
At 3 a.m., he was stunned at the number of dedicated Christians in the fellowship were still awake and reporting for duty. Didn’t these people sleep? What kind of place is this? It was Northeast Ohio Xenos Christian Fellowship hard at work praying all night long. So went the first prayer vigil held in October.
What has happened since then? The list of miracles and breakthroughs have redefined our fellowship. We relocated at last from distant Macedonia into the KSU/Akron area, occupying almost 4,000 square feet of Riverwood’s space, miraculously priced at a fraction of its value. Despite the terrible divisions which left us financially uncertain, Xenos still hired Keith McCallum for a 32-hour work week as planned. A number of people who were going to hell are now forever members of the Body of Christ. The fellowship is growing again, and within a couple of months we have rebounded from the loss incurred by divisions.
Did God respond to the courage, persistence and faith of those prayer warriors who carried the torch through the night? The Bible declares it is so, as Christ said:
“In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?” Luke 18:2-7
There are so many needs swirling around our fellowship, and each one deserves careful prayer. God wants us to lay all our issues at His feet:
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Yet also God is clear that we should prioritize our prayer conversations with Him. Some issues require sustained, earnest and repeated prayers, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 18 (above). This is what separates prayer which is unfocused, stream-of-consciousness, lazy chatter from truly effective prayer: alertness, focus, and the spiritual muscle to strive and labor.
Praying with Alertness
The alertness which should accompany prayer is a spiritual alertness. Prayer is bi-directional: when we talk to God, He reveals His will. How he reveals it is not always consistent, but it happens. Sometimes it occurs when God anoints someone’s tongue, and that person starts to prophesy:
…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; Ephesians 5:18-19
That was no Sunday morning worship service: it’s a spiritual phenomena loaded with “spiritual songs” making a “melody” deep inside “your heart.”
Sometimes God reveals His will through a deep sense of illumination and conviction which was never there before, and it materialized out of nowhere. This is truly exciting when it happens. Believe it or not, it can be even more fun to go home after a night filled with this kind of illumination than a night filled with beer:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18
Whichever means God chooses to communicate through prayer, only those who muster spiritual alertness will break through the spiritual barrier to receive the illumination of God’s will:
“But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things…” Luke 21:36 (NASB95)
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, Ephesians 6:18
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; Colossians 4:2
The Struggle of Prayer
The struggle to keep alert and focused and “understand what the will of God is” can be exhausting even for everyday prayer. During an all-night vigil, it becomes a crushing weariness and a deep, sacrificial act of love for God and everyone else:
…strive together with me in your prayers to God for me . Romans 15:30 (NASB95)
…always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. Colossians 4:12
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,
These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Acts 1:1
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