Don't be shocked when prayer doesn't work. A comprehensive strategy is required to experience a powerful and effective life of prayer.
I've met many people who have become completely disenchanted with the hopes of encountering the supernatural power of God, and they have lost all hope of experiencing regularly answered prayer.
The idea of God responding to prayer is fully ridiculous to the unredeemed, who regularly mock this Christian concept. You will hear them laugh when God doesn't do what the religious zealots are petitioning him to do. Of course, it's no surprise that those who don't know God wouldn't understand the power of intercession. I get it.
What is grieving is when believers give up on the call to surrender their lives to faith-driven, fiery and determined prayer. Their prayer ritual instead becomes a whispered request that flutters out of their mouths and into the great void of time and space. They fulfill their due diligence, so they think, by making their requests known. The reality is, however, that they doubt any answers will come. Their faith is at a similar level to those who don't know God at all.
The truth is that answered prayer at its most basic level is a simple cry of the heart. But, if it's analyzed more closely, we'll see that many synchronized factors are required to experience a powerful and vibrant life of prayer.
A Contending Spirit
Breakthrough prayer is most often a comprehensive supernatural strategy, not a momentary petition. Our lives must be marked by the fire that can only be found in the upper room, in that place of Holy Spirit impact. Night and day, praying continually, we give ourselves to a lifestyle of fervent prayer.
"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much" (James 5:16 b).
As we live deliberately consecrated lives, we will be driven by a fervent spirit of intercession that refuses to relent no matter the cost. A casual approach will never do it. We will live well outside of the supernaturally wondrous life that God has planned for us, and prayers will mostly fall to the ground.
Those who have a ferocious contending spirit will power through obstacles and shift atmospheres that result in miraculous breakthrough.
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
I do not believe any person or any prayer movement can be sustained in intercession without faith being a primary attribute. Where there is no belief, there will be no contending. Prayers will be weak and saturated with doubt causing them to have very little effect at all.
We are called believers, not "hopers." We are known by our unwavering belief in an invisible, omnipotent, divine person we call God. He is our everything! We don't hope our way to success; we stand firm on truth, and we believe!
If faith is challenged, shift your focus from the thing you were contending for in prayer to faith itself. Cry out for a mighty influx of belief that can then be the impetus of your contending intercession for breakthrough.
"And Jesus said to him, 'If you can'! All things are possible for one who believes" (Mark 9:23, ESV).
"And whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive" (Matt. 21:22, MEV).
When you contend in faith, you had better know that there are forces of wickedness that will be resisting your advance into breakthrough.
So many get mad at God for not answering prayer, and this is evidence of an immature understanding of the spiritual realm. They see prayer the same way they do ordering a hamburger in the drive-thru. They put in the order and expect the powers that be to have their lunch ready for them by the time they reach the window.
The truth is, to spiritualize the analogy, many devils are doing all they can to keep the burger from being delivered. The answer to our prayer can absolutely be hindered by unholy entities who are running interference. They know failure or even delay in answered prayer can negatively affect our faith, and our contending spirit can lose its intensity.
"But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia" (Dan. 10:13).
If we understand the warfare component of answered prayer, we won't lose hope, we won't lose faith, and we will contend all the more. From this place, we can truly engage the enemy, rebuke him and fight back with ferocity and even a greater measure of supernatural faith!
Prayer without prophetic infusion is greatly limited. The most powerful breakthroughs in my prayer life have come when God has clearly spoken to me. Whether it's a still small voice, dreams, visions or other forms of prophetic communication, you will come alive, and your faith will skyrocket.
It can be very easy to be off, sometimes just by a degree or two, and miss the breakthrough entirely. When prophetic revelation becomes a part of the recipe of intercession, many of the questions and much of the confusion are eliminated. You can pray with extreme focus and great precision.
When we pray precisely according to God's will, as revealed by his Spirit, everything changes. I'd encourage you to read an article titled "Discover a 100 Percent Effective Prayer Strategy" (links: part 1, part 2 and part 3) based on my book, Revelation-Driven Prayer. It will help you develop a prophetic life that will lead to a legacy of nonstop answered prayer.
Intimacy with Jesus is the cornerstone of a life of revelation. If you give yourself to anything this year, let it be developing deep, intense and vulnerable intimacy with God. You will be forever undone as the lover of your soul breathes life into you, reveals His love for you and shares His heart with you.
It's extremely easy to contend for good things outside of an intimate relationship with Jesus and to quickly get off base. Being branded by love only occurs in the place of intimacy, and without that brand, our very good ideas and determined pursuit of breakthrough will be tainted. Our understanding of God's heart is mandatory if we want to pray effectively and advance in our strategy of prayer with the right motives, character and humility.
"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5).
Agreement with God's plans is critical if we want to experience answered prayer. Equally critical is severing any alignment and agreement with the enemy. We must repent of adopting worldly mindsets, paradigms and strategies if we hope to enter the supernatural realm.
In the realm of the Spirit, our own understanding becomes laughable. We must advance with revelation that can only be found in that invisible place. We renounce our own limited, human plans in favor of God's wisdom.
It takes courage to do this, to leave behind our own common sense and move into uncharted territory as the Holy Spirit leads. We must agree with God every step of the way. We must trust his leadership and come into an unbreakable agreement with him.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths" (Prov. 3:5-6).
"We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him" (John 9:31).
If we aren't living holy, righteous lives, not only should we not presume that God will hear our prayer, but we shouldn't presume we are saved. Continuing in sin is a very serious thing.
"For if we willfully continue to sin after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries." (Heb. 10:26-27).
I don't know how many times I've counseled people over the last three decades regarding unanswered prayer. Flooding your soul with foul language, sexual situations and other immorality in media will most surely result in you living an extremely frustrated life of unanswered prayer.
On the contrary, if we eliminate the foul media, shut off the secular music and start living in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, listening to anointed and prophetic worship music night and day and then discover the overwhelming fear of the Lord, our prayers will be like fire!
"When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles" (Ps. 34:17, ESV).
Death to Self
Selfishness in prayer is a nonstarter. Period. We must die to our own desires, our own pursuits, our own dreams and even our own perceived needs. We lay down our lives. We are walking dead people. Martyrs.
When we get fully out of the way and become available for God to move any way He desires through us, watch out. Talk about a supernatural life! This is the quickest way to get there.
There are a lot of people who forget to take something extremely critical on their journey when deciding to follow Jesus: their cross.
"And He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matt. 10:38-39, MEV).
When we lose our lives, take up our cross and surrender all, when we die every day, the miracles begin.
Praying in the Spirit
If you want an explosive prayer life, there is no substitute to praying in tongues. This is an absolute non-negotiable element for every believer who desires prayer-driven breakthrough.
"Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:26-28).
If we want all things to work together for good, we have no option but to allow the Spirit of God to intercede for us with groanings.
If we don't know what to pray, what other solution is there? There is none. We must still pray with precision; we must still contend in the Spirit. We can't just stop and wait. The intercession must continue and the supernatural battle can't cease. We truly have no other option but to, in our weakness, pray in the Spirit. We need God's wisdom to manifest. We need mysteries revealed. We need supernatural infusion. Praying in tongues accomplishes this. Refusal to pray in tongues compromises not only our prayer lives but our lives as Christians.
Many articles and books could be written on this topic alone as it relates to prayer. It's utter foolishness to pray amiss, to pray outside of the bounds of Scripture. Yet when we do pray from the foundation of biblical truth, look out. The prayer becomes nuclear!
Reading the Word with prayer in mind makes it an absolutely thrilling experience! Read it and then cry out for what it reveals. Contend for what you have discovered, believing in faith that it's true and that it must manifest in your life.
"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us" (1 John 5:14).
Confidence in prayer comes when we see God's will in Scripture. He wrote it, we believe it and we contend for it to manifest.
Related to praying from the foundation of the Word is confidently and boldly releasing decrees.
Many are addicted to petition as their primary form of prayer, and they generally live powerless lives. But, when we, as kingdom authorities, release prophetic decrees that originate from the Word of God, and also from the rhema messages God speaks to us, all hell shakes!
So often people are asking for things that have already been promised in the Word. This ignorance leads to a failed prayer strategy. If it's promised, but it hasn't manifested, go through your checklist. Are you in sin? How's your faith? Are you contending for it? Are you battling the enemy? Add to that checklist bold, authoritative decrees and declarations. Don't ask the mountain to move, and don't ask God to move it. You command it to move.
When we are in the Word and when the Spirit of God speaks to us, our faith spikes, and our prayer becomes a force to be reckoned with!
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17, ESV).
If I know God is already settled on a matter, you better believe I'm not wasting time asking him about it. I'm shifting my prayer from talking to God to assaulting the enemy to speaking to the situation and to commanding a shift!
I'd like to encourage you to get excited about the thrill ride a fully immersed life of prayer will give you. The low-level petitions and half-hearted requests that so many identify as a "prayer life" must give way to a much greater and extremely potent life of prophetic, intimate intercession. It will shake the planet, and your love for Jesus will go to places you never thought possible!
John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 25 years and is a sought out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. John has authored ten books, is a regular contributor to Charisma Magazine, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. A large and growing library of audio and video teachings, articles, books and other resources can be found on his website at www.burton.tv. John, his wife Amy and their five children live in Branson, Missouri.
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