To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to keep silence, and a time to speak. — Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7
The Lord may take us into a season of spending the majority of our prayer time simply sitting with Him, enjoying His Presence, and listening for His voice. This is a season where we petition less and give Him the opportunity to talk more, if He chooses to.
At the beginning of this year, the Lord spoke to me about entering a focused time of dwelling in the secret place of His Presence. This was to be a time of listening at His feet, of ministering to Jesus alone by abiding in Him. He said that being still and listening for Him is a high form of worship. And He added that even if He didn’t speak during these extended times of quiet with Him, it was still going to be important, because ministering to Him is enough. Spending the bulk of my prayer life sitting with Him in listening mode was going to mean far less time spent in intercession — but out of that time would come more effective intercession in fewer words. There is good basis for this in the Word, for Jesus told us in John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” Pinpoint-accurate, effective intercession comes out of the abiding place.
You may find your listening season to be a delightful time of ease in prayer. But, particularly if you have a strong drive toward intercession, you may find it difficult to follow through with staying quiet. You may be tempted to flee the quiet place in favor of shouldering burdens and laboring hard in prayer, just as you have done in the past.
Quite honestly, it proved to be a hard season for me. I am used to being a prayer laborer, and I have always had a hard time not spending the bulk of prayer in interceding — until now. Even though I knew this was to be a time of listening and just sitting with the Lord, I wanted so much to pray at length for a number of pressing needs. But the Holy Spirit wasn’t giving the impetus for it. I continued to faithfully fulfill prayer commitments — the prayer group my husband and I lead, prayer at specific times when our pastor was engaged in ministry — but when I engaged in personal prayer, the joy and enthusiasm for most intercession was gone.
During this time, I experienced occasional guilt feelings about not interceding a lot: “Lord, the country is in such a mess. I should be praying for the nation!” But the Spirit wasn’t in it, and I couldn’t do it, although I tried. There were other concerns as well, for which normally I would have prayed at great length. But most of the time, all I could do was throw a few sentences upward about those needs, and then I was done. I had to realize that God had other intercessors who were not in the same season I was, and He was capable of using them to pray. The world was not going to rise or fall on whether I interceded.
I had identity questions: “Lord, have I lost my calling as an intercessor?” “Why can’t I pray like I used to?” “Will I have anything to write for intercessors if I am not spending all that much time interceding right now? “Why am I on the shelf like this?” “Will I ever get off the shelf?” And although it was a listening time, I had not been receiving huge amounts of revelation, either. Even though the Lord had told me ahead of time that it would be like this, it was still an uncomfortable season for me.
Your listening season may not be like mine. You may receive abundant revelation during it, and your connection with the Lord may be thrilling. Whether you feel its fruitfulness in the midst of it or not, God will bring good things out of it. I noticed that He used this time to bring strongholds in my thinking to my attention, so that I could overcome them. My hunger for the Lord seemed to increase, and my faith in His integrity deepened, although I didn’t have tangible explanations for why that was happening.
Whatever results come forth from the listening season, it is primarily not about what we get out of it, but about ministering to the Lord’s heart. Because He is so generous, He will see to it that we benefit from this time in some way. Yet, if there were no advantages coming forth to us, it would still be enough to lavish ourselves on Him.