Last time, we started examining some heart-searching questions which will help us to discern whether we are praying according to the Spirit or from a soulish perspective. I said that 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, the charitable love passage, is a standard to help us recognize the difference between the two. Let’s continue on with our list.
4.) What emotions or attitudes are motivating my prayers? As I already mentioned, self-ambition and a desire for personal comfort can muddy our prayers. Fear is probably the biggest single emotion that leads us into soulish praying, while love is the greatest motivator of genuine spiritual prayers. Are your prayers lining up with the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22, 23? If so, you will do all right.
5.) Am I praying by revelation or by my opinion? For those of us who are by nature strong-minded people, it’s not always easy to tell at first. Some of us automatically assume that if we feel strongly about something, we must be moving in the counsel of God.
The good news is that by deliberately practicing discernment — by asking God for His viewpoint and listening for the subtle promptings of His Spirit — we will, over time, learn to distinguish between our personal opinions and the convictions or revelation of the Lord.
Plug into a prayer group where you feel you can safely submit your ideas to others who desire along with you to pray according to the Holy Spirit’s direction. This can be a huge help in increasing your prayer discernment. Be willing to ask what the others think about praying a certain way, and then yield to their counsel. It takes a while to get comfortable enough praying with other intercessors to allow them to help you in discerning, but it is worth the effort and the risk. In addition to building your discerning skills, you will grow in humility — a most desirable goal.
We can and should pray against the actions of destructive people (terrorists, for example), but we pray for the people themselves. One of the ways I personally pray against terrorist threats is by asking the Lord to gut sleeper cells by revealing Himself, even supernaturally through dreams and visions, to the terrorists within those cells. Thousands of Muslims throughout the world have already come to know Jesus through visitations from angels and even Jesus Himself, so why not deliberately ask for such occurrences for terrorists?
You may be thinking, “But evil people sometimes need to be prayed against!” Yes, and I’m not trying to be a mamby-pamby about this or make a rule set in stone. I prayed, along with many of you, that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden would be “taken out.” Just be careful to use those prayers wisely and sparingly, and feel your way through how to pray into those particular situations with the constant help of the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is quick [living] and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” This verse implies that the soul and spirit are so closely knit that we need supernatural help in discerning between them. Thank God for His Word, which assists us in doing so, as the Holy Spirit applies it to our hearts!
This is why measuring our hearts by 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 helps to keep our prayers in line with God’s heart. Everything in prayer must be filtered through charitable love!
You can be totally right in your revelation, but totally wrong in what you do with it. This is because it is easy for us to crisscross back and forth between spirit and soul without being aware of it. But if we will practice measuring everything by the Word and asking for the Holy Spirit’s aid in discernment, we will find ourselves more frequently praying from a right spiritual perspective and less frequently stepping over into the flesh with our prayers.
Next time, we will talk about how to strengthen our spiritual senses.