A concept I love and teach is that intercessors should endeavor to be sharpshooters in prayer. That’s why Annie Oakley graces the cover of my book, The Intercessor Manual.
The idea is that, rather than forging ahead in prayer according to our own limited thinking, we should listen to the Holy Spirit for how to pray. We pray from the details He gives us, rather than plowing ahead without His counsel and dancing all around and over a prayer topic, without a clue as to what God’s take is on the situation. Specific prayers inspired by the Spirit hit the target and get specific answers.
Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but what happens when we wait upon the Lord, and He still doesn’t seem to give us any light on the subject? You know, that happens to me a lot. A lot!
I’d like to share a few thoughts with you on how to handle praying when the light is dim or nonexistent.
Be faithful in waiting upon God and inquiring of Him. God honors our sincere attempts to hear Him. If He’s not speaking, it’s not necessarily your fault. People have sometimes chastised me for not hearing God on given subjects. The accusation is that, if you’re not hearing and other people are (or supposedly are), that means you are just not listening, or are refusing what God is surely saying. Maybe … maybe not!
We don’t all have the same realm of prayer influence. God shares one secret with a few, and still another secret with a different set of people. That is the way He works.
Don’t let anybody guilt you for not hearing from God on any given subject. It’s good to ask the Lord, “Am I resisting what You want to speak? If so, please reveal to me where my attitude is wrong.” But if you are truly seeking Him, that’s all you can or need to do. You can’t make God speak.
Keep on waiting upon the Lord with the questions you have. It takes time to hear Him. He may not be ready to speak. He may want to see how badly you want His counsel. He may simply treasure your diligent waiting upon Him.
Take tentative prayer steps and then expect Him to lead. Sometimes I have to confess to the Lord, “I don’t have the foggiest idea how to pray into this. It is too big for me! Please lead me as I go.” Then I take the first step in prayer, often in my prayer language. Many times, within moments, He takes over and leads me into prayer paths I never would have expected to go down. It doesn’t always happen that quickly. I could spend weeks or even months feeling my way along, praying in tongues a lot, and praying in English only tiny tidbits of understanding I receive.
Don’t try to sharpshoot based on your opinions. A lot of folks are doing this, and they are not praying God’s will. Don’t assume that your strong opinion must be God’s perspective too. It might not even be close. If it’s not from Him, it’s not going to hit the target, no matter how hard you try, and you will end up disappointed because the Lord didn’t come through for you.
If you desire to pray God’s counsel, He will get you there. Have confidence that, if you are doing your best to hear Him, He will adjust your understanding along the way. Stay sensitive for any uneasy checks in your spirit about how you are praying. If you do, He will steer any mistaken prayers back on course.
At times we have to pray immediately, because there is no time to wait. Just do it, calling on the name of Jesus, having faith that He will assist you and make up for any inadequacies in your understanding. God is not fussy about whether we use the right words. He sees the intent of the heart, and He has compassion on our limitations.
Don’t be surprised if the Spirit leads you down a side trail. This is common for me. I start out praying into a specific topic, and the Lord shows me side issues — still connected with the original matter — that are important to Him (but definitely not the same focus I started out praying into). It’s OK, if that happens to you. Have faith that these tangents are important to the Lord, and that’s why you end up praying about them.
Prayer in tongues will always get you through. You can have confidence that you are breaking things open and changing circumstances, even if you aren’t completely sure how to pray or what the outcome should be. The Holy Spirit knows what is needed.
Don’t use tongues, however, as your lazy man’s way out of hearing the Lord. We should still ask for understanding and expect to receive it. The same Paul who said, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18) also said, “If I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also …” (1 Corinthians 14:14, 15).
There is a time for sharpshooting and a time to throw grenade-like prayers. Different situations require different kinds of prayer volleys. This type of intercession won’t be nearly as specific in details as the sharpshooting prayer. We still want to make sure we aim it in the right direction, though! Both types of prayer should involve using Scripture as the firepower. This one may utilize larger doses of that firepower.
I hope the ideas I have shared here will encourage you and help you persevere in going after the answers you seek.