One of the things we must learn in our prayer journey is when we’ve finished the task and when we have not. The answer might seem obvious: when we get the answer we’re done, and if we haven’t seen the answer yet, we keep praying … right?
Not necessarily. There is often a time gap between when the answers are obtained in the spiritual realm and when we tangibly see and hold them in our natural realm. This can be confusing.
There was a time when I was praying into a very serious situation, and eventually the Lord spoke to me that the prayer task was completed. Yet, because I did not see a change in the natural circumstances, I thought I wasn’t hearing God correctly — because obviously everything was as bad as, or worse than, when I commenced praying! So, I kept praying, ignoring what I thought had been the voice of the Spirit. I figured I was just hearing goofy things.
The Lord was patient, however, understanding my human weakness and immaturity. He continued to assure me that I really was done, although I couldn’t see the desired results. I finally saw the answer show up in the material world a few months later.
At other times, I have erred by ending prayer too soon, because I thought I saw the natural circumstances changing. I thought, “Aha! That obstructing mountain has crumbled!” But then, the seeming breakthrough closed up again. The situation reverted to what it had been, and I had to go back over the ground I had already covered in prayer, even having to retake some of it from the enemy.
In both cases the mistake was the same — believing what my natural senses were telling me, rather than what the Spirit of God was either revealing or being silent about.
It’s a hard lesson for us to learn. Our natural senses are working hard for us at all times. We are keenly attuned to the material world. Our spiritual senses, however, are more subtle and require us to pay better attention. We have to practice using them and thereby build our spiritual muscle, just like it says in Hebrews 5:14: “But strong meat belongs to those who are of full age [spiritually mature], even those who by reason of use have their [spiritual] senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Maybe you are new at praying by following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The good news is, you don’t have to wait until you reach some mysterious future level of spiritual maturity in order to be effective in receiving answers. Even those who have been prayer warriors for years have to keep growing and learning. Experienced intercessors still make mistakes (at least I do!).
Just begin to be aware now of the time-lapse principle between the spiritual realm and the earthly realm. First, we obtain our desired answer in the heavenlies; second, we receive it here on earth. When you feel the Holy Spirit is letting you know that you have prayed enough, don’t second-guess it. Trust that sense or voice. You probably are hearing Him correctly. And when you are not quite sure if you have gotten your full answer, keep praying until you know it is firmly settled.
Here’s a hint of how that works:
- When there seems to be no impetus to pray, and you try to keep praying anyway, but it all seems flat, that is a good indicator that you have completed the mission.
- If you still feel a nagging uncertainty about whether all is well, even though it looks great outwardly, keep on praying.
Do you have a story of how this worked for you, or do you have questions? Please share those in a comment!
The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam
Your Intercession Questions Answered, by Lee Ann Rubsam