Teach Me to Pray, Part 1

I grew up in a Christian home. My dad was a pastor and made a deep impression on my life as I witnessed his praying in his living room chair each morning. Early in my Christian experience, I learned the necessity of having “devotions.” It wasn’t until I was in college and began to journal my thoughts from my Scripture meditations that this time took on great meaning for me. I was fairly disciplined and I took pride in not missing my “quiet time” very often. College gave way to seminary, and seminary to full-time ministry.

Over the years, I saw many prayers answered, and even saw people healed as I prayed for them.

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But I was also a student of revival history, and had read enough to know my prayer life did not approximate the prayers of the men and women God used mightily to usher in revival fires. The gap bothered me enough that I often determined to pray more. My increased times of prayer were always short lived and laden with guilt. Somewhere along the way, I think I unconsciously made peace by assigning the kind of prayer life I aspired to as a gift of intercession – a gift I was not given. As a pastor, I valued prayer, and I admired and did my best to encourage those who did seem to have the gift. But this unconscious resignation was undone this past summer.

These stories of revival came alive again for me. And the Holy Spirit underlined the extraordinary prayers of ordinary people in each of these accounts.

The European Revival Heritage Tour my wife Carol and I were privileged to take last July-August shattered my prayer resignation. Compressed in a few weeks, these stories of revival came alive again for me – only now in full color. And the Holy Spirit underlined the extraordinary prayers of ordinary people in each of these accounts.

There were many impressions on my heart in those days, but one rose above the others and was forged into a heart-cry, “Lord, teach me to pray.” I wasn’t saying this in some sort of self-deprecating humility. I meant it. I truly believed I needed to begin over again and learn to pray – really pray!

I returned to Oroville, Calif., only to be thrown into the completion of my home. I was the general contractor and also did much of the finish work. My soul was truly vexed. I wanted to pursue this plea, but felt trapped by a necessary distraction.

I began by simply asking the Lord to teach me to pray.

Fortunately, God, in His great mercy, maintained the stirring in my heart to enter into His school of prayer. I began by simply asking the Lord to teach me to pray. In answer to that, He led me to two books – one I have completed and one I am halfway through. The first was Praying In The Spirit by Arthur Wallis. I had read Wallis’s classic on revival, In the Day of Thy Power, and so was drawn to his book on prayer. The second was The Ministry of Intercession by the well-known author and revivalist, Andrew Murray.

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From the beginning, both authors emphasized this truth – “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom. 8:26). They both confessed the kind of prayer life I aspired to was beyond the reach of self-effort. I was too weak. That is where my journey began.