Going Deeper 3


Discovering God’s heart. If our prayers are to be effective we will need to discover what is on God’s agenda. ‘Whatever you ask in my name,’ Jesus said, ‘I will do for you’ (John 14:13). When you pray, you are asking God to do something. But what sort of things do you actually ask him to do? Prayer that is truly in Jesus’ name is prayer that has heaven’s ownership to it. In other words, it is prayer that starts from the heart of God. Matthew Henry said, ‘When God intends great mercy for his people, he sets them a-praying.’

Prayer shouldn’t be about us trying to set God’s agenda. Instead we need to learn to listen to his agenda. What is on God’s heart? What does he want to do in our city or town at this time? When we have understood that, we can then bring those things back to him in prayer. Prayer enables God to carry out his will on the earth. During these days we have an opportunity to listen to God. If our prayers are to be effective we will need to discover what is on God’s agenda.

Listening. Jesus ‘tuned in’ to his Father with unwavering consistency. He knew his Father and his Father knew him (John 10:15).  He had singleness of purpose – doing his Father’s will. ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does’ (John 5:19).

It can be difficult for us to get on the right wavelength with God: to ‘tune out’ the busyness, our own agendas and self-centred thoughts as we communicate with the Father. But as we seek him we begin to tune in to our heavenly Father’s voice. As we listen, the Holy Spirit prompts and guides us. We grow to know his voice and hear his directions. Jesus said that his sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4).

When you want to come into God’s presence, find somewhere without distractions and imagine yourself walking into God’s throne room (Hebrews 10:19-23). God rarely speaks to his people through loud or audible words. He is rarely intrusive. More often it is through soft impressions, gentle feelings that come into the minds or hearts of those who are seeking him. Colossians 3:15 says ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts’. The word translated as ‘rule’ (brabeueto) comes from the imagery of the athletics arena and literally means ‘to umpire’. It is the peace of Christ that umpires whether a thought comes from God or not. As things come into your mind, do you sense the peace of God with them? As you spend more time with the Lord, you become better at distinguishing his voice from the other ‘voices’ that come into your head. It’s the same way we recognise the voice of a friend on the telephone.

Listening together. An image from the Second World War is one of the family gathering around the radio tuning in to hear the wartime news. When we gather as part of the Christian family we can listen together. Distracting noises (and people!) need to be quietened for us ‘tune in’ to God’s voice. If we do this together we can come to a place of greater unity and purpose as we discern his direction.

Praying in agreement. Jesus said that ‘if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 18:19). This is a powerful promise. It encourages us to pray in agreement with others. Having listened to God and then prayed in agreement we can expect our Father in heaven to answer.

Wider …

Prayer walking has been a powerful spiritual tool in the Christian toolkit for generations. It can provide valuable insight on the spiritual climate of our towns and cities and help fashion how we do mission and ministry. We can see situations about which we pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done.’

What is it? Put simply it is walking and praying!

Sometimes it is helpful to visualise what you are praying for. Prayer walking enables us to see our neighbourhoods as Christ sees them. When God promised Abraham a son, he took him outside and told him to ‘look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them’ (Genesis 15:5). Then he said to him ‘so shall your offspring be’ Seeing the stars stimulated his imagination. Like Abraham we sometimes find it hard to pray for theoretical ideas. But if we go out of our house and walk down the street, we soon bump into real people. We can look into their faces and see their needs. Seeing situations as they are, stimulates us to pray for them to become what they should be.

As we walk we can identify with promises given to biblical characters: Abraham was told to walk the land, for ‘I am giving it to you’. God told Joshua ‘I will give every place where you set your foot as I promised Moses’ (Joshua 1:3).

Of course, you don’t need to pray out loud. No-one needs to know that you are praying. Plenty of others go for walks too! But your walk can have a purpose. And just as Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16), we too can be alone with God bringing needs to him as we see them on our walk.

You can walk strategically: plan your walks in advance. Over a period of time, walk down every street in your district and pray for the inhabitants of each house. Linger outside the Town Hall and pray for those in charge of the community. Pray for the businesses and those who work there. Walk past the schools and parks praying for the children, or past the clubs and pubs where the young people meet. You can also walk randomly, asking the Holy Spirit to guide each walk, so that you see the things that he wants you to pray for.


Cleansing for our communities. News of our society falling out of God’s plan to prosper and protect us is an everyday event. Yet so often we hear it with hardened hearts. To do otherwise overwhelms us. This week, in the spirit of Nehemiah, we can mourn, fast and pray for ‘our people’ (Nehemiah 1:4). As we come before God we can pray that our hearts will soften with compassion allowing us to feel the pain of what is happening around us. We can use this pain to pray for change in our community. We share the understanding Nehemiah had of God when he prayed, ‘But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.’ (Nehemiah 9:17) Therefore we can ask God not to desert our communities.

In today’s individualistic society we are not used to confessing anyone’s sins but our own. But, ‘No man is an island.’ We are affected by, and implicated in, the sins of those around us. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus gave the plural confession, ‘Forgive us our sins.’ We begin to understand the biblical precedent set when Nehemiah, Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), Daniel (Daniel 9:2f) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 14:20) confessed the sins of their nation.

How often have we judged someone based on stereotypes encouraged upon us by society? Don’t we all benefit in some ways from economic injustices when we buy coffee, tea, chocolate and clothes traded at prices so low they oppress those who made them in poverty? Are our own attitudes towards other people, God’s laws and even God himself not shaped by the society that surrounds us? Confessing the sins of our society in this way moves us from engaging in ‘arms length’ prayer to praying in a way that is rooted in the knowledge of our belonging to our community. Yet these prayers of confession are prayers with an outward focus: that God would heal us and our land. Praise God that he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins when we confess them.

But what about unanswered prayer? See next article …