Anyone who has ever spent time praying probably has had this question cross their minds: “Does God even hear my prayers?” And it gets amplified when we feel like nothing is happening in those moments of prayer.
In my early years as a young Christian, prayer meetings were a staple for me. The first meeting I attended after giving my life to Jesus was a prayer meeting that ran daily in church. And for the next 9 years, I would follow my brother to weekly 6.30am prayer meetings.
The atmosphere of these prayer meetings was so glorious, it made my prayers feel powerful. I knew that God was right there to hear me. So for a long time, I equated a successful prayer meeting with an energised, empowered feeling.
But this idea of a “successful prayer meeting” began to cripple my personal prayer life. I became demotivated to stay faithful in showing up for prayer meetings that didn’t provide that “atmosphere” – one where I would feel powerful when praying.
Of course, I totally believe in contending for the fullness of God to break in with His power and presence as we gather to pray. It is still my constant pursuit to see that reality happen in all our gatherings, especially in the place of prayer, just as God did it in the days of Acts.
“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
By all means, this should be our vision and hope for our prayer meetings, but it should not be an equation for what a successful prayer meeting is.
During the first few months of my stint at IHOP Kansas City, I had to spend at least six hours of prayer in their Global Prayer Room daily. And it was a struggle for me because of my definition of success in the place of prayer.
For the majority of my time there, it felt more routine than glorious. For me to stay in that room for a full six hours made me feel weak as a person. Every prayer I made felt reluctant, almost meaningless, as though it was going nowhere – yet in my heart I did want Him to hear me.
This went on until one regular day, with my Bible opened to Matthew 6:6, when God shifted my paradigm and changed up my definition of success in prayer.
“And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
At that moment, I felt the Lord ask me these questions:
“Do you believe in the words of My Son regardless of how you feel?”
“Do you believe that I see and hear when you pray in secret, regardless of how you feel?”
“Do you believe that I am true to who I am as a rewarder of those who diligently seek Me?”
It was at this point that I realised the success of prayer is never about how powerful I feel when I am praying, but recognising God as the powerful one we are anchoring our prayers on.
The act of praying itself is already a success because it is a demonstration of our faith in God and what He is able to do. Why else would we pray if we were in control or we didn’t think He could make the difference?
Faith is never about feeling, but an inward confidence that you have towards God. And without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Now when I pray, I look beyond my feelings because I know our Father sees and hears in secret, regardless of how I feel. That it is already success to be showing up before Him.
It is my hope to experience a greater manifestation of God’s power and presence in our prayer meetings, but He alone knows the right time and season for an outpouring. It is something that only God can do; no man can fabricate it. We can only be faithful to show up for prayer.
I can imagine those 10 days in the Upper Room after the disciples witnessed Jesus ascend to heaven (Acts 1:13). All they had was a promise Jesus had made: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”
For the 10 days before the Holy Spirit came, I can imagine how dry, weak and broken their prayer meeting must have been. Yet the apostles put their faith in the promise of the Father through the words of His Son, and they kept on showing up until that “suddenly” happened.
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting … All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2,4)
I want to encourage you to keep showing up in your personal time of prayer and stay faithful to the small and seemingly weak prayer meetings, because God loves weak and broken things. They are our opportunities to experience His power and grace (2 Corinthians 12:9).
My prayer for you is this, that God will give you a persevering faith that goes beyond your feelings, knowing that when you pray, your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
This article was first published on Jason Chua’s blog, and is republished with permission.