The Last Prayer
The Last Prayer
At that time, I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. Daniel 10:2-3
Daniel had been in a period of prayer and fasting for twenty-one days, waiting to receive a message from God concerning an upcoming war. Daniel’s faith never wavered. He knew that God would give him what he needed; he just didn’t know when. You see, many times before Daniel had asked God for insight and guidance, and God had always answered…
This past January I entered a period of prayer and fasting with others members of my church, Church of the Highlands, which is located here in Birmingham. Much like Daniel’s period of fasting, this one would last for twenty-one days. And following Daniel’s lead, my wife Jackie and I made a decision to follow his guidelines for fasting, which is appropriately called “The Daniel Fast.” No meats, sweets, bread, caffeine, soft drinks, or alcohol. For three weeks our diet would consist of vegetables, fruits, juice, and water. The reason behind the fasting was to raise our level of spirituality through the awareness that we were depriving our bodies of the “fuel” that they had grown accustomed to.
I’ll go ahead and tell you that it worked! For the first few days my body reminded my mind of everything that it was missing. And in turn, my mind screamed at me to feed my body!
It had been seven years since I’d quit smoking, a nasty habit that had plagued me for thirty years. The first couple of days of fasting reminded of the struggle that I’d gone through when I was battling nicotine withdrawals. My level of awareness was raised alright, and I didn’t like it one bit!
Frustrated, yet determined, I fought through that “little voice” in the back of my mind that was constantly screaming reminders of what my body was missing. You see, I remained steadfast in my fasting because I was after something….
A few weeks earlier, we had been advised by Pastor Chris Hodges that we should enter a fasting period with a specific intention, or “expectation”. In What I’m Asking God For, a post from January 18th, I told you that I had entered the Twenty-One Days of Prayer seeking God’s Wisdom. My reasoning was that with a bit of His wisdom, which He promises to us for the asking, I could have more insight into solutions for many of the problems that I face each day.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6
Well, as I believe that the Bible contains a record of God’s promises to us, and that God is faithful to those who love and serve Him, I entered Twenty-One Days with the absolute belief that God would grant me some of His wisdom.
Looking back now, I realize that God did indeed grace me with wisdom, and He continues to do so each day. But I also realize that there was something else that I was after…
A new level of prayer.
Since Jackie and I joined Church of the Highlands just over a year ago, I had been a part of Twenty-One Days of Prayer last summer, and had attended several organized prayers sessions on Wednesday and Saturday mornings throughout the year.
On each of those occasions I witnessed individuals in a deeper, more intense state of prayer than anything that I had ever experienced. I could look at them and see a connection with God that I longed for. I think that it wasn’t really what I saw on their faces, as much it was the feeling of a spiritual connection that emanated from each one of them. This may not make sense to you, but it was as if I could feel their spirituality as I walked by them.
As much as I hate to say this, I was envious of what they had! Oh, I didn’t want their spirituality. I just wanted to elevate my own through prayer, but I didn’t know how to do it.
So I prayed. And prayed. And prayed.
Every weekday morning, Monday through Friday, I would get out of bed at five o’clock to go to church for the prayer service, which began at six. On Saturdays the service began at nine o’clock, and on Sunday mornings I was in my prayer chair in our home at six before getting ready for church.
And every day I would seek God’s wisdom, and pray for the needs of others before praying for my own. And I would of course, pray to be lifted up to that new level of prayer. Every day.
Like I said, God did indeed grace me with His wisdom, or as much as this feeble mind of mine could absorb. And I witnessed God perform several “coincidences” (I like to call them miracles) in my life, and in the lives of others, during those twenty-one days.
But I never reached that level of prayer, that “connection” with God that I so desperately wanted. Heading into the last day, a Saturday, I believe that I had given up hope that it was gonna happen.
Oh, I was extremely grateful for the many blessings that I had received from God during those twenty-one days. Yet at the same time, I was really disappointed, not with God but with myself, that I hadn’t connected with Him in the way that I’d prayed for. I figured that there was something that I wasn’t doing right.
The twenty-first day’s service began with a message from Pastor Chris, which was followed by a worship song. After thirty minutes of private prayer and petitions, Pastor Chris once again took the stage to lead the hundreds in attendance in one, final fifteen minute session of corporate prayer…
I began following the Pastor’s call for prayer for our families, our church, our city, our state, our country. At times I found myself praying his prayers; at other times I offered my own. The faces of my family, of friends, and of those on my personal prayer list flashed through my mind as I called on God for His grace and mercy.
I remember Pastor Chris calling us into a more fervent state of prayer, urging us to “go after God” with all that was in us. The voices of those standing all around me grew louder and louder in prayer. Again came the call to pray even harder. I’d never prayed so hard in my life…
And then my world was silent.
The only voice that I heard was that of my own, praising God, thanking Him for His blessings, for His presence in my life…for His presence in me. Thanking Jesus for dying for me, for making my salvation possible. Thanking the Holy Spirit for all of His gifts, especially the heart and bravery of a Soldier of Christ. Thanking God for allowing me to feel…this. Time stood still. Time didn’t matter.
And then, it was like waking up from a dream. I realized that my cheeks were streaked with tears. That those around me were praying as loud as ever before. And that my knees were on fire. Slowly opening my eyes, I saw the source of the pain in my knees: I had been kneeling on the concrete floor in prayer for at least ten minutes!
I slowly got back up on my feet, joining the rest of those around me for the last few minutes of prayer, somewhat overwhelmed by what had just happened.
In the last fifteen minutes, of the last hour, of the twenty-first and last day of my prayer and fasting, God had allowed me to reach the level of spirituality that I had been so desperately seeking.
Never give up on God. Never give up on yourself. Always remember that as with Daniel, and as with me, that He may wait until the last minute of the last hour of the last day to “show up.” That He may be waiting for you to offer that one last prayer, the one that you offer just before you give up, the one that He plans on answering.
God is faithful.