If a person goes away to pray and continues in prayer all the night because the burden of the Lord was upon him, then that one has made progress. In addition to the spontaneous times of prayer that may last many hours and perhaps all the night, maturing believers should have planned and programmed nights of prayer.
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God; and when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles; Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came from him and healed them all” (Luke 6:12-19).
Prayer is more than asking and receiving things from God. It is communion with Him. In the course of that communion, the Lord is known, praised and further sought. He then makes His needs known to the praying person and imparts to that one the burden to see the needs of the Lord supplied. Such a one, having thus seen the needs of the Lord, will concentrate on having the needs met. The praying person will only bring up his own needs in so far as the meeting of those needs will help him to meet the needs of the Lord.
The Lord withdrew to the mountain to pray. He needed His Father and His Father needed Him; so He went to be alone with Him. The Lord also had a problem. It was time for Him to set aside twelve of His many disciples as the Twelve: the twelve apostles. He had a great crowd of disciples. Who was He to choose?
He did not depend on how He felt. He did not depend on whom He was attracted to. He did not depend on who apparently held promise for the future. He put aside His opinion and withdrew to have the Father’s will on the issue. He went to the mountain to pray. We do not know at what hour He went to the mountain, but we do know that He started to pray and then continued to pray until the whole night was spent in prayer. The issue of selecting the twelve apostles was so serious that there on that mountain, the Divine Council met.
They must have examined each possible candidate and then come to a conclusion that was not based on human wisdom. The God-head established the list and the Son had it. In many ways only God could have chosen that list, for it is a list that defies human explanation. The human viewpoint was left aside completely. There was no thought about regional distribution or representation. There was no thought as to how people would react to it. The men selected did not seem to be all very stable. They each had a character weakness – Peter was bold and impulsive. James and John were of a temper that could be destructive. One of them was not even committed to Jesus as Lord; others were timid and so on. When the list was read, there were two sets of brothers; Peter was put ahead of Andrew, even though Andrew came first to the Lord. Two were called James and two were called Judas.
God saw each one of them and knew each one’s past, present and future, and yet He chose them. They were to be a difficult lot to train, nevertheless, the Father gave them to the Son and the Son accepted them and committed Himself to them. So the Lord had the list of God’s chosen apostles for Him. It had taken the whole night to sort out, for it was one of the most important and most far-reaching choices of all time. The Lord had not decided to spend the whole night in prayer. He had gone to pray and then discovered that the business that He had to settle with the Father required the whole night. He did not shrink from the requirement. He just paid the price and stayed in God’s presence until the job was done.
PLANNED LENGTHS OF PRAYER TIME?
If the Lord had said, “I am going away to the mountain to pray for four hours,” He would have been in trouble because He would have found out that after four hours the matter that needed to be settled with God was far from settled. He went to meet God and He decided that He would be moved by how long it took to settle all that needed to be settled with God and not by any arbitrary limit of time made by Himself. God never says, “Come to me for one, two or three hours.” He invites people to go to Him, and how long they stay is determined by how long it takes to transact the business that needs transaction.
He did call Moses to the mountain. Moses went and entered into God’s presence and, before he could come out of there, forty days had gone by. Moses stayed in God’s presence until the Lord had finished talking to him. We, too, must make ourselves available to God. We must learn to be perfectly at home in His presence, so that if there is need to spend one hour, ten hours, two days, seven days or forty days, we shall find that we are able to live in His immediate presence for that long.
To be able to stay in God’s presence until He has finished talking with us demands that we know Him deeply and have learnt to hear His voice, being able to discern His voice from all other voices and being able to know with accuracy what He is saying. Those who only know how to jump into His presence and rattle a few words of self-initiated need, will find that they are not making the progress they should make.
If a person goes away to pray and continues in prayer all the night because the burden of the Lord was upon him, then that one has made progress.
In addition to the spontaneous times of prayer that may last many hours and perhaps all the night, maturing believers should have planned and programmed nights of prayer. Prayer is a ‘must’ that should be carried out, regardless of what a person feels like. The Lord has commanded people to pray without ceasing. Those who want to obey Him will pray in the morning, afternoon and evening; they will pray in the day and they will pray at night. They will pray when called apart by the Lord to pray and they will take personal initiative to pray; for all time is prayer time. They will pray throughout the day if they can and when they can, and they will do the same at night. If the Lord does not call them aside to pray, they will invite themselves into His presence to pray.
It is best for the maturing saint to have two all-night prayer meetings of eight to ten hours a week. One prayer night will be a personal prayer night during which he learns to meet God over an extended period alone; it will be difficult from the beginning but, with increasing time, the persevering believer will gain ground in prayer and begin to enjoy the night. It may be that he will start with one prayer night alone once a month and then move on to one every fortnight and finally to once a week.
The prayer night should begin as early in the evening as possible; for a person who works from 08.00-16.00, he might choose to start at 18.00 to 02.00 in order to give himself sometime of sleep before going to work the next day.
He might organize his prayer night as follows:
18.00 -19.00: Thanksgiving and praise.
19.00 - 20.00: Prayer for personal needs both material and spiritual.
20.00 - 20.30: Waiting before the Lord.
20.30 - 21.30: Praying for the things that were received during waiting on God.
21.30 - 22.30: Prayer for one’s family (both saved and unsaved members).
22.30 - 23.30: Prayer for the local Church in which one is involved.
23.30 - 24.00: Praise and thanksgiving in silent songs.
24.00 - 01.00: Prayer for an unevangelized nation and/or for some ministry of world consequence.
01.30 - 01.30: Prayer for revival of the saints world over.
01.30 - 02.00: Thanksgiving and writing down future lines of action.
There will certainly be other ways to organize the all-night prayer session but each person must wait on God and receive from Him what He wants done and how He wants it done. Having received what must be done from the Lord, the praying saint ought to apply himself to it with all diligence, refusing to be called away from it by Satan or by the world or the flesh.
A serious believer will at the beginning of the year already set aside the nights of prayer that he has sorted out with God and protect these with prayer so that the enemy should not interfere. In this way, he will make rapid progress in the knowledge of God and in the release of spiritual power for the accomplishment of God’s will.
I consider that every normal local church will have an all-night prayer meeting once a week that will be attended by all the members who are not hindered by some major obstacle. In fact, a normal assembly will only count those who participate regularly at the prayer meetings as its members. The others are visitors. I consider that a large assembly will organize these all-night prayer meetings in homes and that the numbers will be limited to twenty to thirty; so that the number of spectators will be reduced.
The assembly I attend has had a weekly all-night prayer meeting of eight to ten hours once a week for the last ten years. The prayer night I attend at the moment is made up of about thirty believers and we pray once a week from 19.00 to 0.5.00.
As I look into the future, I see this return to all-night prayer meetings in small groups as a sign that the Lord will soon do something great in His Church and through His Church, for when people pray, God moves in might. My prayer is that this matter of praying with the Lord Jesus on a regular basis throughout the night should become ordinary and that wherever redeemed men and women gather together as a local assembly, they should soon give themselves to prayer and to prayer sessions through the night.
THE NIGHT – A TIME FOR PRAYER
We know that the evil one is most active in the night. Since he is the prince of darkness, most of his operations are at night. For that reason, all who would stand in opposition to Him must consider praying at night as indispensable to resisting him. It does not sound right to me that we should leave him to do havoc at night and in the day we plead with the Father that He should undo what the Enemy did at night. We must pay the price of being awake and we must resist him. We must take no rest and we must give him no opportunity and then our reward will be great in heaven.
PRAYER AND SPIRITUAL POWER
After the Lord had spent the night in prayer, He received the power to make the right decision to who should be in the group of the twelve. It would seem that He also received a fresh anointing from the Father to perform miracles; for the Bible says of Him shortly after the night spent in prayer that
“Those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all” (Luke 6:18-19).
There was an extra flow of power because He had been in the presence of the Father. Those who spend time increasingly in prayer grow in spiritual power.
Because power is locked up in prayer, it is difficult to understand why the Church that stands so impotent before a watching world does not do more to pray and release the power of God. Lord, help me to pray more. Lord, help me to solve the matter of my limited spiritual power by a more intense life of prayer. Lord, help me to mobilize the saints to pray. Lord, help me to do all I can to both pray and to move Your children to pray. This is the greatest need of the hour. Lord, help me. Lord, help us.