Have you ever wished you could sneak into an intercessor's "prayer closet" with them and find out how they really pray? Maybe see if there's something you've been missing in your own quiet times? I have. I think one of the reasons why the "War Room" movie is so immensely popular for so many Christians is because it gives us a glimpse into what is usually a very private area of someone's life: their personal relationship with God in prayer.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting a friend of a friend, someone who - I had been told for years - loves to pray. When I mentioned this to her, she said, "You know, there's just nowhere else I'd rather be than in the Presence of God!" Her statement was far from clichéd. I could tell by the way she said it that she meant every word. I thought: wouldn't it be fun to get to know her better and discover some of her secrets to entering the throne room?
So I called her and asked if she'd do an interview with me so that you could meet her, too. She wasn't sure she had anything extraordinary to tell, but my sense was that the Lord felt otherwise. Her name is Carol. Here is what she told me.
Tell me a little bit about how you discovered an interest in prayer?
It began out of my own need. God put me into needy situations so that I would run to Him! My first child was a strong-willed child, and we used to butt heads quite often. In her teenage years, I had to get out of the house to pray for her sometimes, because it was so difficult. I used to pray, "Oh, God, I can't do this - HELP!" I started walking outside and praying for my neighborhood, too.
I grew up Catholic, and didn't come to know the Lord personally until my third child was born. I loved the peace and quiet of the Catholic church. I didn't read the Bible. I knew about God and could even pray, but I was missing a personal relationship with Jesus.
Through a series of events - a marriage retreat and a neighborhood Bible study on the book of John in particular - I accepted Christ. I was later part of the Catholic Charismatic movement and got baptized in the Holy Spirit, which greatly benefited my prayer life. Near the end of her life, my mother, who was a devout Catholic, used to be amazed at the "heartfelt" prayers I would pray for her, so different from the "rote" prayers of Catholicism. "That was beautiful!" she'd say. But they were simply prayers from my heart.
When and where do you pray? Do you have a "war room" or a favorite place to pray?
When I wake up in the morning, I typically spend some time before getting up just saying "Good Morning" to the Lord and praising Him for the day. It's a very peaceful, restful time just talking to Him before the day gets busy. I use this time to encourage myself because I know that the enemy often wants to get in right away and steal my peace.
There was a time when I was working, when I'd get up very early to walk, pray, and listen to worship music. One day I was walking my neighborhood at 5AM, and I had my headphones on. I was just singing and walking, and suddenly someone on the second story of a nearby house called out, "Do you know what time it is?" I hadn't realized how loudly I was singing!
These days, I am at the gym in the mornings, so my quiet times are typically after lunch. I have a favorite corner where I like to sit, be still, and enjoy His love. I usually have my Bible open and do my devotionals at this time. As He brings people to mind, I pray for them.
What do you typically pray for? Are there specific "burdens," people, or issues the Lord puts on your heart?
I pray daily for my family, especially for their protection. (Editor's note: Carol has three children and a healthy quiverful of grandchildren, so this keeps her busy!) Other "assignments" include the upcoming elections and candidate selection, and local pastors. There is an Asian woman who faithfully walks downtown and back every day, and because I seem to notice her a lot, I pray for her. I can't call praying for my neighborhood a "prayer burden," but since I do walk the area a lot I will often pray for the people in the houses I pass, asking the Lord to bless them.
There was a time when many of my friends had ministries of their own, but I didn't. I remember saying, "Lord, I don't have a ministry!" And His response was: "Your ministry is whoever I put you in contact with on a given day." Right now I'm reaching out to a leader in my tennis club who keeps asking me for prayer.
What is your biggest obstacle to prayer? How do you overcome it?
When I'm reading the Word, I might doze off sometimes, and I've found that when I read out loud it helps. I will even get up, walk around and read out loud. It keeps me awake, and helps me also to hear the Word when I read it. The telephone can be a distraction but I usually just ignore it! And when my mind wanders, reading aloud counters that distraction, too.
If you could give someone one key to growing their prayer life, what would that be?
Consistency. Perseverance. Hang in there, and don't give up! If you don't see the answers to your prayers right away, it can be very discouraging. It's like, "God, please give me patience... and could I have it right now?!"
Don't stop because you don't see immediate answers. If you give up, you certainly aren't going to see any fruitfulness from that! Stay connected to God and don't give up.
Apart from your own salvation, what is the most special prayer you prayed and saw answered?
I am the oldest of four girls. In April, 2014 my youngest sister, Judy, was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. None of my sisters had a personal relationship with Jesus. I have prayed for many years that they would see their need for a personal Savior and Lord. Because I was babysitting for my great granddaughter during the summer, I was unable to help transporting Judy to Dana Farber for treatments each week. It wasn't until the fall that I had the opportunity to take Judy for her treatments, usually with one or both of my sisters. I was still praying for her healing.
In December when Judy was in a hospice facility in Worcester, God made a way for me to be alone with her and talk about her relationship with the Lord. I was given the privilege to sing and pray with her. She expressed her desire to be with Jesus. That was on a Thursday... on Saturday she went to be with Him for all eternity! How great is our God!
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us about prayer?
Sometimes I think we make prayer too difficult. The closer we are to the Presence of God, the more we will want to pray! When we don't know what to pray for, we can just agree with Jesus and ask for His plan for the person we're praying for. We can worship our way into the Presence of God. And we can always pray in the Spirit.
I talk to Him just like I talk to you, or to my friend. I treat Him like a person - there are no "Thee's" and "Thou's" in my prayers! There have been times when I couldn't pray because of physical or emotional pain. We all go through this. In those times, we need the Body of Christ to pray for us. That's how it should be. Again, it is our need that drives us to prayer. Be honest with God. You can pray anytime, anywhere. God always has time to sit down and talk with His friends.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.