Praying on Empty

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 16, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

When I wrote my post for last week, I was in an intense battle. Fatigue had all but completely taken me over, and I felt like I had lost pretty much everything I had been building the previous 2-3 months. Four weeks ago, I spoke at a homeschool conference and at the same time ran a booth for Worldview Warriors. I was going strong leading up to that conference. I did have a few distractions before it came and the conference itself was spectacular. However, right after the conference, I was wiped out. I was spiritually, mentally, and physically spent. And I wanted to keep up with the prayer adventure God has me on.

Have you ever had a time when driving and your car ran out of gas? Fortunately I have not experienced that, but I know the feeling in a physical and spiritual sense. Last week, I mentioned about how I had spent a full day at my church to pray before the school year began. I gave a solid strong two hours just pouring out my heart to God, but when that prayer ended, I was drained, empty, and I had nothing left. I was ready to go home. I was planning on staying through to the evening when I had Bible study and I was done just after noon. But I told God: “I can’t leave yet.” I did not know what to pray or how to pray any further at that point. I had nothing in the tank. This is when I got this concept of “Praying on Empty.” What do you do to keep going when you are spent dry? This is the same concept athletes deal with in their games and competitions. How do they keep going when they run out of energy? That is what this post is about.

Last week, I talked about how one evening, I told God, “If you tell me to, I will stay up all night to pray.” That night, God said nothing. I said it again the next night, and God said, “When you are ready.” I wrote that post on Tuesday, two weeks ago (well ahead of last week’s release). One of my closing remarks in last week’s post was the desire to do that all-night prayer vigil, but needing the right moment and motivation. It would defeat the purpose to try on a night before when there is nothing going on that day. I needed the right reason to pursue that dream.

Then on Sunday, a week and a half ago, my pastor preached a good message about how the enemy tries to stop us in our efforts to fulfill God’s purposes. Before the sermon, we dealt with some intense spiritual battles through the worship and the all-nighter rang in my head. I was to do it that night. I had the right motivation because I knew this was the time, even though Labor Day was the next day. So I listened to a couple good sermons about prayer in the afternoon and began preparing my heart and my mind for the long night.

As I showered and prepared for the prayer time, I asked God what he wanted me to pray for and he suggested I pray over my prayer topic list in great detail. I had 22 topics at this point and this post is #9 on that list. That night, several times the fatigue hit hard. I remember at 11:00pm and 1:00am in particular I was ready to quit, but I was determined to finish. At 1:30, I finished praying over my list, but did not want to stop. So I listened to a sermon by Leonard Ravenhill called “Travailing in Prayer,” but at 2:30am I was done. I simply could not continue. It grieved me that I could not finish the job. But this was the longest time I had gone in prayer through the night alone. Only one other time did I stay up, and that was at a retreat when I was in college. I went from midnight to morning, but for most of it I was not alone.

Here, I truly pushed my limits and succeeded in going “beyond empty.” God filled me for those hours when I had nothing left, and I noticed something else of great importance. I had heard of it from others, but never experienced it myself until this night: when I woke up, I was tired, but no more tired than I had been during the week and had just as much energy as I would have had even if I had gone to bed at a normal time. I am certainly going to go for it again soon.

How do you keep on going, when you are spent physically, emotionally, spiritually? The hardest time to pray is when you are tired. In Matthew 26:36-46, Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and his closest three disciples, Peter, James, and John, flat out cannot stay awake. Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray lest then fall into temptation. Three times, they fell asleep. Prayer is not easy. It is not a cake walk. And effectual prayer often takes perseverance, travailing through hard labor. One thing I have been learning from Eric Ludy about prayer is the concept of “dig, dig, dig, until you find the treasure.” It does not matter how tired you are. If you know the treasure you are digging for and its value, you will pursue it with everything you have. I believe this is part of why so few of us are so weak in our prayers, including me: because we do not see the value of what we are praying for, we are not desperate enough to lay it all down to go get it at all costs, nor are we willing to put every ounce of strength we have into pursuing it.

This is the concept known as “Praying Through.” You are persistent and unrelenting, refusing to let go until it is accomplished. It is Elijah praying seven times for rain. It is Jacob wrestling all night with God. It is Daniel taking three weeks to get an answer for his vision. Our prayers are going to take effort and time. I believe D.L. Moody prayed for one guy for 50 years before he finally came to Christ. Do we have the endurance to pray that long? Most of us probably have a hard time praying just for five minutes. I was one of them for many years. And even now, I still see signs of that flab, that weariness, and that gauge hovering below empty.

I may be tired. I may be exhausted. But I know I cannot quit. I know I lack the strength, but I know Christ has it. I know I lack the motivation, but I know Christ has it. If I have to stop for the night to rest, then so be it, but the next day, I need to learn to go back to digging and back to prayer, until what I am seeking is found. Refer back to my post on Praying with Expectations. You need specific prayers so you know what you are after and so you know how to keep on praying until victory is gained.

As we pray, let us pray through to the end. Let us not stop because we get tired. Let our prayers only stop because know we have received the answer. If we need to praise the Lord because we cannot think of anything else to pray, then praise. If God has given you a gift of tongues, pray in tongues. If you have no words to say and are only capable of groaning and grunting as Hannah did, then groan and grunt. No matter what, just pray, and keep praying, and keep praying.

God wants us to persist and keep pressing forward until we get it. However, he does not want any prayers of vain repetition. Next week, I will address the differences between persistence in prayer, praying in vain, and knowing when to stop praying.

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