Mike Bickle

B. Childress
Feb 26 2010 08:00 A.M.

I remember when God called me to be an intercessor in May 1979.  It was one of those real-life encounters when God
grabbed hold of my life and apprehended me and said, "You are an intercessor."  I got up in front of my church, and
said, "I am an intercessor."  They said, "What's that?"  I said, "I don't have a clue."  I truly had no idea what an
intercessor was.  I went to the bookstores in town and bought books on intercession.  There were hardly any - just a few
standards by Andrew Murray, maybe Watchman Nee, Dick Eastman, E.M. Bounds, Leonard Ravenhill.  But I tried to
move ahead in it anyway, and I began daily prayer meetings, which I've held 99 percent of the days since then.  I was so
clueless the first time that I didn't even know what we would pray, so I wrote out by hand the apostolic prayers.  I
photocopied the handwritten prayers and gave them to both guys who showed up for the first prayer meeting.  That was
the beginning of my education in prayer and intercession.

For years and years our church rarely saw more than twenty or thirty people in a prayer meeting.  It didn't matter.  I
knew what God had told me, and I was grieved in my heart about the powerlessness of the church.  It reminded me of
one of the saddest moments in the Gospels, when a father brought his demonized son to Jesus and complained about
the powerlessness of His disciples.

    "And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
    Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick [demonized] and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire,
    and oft into the water.  And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.  Then Jesus answered
    and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?  how long shall I suffer you?  bring
    him hither to me.  And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that
    very hour.  Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said
    unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall
    say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto
    you.  Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."   Matthew 17:14-21

This verse pains my soul to this day because it describes the common experience of the church in the Western world
today.  We have compassion for the downcast and demonized, but we too often lack the breakthrough  power to deliver
them.  So I began to pray about that and many other things.  I wanted to invite the power of God into my life and my
church in greater measure.  I didn't know I would wait years for the breakthrough of God.  I didn't realize that the Lord
wanted to develop a deep root system within others and within me through the process of learning to pray, and that He
would do this before He began to release power in greater measure.

When I first started down this road, my idea of prayer was very different from what it is today, and I was perplexed as I
began to understand God's process for bringing powerful breakthroughs.  I remember my first approach to
intercession.  I decided I was going to convince God to move in power.  That didn't last long because I soon realized that
God was convincing me that He wanted to move in power.  I eventually discovered that intercession was not an issue of
convincing God to send revival.  Through intercession, God began to convince me what was already so clear to Him.  
After a while, I finally got out of the "convince God" mode.  He was already convinced.  I was wasting my time.

I left that season and entered a new one with a completely different approach to prayer. I began to try to earn His
answer.  I tried to show God through my dedication just how deserving I was.  I tried to give Him a dedication so sterling,
so historic, so above and beyond what had been done before that even God could not turn me down.  I plunged into
ultra-dedication mode, spending copious amount of energy in prayer and service, but that approach bombed just as the
first approach had.  I had so many black marks on my record.  I was so weak; I kept blowing it.  I thought many times, "If I
could just get rid of those weaknesses, then He would see how deserving I am and answer me."  But I never reached
that magic place of perfection, and I realized I never would.  I had gone into another cul-de-sac.

After trying to earn it and trying to convince God, I finally surrendered to Him and asked for His leading.  I was perplexed
and a little dismayed at what I felt He wanted me to do: go into a room by myself and repeat back to Him what He wanted
me to say, much of it from the Word of God.  I said, "Lord, I have so much to offer You, and yet You have me here in a
room doing this odd, sort of repetitive thing.  I could have won a city for You by now if You would have just let me go.  
Who invented running the kingdom this way?"

I was antsy to do something big and bold, to make great strides in kingdom work, but God had me tethered to this
strange little habit called intercession.  He had me repeating back to Him what He told me to tell Him in the Word.  I
thought it was the weirdest setup, and for some years it was a great mystery to me.  Yet I still did it.  I was not always
good at it and didn't always like it, but I kept praying.  I agreed to practice intercession and even to preach on it, but in
secret I told the Lord I thought it was a very strange way to run the kingdom.  I was actually offended by it.  It didn't seem
like a good use of human resources.

Contending:  Developing Intimacy in the Process

Some years went by, and then God's ultimate purpose and method began to make sense to me.  There was a
tenderizing going on.  His purpose for prayer is intimacy.  If God causes us to cry out and then in time answers our cry,
we are stunned.  We marvel, we sit back in surprise, and we connect the dots of what's happening: when we speak on
Earth, He moves in heaven.  This amazing revelation causes intimacy to increase and abound.  We say from the depth
of our hearts, "Wow! You heard me, and You're moving.  I love You!  You love me!  I get it!"

When we realize that divine action is taken when we cry out, it awakens us to love.  It attaches our heart strongly to His.  
The Lord may give us a long history of crying out to Him, but then in time He gives an answer to every single prayer that
we pray.  There is not a wasted prayer.  He doesn't just wow us by letting us see the breakthrough and the increase.  
He causes the place of prayer to become
the place of encounter with Him.  We grow in an open spirit toward the throne
simply by the repetition and washing of His Word over our hearts.

A key ingredient in this is perseverance.  When God gives a vision.  He gives a promise.  He begins to release it into
manifestation, but perhaps not on our time schedule - and certainly not on the schedule I originally wanted for myself.  
Though we experience rest in the inner man, we fight and struggle in our outer man to stick with the process of learning
to cultivate intimacy through prayer and a lifestyle of fasting.  God gives many promises in His Word about persevering
in the heat of the battle.  He speaks of answering the call and sticking with it through boredom, rotten times, and the bad
advice of friends.  Hebrews 6:12 says that we inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.  First, we inherit
them by faith, and then we realize them by refusing to let them go through hardship and the passing of time.

Isaiah sheds light on this aspect of our walk with God in Isaiah 30:18.

    Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you...Blessed are those who wait for Him.

The Lord longs to be gracious to us, but He won't when it threatens to alienate us from Him.  He longs to show ever so
much more grace than we ask Him for, but He will not break through in a way that undermines bridal intimacy with His
church.  He wants to do amazing things on Earth, but He wants to do it in partnership with us.  In our natural mind-set,
we imagine that God will bring revival in a specific city for a specific season simply because He desires it.  We think He
will be gracious to us and release the breakthrough simply because He longs to be gracious.  We want it sooner rather
than later.  We think we're ready for anything.

God does want to do this, but He will do it through bridal partnership.  That means we have a part to play.  What is the
delay we so often experience?  The Lord is waiting for our cry of agreement.  We think we are convincing Him, But God
is saying in effect, "I am convincing you about My longing, and I want you to reciprocate that longing.  I will wait until I
hear the sound of the wholehearted cry of My people before I give you what you're praying for."  He does this to
establish intimate partnership with His bride.  If He releases His grace in fullness apart from intimate relationship, the
people of God will get so captured by the release of grace, so thrilled by the breaking in of the supernatural, that they
will get distracted along the way and forsake relationship.

It was the Lord's idea to be gracious to us, not our own.  He longs to be gracious far more than we long for Him to be.  
But that grace must establish His relationship with us, not undermine it.  Therefore, He will not release it in fullness until
He hears the great cry of His people, signifying our readiness.  Though He will release a certain administration of grace
no matter what, He's looking, forward to giving more than that introductory dimension of the kingdom of God.  History
has proven that when the Lord releases a breakthrough before the church is ready to do its part in the relationship, the
very release pulls people quickly off track.  All the converts, the miracles, the numbers, the promises, the power, the
supernatural activity - even a small increase of anointing on the Word - cause us to lose our way if it's independent of
our sustained cry as a corporate body.  It has happened many times often just a few years after revival begins.  People
get distracted by other things, and over time their hearts become like a field that has been burned.  It's hard to grow
anything there again.

The Lord avoids this trap of the enemy by holding back His breakthrough and anointing and letting the cry of our hearts
arise.  He is already convinced of what He wants to do.  But He convinces us of what is in His heart as we cry out to Him
day after day.  We do not earn anything by crying out.  We cannot sing or shout and earn power.  Rather, the Lord's
plan is that when we lift our voices to Him, our hearts become receptive and connected to Him.  When that happens, we
enter a realm where God's blessing and grace actually establish and enhance intimacy with God instead of diminishing
it.  Revival now strengthens the partnership.  The process of prayer has surprised, tenderized, and drawn us into
intimacy with Him.  That "tenderization" and intimacy protect us under the weight of revival when the Lord releases it.

So the Lord cultivates intimacy in our relationship with Him by delaying His answer until we cry out.  Sometimes He even
delays the answer for years.  Yet when it finally happens, we feel joy just as a mother experiences joy after the pain of
childbirth.  The presence of the child, this wonderful gift, causes the memory of the pain to fade away (John 16:21).  
Whether the answer comes in a day, a month, or ten years from when we begin, our hearts are stunned when God
breaks in.  Yet this brilliant strategy of God is about more than surprise.  It's about the transformation that happens to
us in the process of learning to pray.

Our prayer meetings will not force God to answer us.  We cannot in any way do anything to deserve supernatural
power.  The economy of heaven never works that way.  We are in a time of preparation.  God is preparing a root system
and a foundation for what He will give us in His grace.  The longer the time of delay, the greater the joy when the answer
comes.  More than that, the change that happens to us in the process will protect us when the answer comes.

God desires more than our endurance and patience in prayer.  He wants us to open our mind and spirits to Him in all
the seasons of life.  It can be difficult at times, but the Lord desires people of one thing, contending for the fullness of
God in every season.  David was such a man, and we will draw invaluable lessons from his life as we continue to study
this third major aspect of becoming men and women after God's own heart.


AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART, by Mike Bickle, Copyright 2009, Charisma House.