Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King

B. Childress
Apr 23 2013

The Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit
Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.  And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set,
because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
 (Romans 8:26-27)


For his sixth birthday, we gave my oldest son, Richard, a bicycle.  I had searched for the perfect one and found a
beautiful blue Schwinn bike!

Richard had become enamored with some popular toys that would have quickly broken or been discarded, so I wanted
to raise his aspirations for something I knew was of quality and from which he would derive countless hours of joy in the
years to come.  After his mother and I influenced his thinking, Richard eventually decided that what he really wanted for
his birthday was a blue Schwinn bike.  What did Richard receive?  The bike, of course, was already in the garage.  I just
had to convince him to ask for it.  Eventually, he did ask for it, and he got it!

What happens when you pray?  The Holy Spirit knows what God already has waiting for you.  His task is to get you to
want it – to get you to ask for it.  And what happens when you request things God already wants to give?  You will always
receive it.  Why?  Because you have asked according to the will of God.

When God answers your prayer, He receives the glory, your faith is increased, and you have a fresh experience of His
love.  And, as with Richard’s bike, what you get far exceeds what you would have sought on your own (Ephesians 3:20).


As I’ve explained, it’s crucial to know when the Holy Spirit is speaking.  But how do you know what the Holy Spirit is
saying?  While I can’t give you a formula, I can say that you will know His voice when He speaks (see John 10:4).  You
must decide that you only want His will.  You must dismiss any selfish or fleshly desires of your own.  Then, as you start
to pray, the Spirit of God will touch your heart and cause you to ask in the direction of God’s will.  “For it is God who is
working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).  Our prayers tend to request
far less than what God wants to give us, so the Holy Spirit often has to raise our thoughts and desires to a higher level.  
We become too easily enamored with the things of this world and the values and thinking of those around us, but God
wants to relate to us on a much higher plane.

If you are not keeping a spiritual journal or diary, you should start one.  When the God of the universe tells you
something, it is important enough to write down.  When God speaks to you in your quiet times with Him, immediately
record what He says, before you forget.  Then add your prayer response.

I write down the Scripture verse God uses and what He says to me about Himself from that passage as well as my prayer
response so I have a record of my encounter.  I also write out how I need to adjust my life to experience God relating to
me in the way He has shown me.

Here is a summary of how I have tried to live out my relationship with God:

  • God creates in me the desire to participate in His mission to reconcile a lost world to Himself.

  • I respond, seeking to know God’s will.

  • When God reveals a truth to me, I know He is alerting me to what He is doing around me.

  • I know that the revelation is His invitation for me to adjust my life and to respond in obedience to what He has
    shown me.


Prayer is not a one-way conversation where you simply recite everything you want God to do for you.  It is a two-way
fellowship and communication.  You speak to God, and He speaks to you.  Prayer also includes listening.  In fact, what
God says to you in prayer is far more important than what you say to Him.  After all, God already knows what you’re
going to tell Him, but He has amazing things to reveal that you don’t know (see Jeremiah 33:3).

Prayer is a relationship, not a religious activity.  Through prayer, you adjust to God; God doesn’t adjust to you.  He
wants you to pray, but He doesn’t need you to.  You, however, need to pray because of what God wants to do in your life
during your prayer time.

When the Holy Spirit reveals a truth to you in prayer, He is present and actively working in your life.  This kind of prayer
is a divine encounter.  Here’s what happens when you seek God’s will in prayer:

    1. God takes the initiative by causing you to want to pray.

    2. The Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, reveals God’s will, to you.

    3. You pray in agreement with the will of God.

    4. You adjust your thinking and attitudes to God’s truth.

    5. You look and listen for confirmation or further direction from the Bible, circumstances, and the church (other

    6. You obey.

    7. God works in and through you to accomplish His purposes.

    8. You experience Him as the Spirit revealed when you prayed.

Praying and reading your Bible are inextricably connected.  The Spirit of God often uses the Word of God when you
pray.  When I pray about something, Scripture often comes to mind, and I immediately open my Bible to the passage I
believe the Spirit of God brought to my attention.  I see this as god guiding me by His Word.  As I pray about a particular
matter, the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and applies it to my heart and mind to reveal the truth of the situation for
which I am praying.


God’s Word tells us that we have a divine intercessor – the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).  The Spirit has an advantage
over us – He already knows God’s will – and when He intercedes for us, He is in absolute agreement with God’s will and
helps us know the will of God as we pray.

The Holy Spirit “will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears.  He will also declare to you what is to
come” (John 16:13).  When you pray, anticipate that the Holy Spirit already knows what God has prepared for you.  The
Spirit does not guide you on His own initiative.  He tells you what He hears from the Father and guides you to pray for
what He knows the Father wants to do in your life.

When I review what I’ve journaled that God is saying to me when I pray and read His Word, I begin to see what God is
telling me about Himself, His purposes, and His ways.  I often see a pattern develop.  As I watch the direction the Spirit is
leading me to pray, I get an indication of what God is saying to me.

You may be asking: but how do I know that the requests I’m praying are the Spirit’s leading and not my own selfish
desires?  Do you remember what George Mueller said he does first when seeking God’s directions?  He said he tries to
reach the point where he has no will of his own.  That is easier to say than to do, of course.  But it is possible, and the
Spirit is eager to help you in that regard.


The first thing to do as you seek God’s will is to deny yourself.  Examine your heart for any selfish or worldly motives.  In
all honesty – with yourself and before God – come to the point where you are certain your only desire is to know and to
do God’s will.  Then ask yourself:

  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to me through God’s Word?

  • What is He saying to me in prayer?

  • Is He confirming through circumstances what He said?

  • Is the Holy Spirit verifying what He said through the counsel of other believers?

God will never lead you to do something that contradicts His written Word.  If what you sense in prayer runs contrary to
Scripture, it is wrong.  For instance, God will never lead you to commit adultery, to steal, or do anything that goes
against His biblical precepts.  Watch for God to use the written Word to confirm what you are sensing in prayer.  Don’t
play games with God.  Don’t look for a Scripture that seems to say what you selfishly want to do and then claim it is God’
s will.  That is dangerous.  Don’t do it.


Have you ever prayed for one thing and received another?  I have.  Then some dear soul would advise, “God is trying to
get you to persist in your request.  Keep on praying until you get what you ask for!”

During a time when I was asking God for one thing but receiving something else, I started reading from the second
chapter of Mark.  That passage recounts the story of four men who brought a crippled friend to Jesus for healing.  
Because of the crowd, they opened a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was, and then lowered the man down to
the Lord.  These four enterprising men were doggedly determined to get their friend to Jesus so he could be healed, but
when Jesus looked at the crippled man, He declared, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).

As I read that verse, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “Henry, did you see that?”  I went back and meditated on that
Scripture.  Under the guiding, teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, I began to understand a wonderful truth.  The four men
asked Jesus to heal the man, but Jesus forgave the man’s sins.  They asked for one thing, and Jesus gave another.  
While this man and his friends asked for one particular gift, Jesus wanted to make the man a child of the King so he
could inherit everything!

I found myself weeping before God and saying: “Oh God, if I ever give You a request and You have more to give me
than I am asking,  please cancel my request!”


If I ask God for one thing and something different happens, I ask God to help me understand what He is doing in my life.  
It could be that God is refusing to grant my small request and is instead desiring to do something much greater.  I have
found that God always has far more to give me than I could even ask or think.  Paul said, “Now to Him who is able to do
above and beyond all that we ask or think – according to the power that works in you – to Him be glory in the church and
in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Here’s the reality:  You can’t even imagine a prayer that comes close to what God wants to give you.  If God wants to
grant you more than you are asking, would you rather have what you are requesting or what God wants to give?  Only
the Spirit of God knows what God purposes in your life.  So let God give you all He wants to give.  “For the Spirit
searches everything, even the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the concerns of a man except the spirit
of the man that is in him?  In the same way, no one knows the concerns of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have
not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by
God” (I Corinthians 2:10-12).  Just realize that what God intends to give you might not look like anything you had
imagined or desired to that point.  Yet He always knows what is best.  Likewise, if God wants you to persist in your
current praying, He will confirm that too.


Suppose your congregation wanted to start a mission church in a particular area of your city.  You have taken a survey
to identify the needs of that community.  You have carefully developed long-range plans.  You have asked God to bless
and guide your work.  Then God begins to bring to your church a group of ethnic people who don’t live in the target
area.  What would you do?  You have these options:

  • I would “keep on keeping on” in prayer until God helps us start the mission church we have planned.

  • I would get frustrated at the delay and quit the process until a more opportune time.

  • I would start asking questions to see if we should start an ethnic mission church instead of – or in addition to – the
    original one.

You should, of course, immediately go before God and clarify what He is saying.  If you have been working and praying
in one direction and you see God moving in a different way, adjust your life to what God is doing.  In this sort of situation,
you must decide whether you’re going to do what you want and ask God to bless it, or go to work where He is working.

While I served as a denominational leader in Vancouver, we started a special emphasis to reach university students.  
We began with thirty students in the fall, and by the end of the spring semester, we had about two hundred and fifty
attending, two-thirds of whom were international students.  We could have said to them, “We didn’t plan for a ministry to
internationals, so please go to a ministry that is prepared to meet your needs, and may God bless you.”  We didn’t, of
course.  Rather, we adjusted our plans to what God was doing and an entirely new and exciting ministry developed that
we hadn’t anticipated.


For many of us, the problem is that we pray and then never relate what happens next to our prayers.  After you pray, the
greatest single thing you need to do is to pay close attention to God’s response.  When you pray, anticipate the activity
of God in answer to your prayer.  I see this truth all the way through the Scripture.  When God’s people pray, God

Here’s what happens if you pray and then forget about what you asked.  Unusual things may occur throughout the day,
but you view them as distractions and try to ignore or get rid of them.  You fail to connect them with what you just prayed.

When I pray, I watch closely for what happens next.  I prepare to make adjustments to what God is doing.  Expect God to
answer your prayers, but stick around for the answer.  His timing is always right and best.  Because of that, His answer
may arrive sooner than you expected!


I went through a lengthy time when God was silent.  You probably have had that experience, too.  I had been praying for
many days, and there seemed to be complete silence from God.  I sensed heaven was closed, and I didn’t understand
what was happening.  Some people told me that if God was not responding to my prayers, there must be unconfessed
sin in my life.  Someone even gave me a “sin checklist” to work through.  Wanting to make sure I was right with God, I
prayed through the list, but the silence persisted.

My problem was much like Job’s.  You’ll recall that his counselors said his problems were due to sin.  But Job felt he and
God were on right terms.  Job did not know all God was doing during that time, but for sure, his advisors were wrong.  
There was another reason for what was happening.

The only thing I knew to do was go back to God.  I believe God, who loves me, will let me know what is going on in my life
when and if I need to know.  So I prayed, “Heavenly Father, I don’t understand this silence.  You are going to have to tell
me what You’re doing in my life.”  And in time, He did – from His Word!  This became one of the most meaningful
experiences in my life.

I did not go searching frantically throughout the Bible for an answer, I continued my daily reading of the Word.  I believed
that as I read the Bible, the Spirit of God would help me understand what God was doing in my life.


One morning, I was reading the story of the death of Lazarus (see John 11:1-45).  Keep in mind that John says Jesus
loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.  But having received word that Lazarus was mortally ill, Jesus delayed going to him.  In
the meantime, Lazarus died.  Mary and Martha had asked Jesus to come help their brother, but all the way through the
final sickness and death of Lazarus, Jesus did not come.  They received no response from the One who claimed to love

Mary and Martha went through the entire funeral process for their beloved brother.  They prepared his body and sealed
him in a tomb.  Still, they experienced silence from God.  Only then did Jesus tell His disciples it was time to go to

When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days.  Mary said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother
would not have died” (John 11:32).  As I read her words during my “silent period,” the Spirit of God began to help me
understand something.  It seemed as if Jesus said to Mary and Martha:

    You are exactly right.  If I had come when you asked, your brother would not have died.  You know that I could
    have healed him because you have seen Me heal people many times.  If I had come when you asked Me to, I
    would have healed him.  But you would have never experienced any more about Me than you already know.  I
    knew you were ready for a greater revelation of Me than you have yet known.  I wanted you to see that I am the
    resurrection and the life.  My refusal and My silence were not rejection.  They were an opportunity for Me to
    disclose to you more of Me than you have ever known.

When that began to dawn on me, I almost jumped out of my chair.  I said, “That’s what’s happening in my life!  That’s
what’s happening!  The silence of God means He is ready to bring into my life a greater revelation of Himself than I have
ever known.”  I immediately changed my attitude.  With great anticipation, I began to watch for what new revelation God
would teach me about Himself.  I then had some incredible opportunities happen in my life that I might have missed
without that kind of readiness and anticipation.

When there is silence from God now, I still pray through my sin checklist.  If there is unconfessed sin, I confess and make
it right.  If, after that, there is still silence, I prepare for a new experience with God.  Sometimes God is silent as He
prepares you for a deeper understanding of Himself.  Whenever silence comes, continue doing the last thing God told
you and watch and wait for a fresh encounter with Him.

When you do not hear from God, you can respond in one of two ways.  You can become discouraged and suffer guilt
and self-condemnation.  Or you can expect that God is about to bring you into a deeper knowledge of Him.  The
response you choose will make all the difference in how you experience God.


EXPERIENCING GOD, by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King, Copyright 2008, B&H Publishing Group.