Pray Your Heart Out

Has the Holy Spirit ever given you His compassion as you prayed for someone? Prayers that are initiated by the Holy Spirit's burden will move heaven and earth.

By Larry Jackson

One Sunday evening during a church service, a strange thing happened to me. I began to feel like someone who lived the life of a homosexual man. I stopped praying to evaluate what was happening. Besides the fact that I had never struggled with my sexuality, I was happily married. Yet, these feelings were real and caused me some concern.

Then I began to reason that perhaps someone experiencing this problem was present in the service and that God was showing me that the person needed to be set free from the bondage of homosexuality.

How could I come to this conclusion so quickly? Many times while ministering the Word of God, I would feel pain in my body and know someone in the audience was experiencing it. The first time this happened and the Holy Spirit instructed me to tell the audience, the fear of looking foolish almost stopped me from expressing it.

Since then there have been times when no one in the audience responds, but the percentage of people who do respond is fairly high. When they respond, I pray for them, and many times they experience relief from their pain. On some occasions I have also told the audience when the pain started, how long they had been experiencing it, and on what side or in which arm or leg the pain was located.

I concluded that the feelings of homosexuality were like those that came to me on behalf of people in pain. Someone must have been in the service that night who needed deliverance from homosexuality. Then I realized that not even one visitor was present at the service. So I dismissed what had happened to me as something unexplainable.

Days later, however, in another location with a new prayer focus, the same feelings came over me again. I was as confused this time as I had been the first time. On this occasion, however, I prayed to the Lord about the experience. I asked Him if He would help me understand what was happening.

Two Scripture references came to mind: Isaiah 53 and Romans 8. Suddenly a flood of understanding was released into my soul. It now became clear that God was using this prayer experience to show me how to be "numbered with the transgressors" and to identify with them in intercessory prayer.

Numbered With the Transgressors

Gradually these words from the Holy Spirit began to grip my heart: "I allowed you to experience in seed form what homosexual people experience so that you would learn to pray for them from their vantage point--so that you would cry out in prayer with sincerity and understanding for their deliverance."

God wanted me to become more effective in prayer. He also wanted me to tell the entire body of Christ that they are called to be numbered with transgressors to more adequately intercede for them.

Let's look at the foundational passage the Lord gave me from Isaiah: "Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (53:12, NKJV).

I believe the phrase "the strong" in this passage refers to the church--those who receive their strength from the Lord. In His victory over sin, Christ divides the spoils with us, giving us the strength to do what He said. Because He was numbered with the transgressors, He calls us to identify with them also.

In becoming a man and then dying on the cross for the sins of others, Jesus became a part of every evil work ever done on the face of the earth. Not that Christ ever sinned, but He took on the sins of all who had. He became guilty by association.

He did not come to earth clothed in glory. He came wearing the clothes of humanity in order to totally identify with all that humans had experienced, are experiencing or will experience.

During His earthly ministry, the religious leaders could not understand why Christ would fellowship with, eat with and go into the homes of known sinners. He even allowed a prostitute to touch Him, and this truly alarmed the religious leaders. They began to ask Christ's disciples if Jesus knew who the woman was.

"'This Man, if He were a prophet,'" said Simon the Pharisee, "'would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner'" (Luke 7:39).

Never would Simon or the other Pharisees allow this woman to come close to them because of their position in the religious community. These leaders lived their lives as though they were above other people.

Jesus, on the other hand, though He was God's Son, not only let this sinful woman touch Him, but also defended her actions toward Him. He was clothed in flesh, and He was willing to identify with others who were also flesh.

Intensity in Prayer

When I started praying with this new insight, the intensity of my prayer time increased so much and so fast that it shocked me. I was not only praying for the person or situation, but also sensing what the person was feeling. It seemed as though their circumstances were mine, and as a result, I prayed more intensely.

Sometimes a person will ask us for prayer, and we forget to pray in spite of our good intentions. But we will never forget to pray when we truly understand the pain of others because we can feel the discomfort associated with the need. Being able to feel this discomfort while praying generates a deeper, more fervent prayer. It also increases our compassion and our desire to see the transgressor delivered, saved and healed--as much as if we personally needed God's touch.

Joining Christ's Suffering

For a long time I thought the "numbered with the transgressors" principle was a message to bring compassion for lost people back to the church. What I knew but had not connected to this principle is the fact that prayer works. Testimonies started to come in about people's attitudes and lives changing. A person or a group of people would pray following my instructions, and testimonies would follow immediately.

A case in point is the first time I shared what I was learning about intercessory prayer at Manna Christian Fellowship in Richmond, Virginia--my home church. As the principle of being numbered with the transgressors unfolded and became clearer, people in the congregation began to cry uncontrollably. They cried just as I had cried while praying for those caught in the grip of homosexuality.

Suddenly the church was filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Through my own tears I instructed the congregation to pray for a family member who had not come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. I asked them to be sure they prayed from the position Christ had assumed, numbering themselves with that lost person.

When the entire congregation started praying this way, their hearts seemed to break, and the sounds of people crying aloud filled the room. At the end of the service all marveled at how God's Spirit had taken over the prayer time. This was a church that already was committed to prayer!

Yet several people said they had never prayed that way before. It was not hard for me to believe that this kind of prayer was new for them because the same thing was happening to me every time I prayed with this attitude of being "numbered." Some of the people indicated they better understood what intercession was and how to intercede.

One day while I was praying, I began to feel as though God did not exist. This experience caught my attention just as the experience of identifying with a homosexual had. At the time, my brother was going through a very rough period in his life. Family members suspected he was using drugs regularly.

On this particular day, the Holy Spirit placed this thought in my mind: Your brother's true problem is not drugs; it is that he does not believe in God. Now you know how he feels, so pray from his vantage point.

Two weeks later, my brother called. He explained that he thought his life was trapped because of his bondage to drugs. Could I help him? Glory to God, I had already been allowed to help him by being numbered with the transgressors! Today, my brother is a drug-free, born-again husband and father.

Most of us know people who need help; if we are willing to apply the principle of being numbered with the transgressors when praying for them, we can often provide that help--and see them brought into a relationship with God.

Heightened Prayer Life

Many Christians today struggle with maintaining a consistent prayer life. Although there are various reasons for this deficiency, I believe two of the factors that contribute to a decreased desire to pray are the lack of enjoyment and the lack of answers to prayer.

When people begin to have their prayers answered, they will pray more. Answered prayers also cause people to enjoy the time they spend in prayer because they know it is not in vain. Whenever I teach about being numbered with the transgressors, I tell potential pray-ers that to see lasting change in the people or situations prayed for, they must pray steadfastly.

Family members who are resisting God can be changed when someone within that family who knows God cares enough to persistently intercede for them in this way. Those yearning to see change in their cities can use this principle, and changes will occur. Those who want more intense and effective prayer lives will find that the principle will bring positive results in days and weeks as opposed to years.

When we become a part of what we pray for, a new attitude develops. Those who have learned to apply this principle report that they have never before prayed with such intensity.

Since I have begun to share this principle with the body of Christ, some have stopped practicing it because of the cost of being consistent in prayer. Bishop Wellington Boone can help us here through the "P.U.S.H." concept he introduced in his book Breaking Through.

P.U.S.H. stands for "Pray Until Something Happens!" A woman in labor cannot stop pushing when the head of the baby appears. She is compelled to push until the process is complete.

Similarly, believers cannot hope to receive spiritual blessings instantly--without "pushing." There is no instant, "just add water" blessing in the kingdom of God.

I believe that when the body of Christ realizes that Isaiah 53 should be a part of our everyday lives, nothing will prevent us from "pushing" to see that others are delivered from their sins.

Our Legacy of Suffering

Christians need to realize that we are heirs, not only of the salvation Jesus won for us on the cross, but of the pattern of His suffering as well. Everything Christ did in His earthly ministry was meant for those who would follow His example.

"To this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).

The word "suffering" causes most of us to think about physical problems or things such as uncomfortable living conditions. We sometimes stop short of the full meaning of Christ's suffering because of the awful way this world treated Him physically. Certainly Jesus suffered in the flesh, but before He did, He faced a time of suffering in the garden during prayer. This was the spiritual suffering that enabled Him to face the physical suffering.

I believe that one reason Christians are reluctant to follow in Christ's footsteps of spiritual suffering is that, down deep, they think Satan is the cause of all suffering. It is extremely important to realize that it was God, not Satan, who subjected Christ to His suffering on the cross and that God will retain control over our own suffering on behalf of others.

All this is revealed in Isaiah 53. There we learn, "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief" (v. 10). It was not Satan but God the Father who caused Jesus to face this great season of suffering. If this were not true, why would Jesus pray to the Father to remove the cup of suffering He was being asked to drink? It was because He knew the Father was in control.

Some would try to explain Christ's suffering and death in terms of God's pulling His hand back and allowing the enemy to take the life of His Son. The truth is that any involvement the enemy may have had in Christ's suffering and death, God used to complete His plan--not only used, but also allowed.

According to the Scriptures, Jesus' suffering for others was totally within the eternal plan of God. Christ even rebuked the apostle Peter for thinking otherwise (see Matt. 16:21-23).

This means not only that we should accept our role of suffering in the Spirit as from God, but also that we can trust Him not to allow us to suffer more than we can bear. God, not Satan, is in control.

Looking at Christ's suffering, many people today think that Satan was winning. How wrong they are! Despite Christ's suffering and ours, victory is at hand. There is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Being numbered among the transgressors, willing to suffer as they suffer, we can be a part of that victory. *

Besides pastoring two churches, Larry Jackson speaks on prayer at conferences throughout the country.

If anything drives Larry Jackson these days, it's his passion to see revival break out in the United States as it has in Argentina, Brazil and South Korea.

That hunger keeps him pastoring two churches four hours apart--Clinton (N.C.) International Church and Charlotte (N.C.) International Church--and preaching at both every Sunday.

It keeps him urging the church to fast and pray. It keeps him partnering with fellow North Carolina pastor Michael Fletcher to bring unity among local pastors and see that their state leads the nation in revival. The African American pastor wants unity so badly he's been praying that God will bridge North and South Carolina into one state--Carolina.

But until that happens, Jackson, 40, is committed to reminding the body of Christ that revival will require two elements: prayer and humility. "Revival takes humility of heart and zealous prayer for the lost. We pray a lot of prayers, but a lot of them are self-centered. It takes a humble heart to carry a cross."

Before Jackson was passionate about prayer, he was a real-life prodigal. In 1978, he was in Chicago, going to school and making lots of money working for IBM. But eventually his wild lifestyle caught up with him, and he went home to Richmond, Virginia.

"I went from a nice apartment to a place with no lights and no water. I lost everything," Jackson says.

But he remembered what his grandmother always told him: When you don't have anybody else to call on, call on Jesus.

"I cried out to the Lord," Jackson says, "and I said, 'I need to know You.'" He says the room filled with light--even though it was night and there weren't any lights in the apartment.

Jackson got up changed and began to devour the Word. He joined Manna Christian Fellowship, founded by Welling-ton Boone, and was trained in his school of ministry.

In 1991, the husband and father of five daughters was sent out to plant a church in Clinton, North Carolina. Since then, doors have opened for him to minister on prayer and reconciliation at Promise Keepers events and with C. Peter Wagner, Argentine evangelist Ed Silvoso, and others.

In July, he launched Charlotte International Church and now leads both congregations because his successor for the Clinton church was killed in a car accident.

Despite the challenges, he considers his hectic schedule a worthy investment if it helps usher in revival.

Says Jackson: "I live right now to see a revival in this country. I just want to be part of the team that ushers in the last great move of God." *

"There is no instant, 'just add water' blessing in the kingdom of God."

Adapted from Anointed With Compassion by Larry Jackson, copyright 1998. Published by Renew. Used by permission.