Imagine a man who is labouring to fell a tree, the sweat pouring from their brow – but who succeeds only in bruising the bark. When a more experienced logger comes along and asks: “Why don’t you sharpen your axe. It’ll be much easier!” the person replies, “Nah, I haven’t time. I’ve got to get this done. I’m much too busy to stop.” Er . . .!!!
Some of us can be a bit like the inexperienced tree-cutter pounding away trying to ‘hack’ our way through to God with specific prayers concerning something that is troubling us but without waiting to see how He would have us pray.
There is no question but that many situations require intensive prayer. Jesus encourages us to ask seek and knock. Think back to times when you have as it were shifted gear and seen things change as a result, as the burden moves from head to heart.
With regard to the situation that Hezekiah’s Jerusalem faced, what the Lord was looking for was neither a resigned nor a riotous partying, and the band ‘playing on’, but rather a profound willingness to weep and mourn and for each one to find whatever way works best for them person to ‘intensify’ their prayer life. (Is. 22:12) Such things hardly appeal to the flesh, but to fast weep and mourn and to ‘put on sackcloth’ is actually our responsibility as well as our privilege – especially when we consider on the one hand the sheer extent of our waywardness as a nation (or of some person or situation that we are concerned about) on the one hand, and the longing of the Lord on the other.
You may find it helpful to reread the following articles I have written which highlight how precious it is to the Lord when we are prepared to pour out our heart in such ways:
1) Lot’s Syndrome
2) Intensifying our prayer life
3) Why fasting is such a powerful and God given means for intensifying our prayer life.
4) The chapter A Heart of Mourning from Ravens and the Prophet.
5) A simple way to move from local to wider prayer.