I probably know more about boring, unanointed prayer than any other person on Earth—or I ought to. I've engaged in enough of it during my lifetime! Though I have felt called for more than 20 years to be a person of prayer, it was not until recently that I learned the true secret to a successful prayer life.
I started searching for the secret in my college days, but it eluded me. I read books on prayer and the deeper life in God, but when it got down to actually praying, I was an absolute failure.
I religiously scheduled time to spend alone with God. Yet my efforts at praying were frustrating and unfulfilling.
I dreaded prayer time. I'd made a vow to God that I'd pray an hour every night, and I made up my mind to stick to it, regardless. But after months of drudgery, I told Him, "Lord, I really love You, but I don't enjoy praying."
I still remember the awful condemnation I felt. A sense of defeat nearly overwhelmed me as I shook my head and sighed, "Lord, will I ever like talking to You?"
At the time, I was living in an apartment with three other Christian guys. Every night around 8:45, my roommates would notice that I was starting to get uptight because my prayer time, which I had designated as 9 to 10 p.m., was approaching. I hated going into my room to pray! I knew the next hour was going to be lifeless and boring.
Who would ever have guessed that eventually I would enjoy prayer so much I would resign as pastor of my church to lead a 24-hour-a-day prayer ministry?
My journey to enjoyable prayer began with a study of the tabernacle of David (see Acts 15:16-17). The tabernacle of David refers in part to a 24-hour prayer ministry that King David established. David put musicians and singers before the ark in place of the veil that Moses had used (see 1 Chr. 25:1-7). He valued the prophetic spirit (spirit of inspiration) resting on the singers and musicians that inspired the intercessors to soar in power.
David's model for what I call "intercessory worship" grew out of his primary life desire—"to behold the beauty of the Lord" (Ps. 27:4, NKJV; see also 145:5). The desire to dwell in the beauty realm of God is a vital foundation for intercessory worship in the spirit of the tabernacle of David.
Isaiah prophesied about a paradigm of prayer marked by joy. The Lord promised, "'I will ... make [you] joyful in My house of prayer'" (Is. 56:7). Imagine the implications! God is going to fill the church with enjoyable prayer that is refreshing and invigorating.
Revelation tells us "the 24 elders around the throne fall down before Jesus, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (5:8). The harp speaks of worship; the bowl speaks of intercession. When the harp (worship music) comes together with the bowl (intercession), a spiritual dynamic occurs that enhances our enjoyment of prayer.
God ordained that the worship music around the throne flow interactively with intercession. God's songs and God's prayers flow together. This is the secret to the "enjoyable prayer" that Isaiah prophesied about.
I believe the Holy Spirit is orchestrating a global prayer strategy in these days that will far eclipse any other prayer movement in church history. He is raising up 24-hour-a-day "prayer furnaces" that are vital to the Great Commission. These full-time prayer ministries will be the key to reaching unchurched peoples all over the world and the foundation for the full restoration of the tabernacle of David in the generation in which the Lord returns.
I am now the director of one such prayer ministry, called the International House of Prayer, in Kansas City, Mo. Much of our structure and the principles on which the ministry is based are posted on our website (ihopkc.com). We try to follow the pattern established by David, in which worship and intercession go hand in hand and are inspired by holy fascination with God.
With this model, I don't expect prayer ever to be boring again.