Discerning Prayer Burdens


In Prayer School tonight I am going to be sharing about how to discern a prayer burden. This is an important topic because even mature intercessors can fall into the trap called self, miss the call to pray, and suffer in their own souls. I speak from experience.

Before we go any further, I want to share with you a quote from E.M. Bounds (1835-1913) He said things like this:

We have in the Holy Spirit an illustration and an enabler of what this intercession is and ought to be. We are charged to supplicate in the Spirit and to pray in the Holy Spirit. We are reminded that the Holy Spirit “helpeth our infirmities,” and that while intercession is an art of so Divine and so high a nature that though we know not what to pray for as we ought, yet the Spirit teaches us this Heavenly science, by making intercession in us “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” How burdened these intercessions of the Holy Spirit! How profoundly He feels the world’s sin, the world’s woe, and the world’s loss, and how deeply He sympathizes with the dire conditions, are seen in His groanings which are too deep for utterance and too sacred to be voiced by Him. He inspires us to this most Divine work of intercession, and His strength enables us to sigh unto God for the oppressed, the burdened and the distressed creation. The Holy Spirit helps us in many ways. How intense will be the intercessions of the saints who supplicate in the spirit. How vain and delusive and how utterly fruitless and inefficient are prayers without the Spirit!

E.M. Bounds understood prayer burdens. He understood how to recognize them. Do you? Let’s dive into this topic so we can work with the Holy Spirit in prophetic intercession.

Sometimes God places someone on your heart and you pray. That’s a prayer burden that’s not difficult to recognize. Sally comes to mind and you yield to that prompting of the Holy Spirit to pray for her. You don’t understand it at the time. Later you found out that she was facing a major battle on the homefront that day and your prayers gave her strength.

But many times there’s a spiritual weight that comes with a prayer burden. You may feel things like:

  • A heaviness of heart
  • A restless mind
  • A spirit of mourning
  • Depressed emotions that seem to come on us

If we don’t discern the call to pray, if we are going through our own trial and tribulation, if we are not as sensitive to the Holy Spirit as we should be, we think it’s us. So what do we do? We focus on ourselves rather than pressing into intercession. We suffer in our own souls rather than helping another soul in need.

Prophetic Revelation on Spiritual Burdens
I was talking to a prophet friend of mine in the Southwest about the topic of prayer burdens this week. As it turns out, we had similar experiences during the past month that caused us both soulish angst. It seems we were both experiencing prayer burdens, but we didn’t recognize it so we turned the heaviness inward. We had our only little prophetic pity party for a few days over it, trying to encourage each other.

Finally, he got a revelation. And it was one that I have had several times after I’ve fallen into the self-pity trap: When these spiritual burdens come to us, the flesh wants us to focus on me, me, me and turn down feelings inward. The Spirit wants us to focus on them, them, them, and turn to intercession.

Let’s consider some scriptures that compare the flesh to the Spirit.

In Matthew 26:41, Jesus said to watch and pray. He also said the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Your spirit man wants to pray. Your flesh wants to lay in bed and sleep, stuff its face full of ice cream, or whine and complain about something. Your spirit man wants to leap into intercession and work with the Holy Spirit to bring the will of God into the earth. Who will win out?

In Galatians 5:16, the Apostle Paul said, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” That’s wisdom, because what does your sinful nature crave? Anything that gratifies it at the time. And prophetic intercession doesn’t gratify the flesh. The carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7).

Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing:” And in Romans 8, Paul said, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” So what are we to do? “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof: (Romans 13:14). “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:8).

So what’s my point?

My point is when you feel heavy-hearted, when you feel depressed, when you feel oppressed, when you feel out of sorts, don’t get into your carnal mind about it. Even if it is your own personal problem, that’s not going to solve it. Pray in the Spirit. He is willing to help you with your infirmities and He wants to pray through you to help the infirmities of others. Remember, the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Walk after the spirit and you won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh. And get passionate about intercession.

In closing, I’ll leave you with another quote from E.M. Bounds:

Desire burdens the chariot of prayer, and faith drives its wheels. Prayerless praying has no burden, because no sense of need; no ardency, because none of the vision, strength, or glow of faith. No mighty pressure to prayer, no holding on to God with the deathless, despairing grasp, “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.” No utter self-abandon, lost in the throes of a desperate, pertinacious, and consuming plea: “Yet now if Thou wilt forgive their sin—if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book.”

Are we ready to pray?

Want to build your faith, root out the doubt that’s robbing you of your prayer answers? Check out my book, “Doubtless: Faith that Overcomes the World.” When you do, you’ll also get a free e-book and podcast.