The type of burden we are interested in here is the burden that God carries upon His own heart, which He offers to us so that we may be moved in our spirit to join His Son in prayer. Here are five terms that will help you recognize this burden that God is giving you.
1. It is a peculiar compassion. First of all, most importantly, when God gives you a burden, He will place on your heart a compassion for a person or a need. The compassion He gives you will not be general, vague, or indefinite; rather, the Holy Spirit will draw you to take a peculiar interest in a certain thing or individual. According to Charles Finney, “When the Spirit of God leads an individual to take a peculiar interest, feel peculiar compassion and drawing of heart in prayer and labor for particular individuals, this influence may be safely trusted…let such an influence be yielded to [as being from the Lord].”
2. It is an unselfish concern. Out of our heart of compassion we will feel an unselfish concern. It is a concern for the Lord’s will and for the interest of another (Phil. 2:4), and it weighs us down until we are compelled to pray with tears.
But through the tears, with a heavy weight upon our heart, we may at the same time be filled with a deep seated joy—because we know that God has given us unselfish tears for another, and thus we become certain that He will answer our prayers (1 Jn. 5:14-15).
3. It is an inner voice or impression. A prayer burden may be felt as an inner voice or impression that I should pray for a particular need or person. Since the Bible says we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), it makes sense that this voice or impression will come to us in our mind or thoughts. But if we at first reject God’s call to pray, we may also feel something in our stomach—a tightness or an uneasy feeling.
It is important also to be careful that the voice or impression we sense is from the Lord. We have the mind of Christ (if we are Christians), but we will hear His voice in our mind only when we are trusting Him, otherwise it will be the voice of human reasoning or of the devil.
4. It is personal. The burden you get from the Lord will always be very personal. It a special assignment designed especially for you. He gives you the gifts and talents to carry out this task like no one else can. It is like a personal summons or like a sacred trust from God to you, in which you are made responsible to intercede for a person or a need.
Have you ever felt a burden like this, which you believe no one else has but you? I have a personal burden to pray for my children—that they stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (Col. 4:12). Perhaps you do too. It’s a special feeling isn’t it? It’s a feeling that God has put upon you—that He is holding you responsible to pray for them. But it’s also a feeling of trust, that He trusts you to do this task—because He has given you a special interest in them. This task is a lot of work, a lot of responsibility; but because it is so important to Him He will give you all the strength you need to carry it out.
5. It is intense and urgent. The burden you feel will have a certain level of intensity and urgency, depending on the urgency of the need. This God-given intensity is strengthened by your own discipline in regular prayer and fasting, and will create in you a holy determination to keep praying until God answers your request. According to Wesley Duewel,
You will notice that the more deeply the burden moves you, the more powerfully it involves your whole being. When you are almost totally absorbed and possessed by a burden that continues for a matter of hours or days, you may lose your desire for food and sleep. You may be moved to very sincere and expressive tears (Ps. 42:3), which can be a very powerful plea to God (Ps. 56:8). God is moved by the depth of desire manifested in sincere tears (2 Kin. 20:5; Ps. 126:5).
The above is an excerpt from my book Principles of Prayer.