When we pray, His desires and burdens must be the central force of our prayers. That is, our desires and burdens must come from His desires and burdens.
Why do we have to have God’s desires and burdens to pray? The most basic part has to do with desire itself. We have to have desire to pray because prayer is made up of desire. Desire is the energy and the force of prayer. But in order to pray with real, Christian prayer our desires and burdens must come from God. They must be His desires, which operate through our desires; for earthly or fleshly desires can never do heavenly work. Here are three steps to acquiring His desires and burdens.
1. Abide in Him. The way we get God’s desires to be our desires is to accept His Son and abide in Him. Jesus has always had the desire to do His Father’s will; and He knows how to pray to the Father with holy desire. When we accept Him and abide in Him we will have compassion for the multitudes just as He had (Matt. 9:36-38); and we will cry out to the Father, “abba Father,” just as He did and does (Rom. 8:15).
And we will have this compassion and this desire in prayer not because He gives us the strength of desire in ourselves. No, the compassion, the desire, the burden that we will get in prayer is His compassion, desire and burden that works through us (through our desires).
But He does not just give us desire and then leave us. The desire we have in prayer is something that always works through Him. That is why we must always abide in Him. He is the source of true prayer; true prayer is energized by His own desires and burdens.
2. Recognize God’s desires and burdens when they come to you. As far as our own personal needs are concerned, if we are abiding in Christ, God will give us the desire to pray for the things that He wants us to have; and, of course He always desires to give us what we need.
God always wants us to pray for others. And He will impart to us the same burdens that He has for them according to their needs. Generally, if they are in need of guidance, like sheep without a shepherd, the kind of burden God has for them and that He wants to give us is a caring compassion—a compassion that not only prays, but seeks to meet the needs (just like Jesus met the needs of the five thousand, Matthew 9:36-38).
If someone has some kind of a sin problem, some kind of addiction or bad habit, the burden God may give us for them is a deep compassion, with a feeling of grief attached to it—for whenever anyone is in bondage to sin the Holy Spirit is grieved (Eph. 4:30), and He wants us to grieve with Him in prayer.
Another kind of burden is sort of a groan. God will give us a groaning burden for a person who needs to grow in the Lord and for whom He anticipates their growth (Rom. 8:22-27).
The burdens He gives us for people are always definite, specific, and personal, according to their need. They are never general or vague.
These burdens, which may come as an inner voice or impression to pray, may be strong and sudden, which means that prayer is needed immediately. Or the burden may last for a long time. In that case it means that prayer is needed for a long time. I suppose we could say that the rule is: God will give us a burden to fit the particular need.
3. Turn the desire God gives you into prayer. As we said earlier, desire is the energy and the force of prayer. It is the energy and force of His desire working through our desire. But if we don’t do something with that energy burning within us, if we don’t use it for prayer, the flame of desire will soon fizzle out and die.
When you feel that God is giving you a desire to pray for a particular person or thing, I suggest the following steps:
(1) Pay close attention to your desires. Try to discern what God is telling you. Spend time in prayer about it.
(2) When you think you know what God is saying to you, when the desire is more specific, go immediately to prayer and pray for as long as the burden lasts.
(3) If the burden is very strong and prolonged, add fasting to your prayers and keep praying. You may also want to invite a friend to pray with you to build more prayer power.