A prayer burden is a spiritual concern on the heart of God that is imparted by the Holy Spirit to someone whose intercession the Holy Spirit desires to use. Jesus has been interceding for this need, and now the Spirit needs you to join with the intercession of Jesus. It is a specially sacred level of prayer intensity and prayer responsibility. It is always a special trust committed to you from the Lord, a special call of the Spirit for faithful intercession. It is an indication of the Spirit’s priority for you.

Prayer burden is a spiritual concern. It is an unselfish concern for the Lord’s will in a person or situation. It is a desire for God’s mercy and help and for that which is highest and best. The concern weighs down upon the praying person, causing that one to pray as much as possible for the need. It shares with the praying person the same compassion and desire that God has.

Prayer burden is God-given. Its source is not natural sympathy, emotion, or preference. It is not something worked up by long or loud praying. It is not the result of psychological manipulation or mass psychology. While it may spread from one person to another, it does so primarily among those deeply spiritual, deeply committed, and deeply involved in intercession.

A burden that is primarily emotional will be superficial and will yield no lasting spiritual results. It is a burden born in the heart of God, which indicates it is a valid part of Christ’s intercession, and it is conveyed to you by the Spirit’s guidance and touch.

Prayer burden is very personal. Others may or may not share your vision, burden, or concern. But if it is something that God puts specially on you, you are the one responsible to intercede. It is a commitment between you and the Lord. You must bear the burden for the need on behalf of the Lord–or, more accurately, in intercessory partnership with the Lord.

It begins in a hidden way privately in your own heart. Prayer burden will be carried primarily before the Lord in the secret place. No one can fully know the depth of concern the Lord places upon your heart. The burden perhaps will rest so heavily on you that others will sense that something is resting heavily on you.

Nehemiah carried such a burden (Neh. 2:2-3). It may be that others will sense it from the depth of your praying if you mention this particular need during your public prayer. It is not wrong if others begin to discern it, but you should not be sharing your concern widely unless you are specially led by the Spirit to do so (Matt. 6:16-18). It is a sacred secret trust you have received from the Lord.

Prayer burden may move you very deeply. When the Lord places the burden upon you heavily, it literally weighs upon your heart. The more fully you identify with the need, the more deeply you will feel it. It may include an ever deeper God-given agape love for the ones involved in the need. It may involve a sense of foreboding danger or holy concern, lest God’s will be missed or be unfulfilled.

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 (Psa. 42:3), which can be a very powerful plea to God (56:8). God is moved by the depth of desire manifested in sincere tears (2 Kings 20:5Psa. 126:5).

Prayer burden makes you responsible. A Spirit-given burden is a special mandate from the Lord. You may be the only one to whom the Spirit assigns this prayer burden. Or perhaps your earnest prayer is needed to be added in unity to the intercession being made by a number of others to whom God gives the same prayer burden. Christian biography and history record thousands of examples of how God worked, saved, blessed, protected, healed, sent revival, or gave other outstanding answers to prayer when someone was faithful to such prayer burden, such a call and mandate from the Lord. Often later evidence proves that the prayer was needed at the exact time when the Spirit called to this intercession by giving the prayer burden.

If God works so mightily at the exact time someone is faithful to a prayer burden given by God, what happens if the person fails to pray? Will we be shocked in eternity at the victories that were not won, the people who did not yield to God, or the great or potential answers to prayer that were never received because we or someone else were not faithful to the prayer burden God tried to give us?

How to Carry a Prayer Burden

GIVE AS IMMEDIATE attention as possible to the burden. Sudden prayer burdens are God’s SOS call for your help. If at all possible, interrupt what you are doing and pray at once for the need God places upon you.

Concentrate primarily on this one burden. If possible, get alone where you will not be interrupted in your intercession. If the prayer burden continues through mealtime, add fasting to your prayer. If you are praying for a period of hours, have pen and paper with you to write down any steps to which God guides you to help answer your prayer or to recruit the intercession of others.

Also write down any thoughts that come to your mind that you do not want to lose or duties connected with your normal life that you do not want to forget. Prolonged prayer times often release our mind to very creative thought, but we do not want to be diverted from the prayer burden God is giving us. Because you free your mind from other things, you may recollect important items. Jot them down so you can immediately get back to your primary intercession.

Hold on in prayer until God lifts the burden. If you cannot give sufficient time to prayer at the time, pray as much as you can and then resume your prayer concerning it as soon as you can free yourself for concentrated intercession. If it is a prayer burden that God has been increasingly placing upon you for a period of time, seize every opportunity to pray additionally for this burden–whether for a matter of minutes or, if possible, a period of hours.

If the burden continues for a period of days or longer, there will be intervening periods of hours or days when God will let you rest from your burden and carry out your other duties. But then again at prayer times, free moments, or when you set apart specific time for this purpose, He will restore the burden to you and let you take advance prayer steps or amass additional prayer in His presence until God gives the breakthrough and the prayer is answered.

In prolonged prayer burden, God may lead you to enlist the prayer of others. Not all prayer burdens are of a nature that should be shared. Trust God to guide you in this matter. In the case of prayer burdens of a more general nature, such as revival in the church, healing of a nonconfidential illness, deliverance of someone from demon power, drugs, or similar entrenched need, it may please God for you to mobilize the prayers of spiritually perceptive intercessors that you know can stand heart and soul with you in this intercession. Many Christians may not be spiritually prepared for serious intercession and prayer battles. They may be marked more by lack of faith than by faith. Let God guide you in how widely you share the need.

written by Wesley Duewel


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Harold Vaughan

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Evangelist Harold Vaughan is the founder of Christ Life Ministries, Inc. To date, his ministry has led him to preach in forty-eight states and many foreign countries. Click on "ABOUT" in the menu bar to learn more about Harold.
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