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Father, Friend, and Judge: Three Dimensions of Prayer That Receive Answers from Heaven
by Robert Henderson
Learn More | Meet Robert Henderson
Prayer has been the most important part of my spiritual life since 1980.
It was at this time that I fully surrendered to God’s will for my life. From my earliest memory I have had an awareness of God. My family was religious, but we really didn’t know God. In the earliest part of my childhood, we were a part of a very lifeless religious denomination. We came out of that group that my family had been associated with for at least 50 years or more. We then came into the Charismatic/Spirit-filled expression of the church. This was during the Jesus Movement days. Hundreds of thousands and even millions were coming out of stifled and stiff denominational churches. They were being swept up into the things of the Spirit and discovering that a whole new realm of God existed. The gifts of the Spirit were being revealed, and Jesus was unveiling Himself in great dimensions across cultures.
This movement that occurred in the 1960s, 1970s, and even into the 1980s changed the face of the church. We still see its impact across the boundaries of different groups. What people believe has shifted. Worship within groups that once stood against the movement I am describing now embrace our music. Even the way service times were ordered was impacted by this move of God that touched the church and culture. I was 12 years old when my family encountered this expression of the life of the Spirit. We as a family would never be the same and neither would I individually. Life was altered forever.
My father, Welton Henderson, became very hungry for God. He was in his mid-50s and developed this hunger to know God. He would sit up all night for two nights and read the Bible through. He would then sleep on the third night. He held this schedule for some weeks and months all the while holding down his full-time job as a surveyor. My mother, Mary Henderson, became very concerned about his behavior. In the denomination we were a part of, you were considered lost and going to hell if you left the church and did not attend. My dad had stopped going to the services and was talking of leaving the church altogether. This meant my dad would go to hell based on the belief of our church.
My dad then told my mom something that would rock our world. He announced after all the time of reading the Bible, “I am going to find myself a Pentecostal church.” This was heresy. What we didn’t know was that my sister, who is 18 years older than me, and her husband had already been swept into this Charismatic renewal that I have described. When they heard the conclusion my dad had reached, they suggested we should come and see what this was all about. The result was we made the move from the denominational expression of the church to this expression of the Spirit-filled one. To say this was life-changing is an understatement. We were transformed. We all were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. The gifts of the Spirit begin to operate in and through us. More than anything, however, we fell in love with Jesus! Almost all the family, young and old, lived with an excitement of this new life and world we had discovered through the power of the Spirit.
The reason I am relating this is because it is a crucial piece to my story concerning prayer. Remember, this was transpiring when I was 12 years old. As I fast-forward to my early 20s, I am now married to my high school sweetheart, Mary. We had our first of six children born to us. Even though I had an awareness of God from my earliest years and had experienced many different encounters with the Lord, I was now uninterested in anything to do with ministry. I am saying this because I knew—and all who knew me understood—I was destined to be in the ministry and preach the Word of God. I had in fact preached my first message at 13 years old. Still, even though I wasn’t backslidden in the classical sense, I had decided to do my own thing. Mary and I had charted our course and determined she would be a teacher and I would be a coach. We were preparing to go to school to move in this direction. It was at this point that God interrupted these plans and our life.
It was a normal day. I had worked all day. We needed bread and milk, so I was going to the convenience store. It was no more than a five-minute drive. Little did I know those five minutes were about to change the course of our lives. As I was driving, suddenly I became aware that God had entered my car. What I mean is His presence was there. I had not invited Him nor was I seeking Him. He was just there. I then heard these words: “The time is drawing near for you to do My work.” It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was clear, plain, and sure. I knew it was God.
I responded to these words with some of my own. I said, “Why now, Lord?” What I meant was I had responsibilities. I had a wife, a child, a house to pay for, and all the other duties associated with these. It didn’t seem feasible or practical to be talking about such a thing.
Without hesitation, the voice came back with, “Because now you have to trust Me.” I was rocked. I tried to resist for a little while, but it was useless. The Lord in His mercy and kindness worked in my heart to bring me to the place of surrender. He does this according to Philippians 2:13: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The Lord changes the desires to agree with His will and His pleasure. This is exactly what He did with me.
In a very short period of time, the thing I did not want to do, which was ministry, I began to ask the Lord to allow me to do it. This passion and desire has never left me for almost 40 years. He captured my heart with His love and purpose.
As this transpired, I immediately felt a call to pray. It was as if God was saying to me, “The first thing I am going to teach you is how to pray.” No one I knew had the kind of prayer life I was feeling called to. We prayed at our meals, maybe whispered prayers under our breath at times, and prayed for a few moments at church, but this was all I knew. I was now, however, feeling this call to spend time in prayer. I didn’t have the first clue how to do it. Having a heart to obey, I would go into our bedroom, shut the door, and determine to pray for an hour. I would begin to pray and ask God for things. I would think surely it had been 45 minutes. I would look at the clock and discover it had been seven instead. I knew I was in for something I knew nothing about.
As I did this every day, however, suddenly the presence of God would come into the room. Maybe it would take the major part of the prayer time, but He showed up. I found that the more I prayed, the quicker His presence would come. This began to change my life. I now know I was creating an altar in the spirit where my sacrifice was being accepted. We can see this when Abraham built an altar at Bethel in his day. Genesis 12:8 shows him building this altar:
And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
We also see Abraham, or Abram as he was known at this time, returning to Bethel and this altar again in Genesis 13:3-4:
And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord.
In this place of this altar, Abram called on the name of the Lord. Later, we see something very significant happening in this place called Bethel. Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, encountered an open heaven in this very place. Genesis 28:10-19 describes the encounter Jacob had at this place:
Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.
It is no accident or happenstance that Jacob encountered God at this place. The altar grandfather Abraham had raised up and sacrificed at had opened a gate or portal in this place. When Jacob comes to this place and sleeps, in his dream the heavenly realm touches him. The principle is this—when we spend time and sacrifice to erect an altar, it opens a gate in the spirit. This is why the more I spent time in prayer, the easier it was to encounter the presence of God. My sacrifice before the Lord and calling upon His name opened a gate in the spirit world. To this day, when I pray I am most of the time instantly in His presence. The reason for this is I erected an altar in the spirit realm that has a gate open perpetually.
Many years later, I now have a greater understanding of what is occurring as I pray. You will notice the terminology I used to describe what would happen as I pray. I said He showed up or His presence would come. I no longer think this way. Even though I have encounters with the Lord as I pray, I don’t think it is because He decides to show up. I now believe it is because I am stepping into a spiritual dimension through prayer. This is much more a New Testament concept. The apostle Paul declared that we are seated with Jesus in a spirit dimension. Ephesians 2:6 proclaims this important idea:
And raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
This is not just religious talk. This is Paul describing a spiritual reality. At the same time that we are walking in the natural realm of this world, we can also be in another place in the spirit. I tell people all the time, I may have my feet on this floor or ground, but in the spirit I am seated in a throne of government with Jesus. This is what I mean when I say I am stepping into a spiritual dimension when I pray. It is not that His presence comes to me as much as it is that I am stepping into a spiritual realm where there is all sorts of spiritual activity. When I realize this, I can learn to cooperate with what is happening in this realm and see breakthrough come.
We are going to delve into this idea throughout the remainder of this book. We will discover that Jesus actually taught us how to enter three of these dimensions that His blood has made accessible for us. We will learn how to function in these places and see prayers be answered in unprecedented ways. These three dimensions are approaching God as Father, Friend, and Judge. Each one of these opens to us a spiritual realm where we encounter and interact with spiritual activities by faith. The result is the shifting of spiritual realities so what is in heaven can penetrate and enter the earth realm. This is why Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9-10 concerning getting what is in heaven into the earth.
- In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. (TPT).
Prayer is not trying to convince God to do something for us. Prayer is agreeing and working with God to shift things in the spirit realm so what is in heaven can come into the earth. We do this from the spiritual dimensions Jesus has granted us access into as a result of His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, positioning at the right hand of the Father, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. We have been granted the right to enter the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus according to Hebrews 10:19.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.
This is a spiritual dimension speaking of the place of His presence and glory where we encounter Him and the spiritual activity surrounding Him. In these places we move with Him to see His passion fulfilled. We will continue to unveil these secrets and ministries in the coming chapter.
Get ready to experience new levels of glory and power as we learn to pray as Jesus taught His disciples.
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