In 2012, I looked over the early morning bustle of Jakarta, Indonesia, from the rooftop of the hotel where I was speaking at a convention.1 From a nearby mosque, an imam’s call to worship soared across the neighborhood. I listened as I waited for those I had invited to join me.
Sometime later, several dozen delegates from multiple countries met with me to pray. I read Scripture, and then we all scattered across the roof to pray. Bowing my head, I closed my eyes and began praying comfortably to the God I knew.
Intense and intimate
After a few minutes, the sound of quiet weeping startled me. Opening my eyes, I saw a believer from a distant country with little religious freedom praying. What I witnessed I will never forget.
There, kneeling in the gravel on the roof, the Scriptures resting on a ledge beside her, hands grasping for the sky, was a woman deep in prayer. As she wept, she appeared to be asking something of God. Her prayers had an intensity, an intimacy. I had no doubt that she knew she was communicating directly with God Himself and that He heard her.
When I had unrushed time alone with God in His Word and in prayer, I found that He had much more to say than I had previously assumed!
Then I thought about how I prayed casual, comfortable prayers. I knew that the believer I had just witnessed in prayer had a relationship with God far beyond what I had ever experienced. How can I have what she has with God? I wondered.
Thirsty for more
That night in my hotel room, I asked God how I could have a much deeper relationship with Him.
I was thirsty for much more! But I had no clue where to begin.
As I prayed, God impressed me to read Isaiah 50:4:
The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples,
So that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple (NASB).
Then God told me that He would awaken me every morning if I invited Him each night to do so. But I was skeptical. Would God really awaken me to spend time with Him? What if I overslept? Doubts and uncertainties plagued my mind.
Again and again, I read Isaiah 50:4. Although I believed it was God’s Word and that what He had done in the past He is able to do again today, it was so hard to surrender my alarm clock and trust God to wake me up.
No different from a demon’s belief
Then I realized that saying I believe God’s Word and acting on it are two very different things. Scripture says, “The demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19, NASB). When I declare that I believe in God but do not act on His Word, my belief is no different from a demon’s. Very sobering!
Reaching over to the nightstand, I flicked off the alarm on my clock. With the lights out, I lay on my back, wondering whether God would do for me what His Word said He could do. But I chose to believe and fell asleep.
A few hours later, I awoke. Why am I awake? I sleepily asked myself. Glancing at the clock, I groaned. It was barely past midnight. Then I remembered that I had asked God to awaken me as early or as late as He wanted so that I could have more time with Him in His Word and in prayer.
Climbing out of bed, I knelt in prayer. It was a bit awkward doing so outside of my “normal” time to pray. Although I understood that I was not in charge of this time, I was not sure what I should say to God. I prayed for a few minutes and jumped back in bed for some much-needed sleep.
Very early in the morning, I again awakened from a deep sleep. Groggily, I looked at the clock. It was hours earlier than I usually woke up. I was just getting ready to sleep some more when God whispered to my heart, “Didn’t you ask Me to get you up?”
I prayed for God to send the Holy Spirit to teach me as I read Scripture. Then I read and read and read. Occasionally, I checked the time, for I was used to always being rushed in my time alone with God. As I prayed about what I read, I waited on God to see what the Holy Spirit would say to my mind and my heart.
A shocking discovery
Soon, I made a shocking discovery! When I had unrushed time alone with God in His Word and in prayer, I found that He had much more to say than I had previously assumed! So began the adventure of asking God each night to be in charge of awakening me, according to how much time He wanted to spend teaching me.
A decade has flown by since I began asking God to awaken me each morning. Morning by morning, He has done so, whether I am in Cambodia, Brazil, Canada, or a host of places in between. I am amazed that He awakens me to have unrushed time with Him in His Word and in prayer, regardless of whether I am 4, 10, or even 16 hours ahead of my home time zone!
God has awakened me each morning without an alarm clock for more than 10 years. In those times, He calls me into His presence to be in His Word and live in awe of His majesty, power, and unfathomable love. We must stand first in the awesome presence of God. Only then will we not be overawed by anything or anybody else.
- Adapted from Don MacLafferty, Live Like Elijah: A Call to Live by Faith in God (Apison, TN: In Discipleship, 2021), 9–13.
- Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), 293.