March 9, 2014

Fervent prayer and changing my world . . .

My focus easily goes to the God side of things when I pray. If something is His will, I am certain that His plans cannot be thwarted. I can say with great assurance that nothing is impossible for God.

I have more trouble with these words from John Wesley, “God does nothing in this world redemptively except through prayer.” It sounds too much like I must ask before He will act, but if this is true, it explains that old question, “Why does God save some and not others?” Could it be because no one prayed?

The power of prayer is illustrated in the life of one of the rulers in ancient Israel. Hezekiah was ill and dying. Isaiah the prophet told him to set his house in order for he would not recover.

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. (2 Kings 20:1–11)  

The rest of the story has some more miraculous elements, but this much makes the point: if this man had not prayed, it seems obvious that he would have died. I also note that he prayed with great passion. This seems to be important too. Consider what the psalmist says . . .  

Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:1–3)

One day this week, I prepared to go for a prayer walk and was filled with dread. It was cold outside and I thought that my reluctance to go had something to do with the wind chill. However, I realized afterward that it was more likely my spiritual enemy trying to discourage me from prayer. For whatever reason, that morning walk was a time of passionate, fervent prayer. I know that the depth of my emotions does not insure answers, but also realize that God wants fervent prayer. He says, “. . . The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16, NKJV)

Another Old Testament account reminds me that assurance in prayer is not restricted to “righteous men.” Hannah had prayed in the temple for a son. She was a godly woman and her prayer had such passion that the priest thought she was drunk. When she said him she was praying, he told her that God would grant her request. After that, her and her husband “rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel . . .” (1 Samuel 1:19–20)

Would she have had a son had she not prayed? Or did God prompt her to pray for He planned to bless her with a son? Perhaps there is truth in both ideas, but either way, prayer is a mystery. Regardless of whether our prayers make things happen or God motivates us to pray because things are going to happen, it does seem vital to pray.

From God’s side of things, the Bible indicates He wants our partnership in His work. That is almost too awesome for me. Who am I to work alongside Almighty God?

From my side of things, prayer acknowledges His hand in my life. It also acknowledges my weakness and inability to change those things as I ask Him to change them. Prayer says YES to His great power and grace.

There is nothing like waking up in the morning with a prayer in my heart for I then anticipate God will do great things that day. I know it because of His promises but also because of the presence of that prayer, whatever put it there. . .

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 57:8–11)

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