2001-11-30 - Prayer
The Christian's Toolbox, Part 2
(All passages are from the New American Standard Bible - NASB.) Perhaps you have been guilty of this, as I have. Something devastating happens (like the tragic murderes on September 11, 2001). We yearn to do something. We can't bring back those who died, nor can we take away the pain of the people who lost loved ones. So we say "at least we can pray." I don't believe that most of us truly believe it's the "least" important thing we can do. It's just that it doesn't seem as "practical" as rolling up our sleeves and "doing" something. But it is, in fact, the most practical thing we can do. Because when we pray, we release God's power on the situation. And God has all the power in the world; He has everything that we or anyone needs.
When God's people pray, the world is changed.
James 5:17-18 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
When God's people pray, individuals' lives are changed.
1 Samuel 1:6-20 Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?" Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. She made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head....I have poured out my soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation." Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him...." It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son, and she named him Samuel, saying, "because I have asked him of the LORD."
When God's people pray, their behaviors and attitudes are changed.
Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
As I have shared previously, one of the most revolutionary steps I ever take is when I pray "Lord, help me see (the name of whatever difficult person) through your eyes." Don't pray this prayer unless you mean it, for He will grant your request. It's nearly impossible to stay angry at someone after praying this prayer. That of course doesn't mean pretending nothing happened, nor does it preclude holding them responsible -- which is actually the loving thing to do, for their growth. But it does enable us to forgive them. I personally have experienced this a good number of times. When I pray this prayer, God opens my spiritual eyes to see that the person who misunderstands my heart, who is lashing out at me (or someone I love), or treating people coldly, is really hurt and insecure himself. To me, the softening of a human heart - mine included - is the most profound miracle of all.
However, there is a caveat about prayer: We must not expect that all answers will be immediate. God's timetable is not like ours. It reminds me of the preventive war against terrorism. Some of us - myself included - have been impatient, thinking we should be able to accomplish this overnight. But my husband reminded me that World War II took seven years to win, and we should thank God for each incremental victory we are witnessing.
It's the same way with our prayers. When we don't receive instant answers, sometimes we write something off as "not God's will," when in actuality, it could simply mean that the timing is off. It has been said that Missionary Hudson Taylor labored for ten years in China before one person became a Christian. Some people pray for the salvation of their loved ones for decades before seeing them become Christ-followers. So if you have a yearning on your heart, don't give up. Be like the persistent widow of Luke 18:2-5. Remember, God never tires of our prayers. He loves to hear from His children.