When God's people pray, His power is unleashed
Last week we looked at this scripture and focused on verse 17, to pray without ceasing:
16Rejoice evermore. 17Pray without ceasing. 18In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19Quench not the Spirit. 20Despise not prophesyings. 21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22Abstain from all appearance of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
Many people, even so-called believers, are sceptical about prayer asking for God’s intervention in a matter, and that what happens to us is God’s final will for us. They argue that what God has decided stands, and no prayer is going to sway Him to change His plans or alter the course of history. Thus, they reason that prayer has no effect. The Bible is clear that this is not the case at all. Let us look at just a few examples, in no specific order of importance:
Hannah – from barren woman to mother
Elkanah and his wife Hannah had no children. She prayed to God that He would intervene.
10And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. 11And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. – 1 Samuel 1:10-11
She does not just pray for a child, but a son. The child which she does not even have yet, she has already committed to offer him to serve God all the days of his life. That is really putting faith into action. Hundreds of years later, the writer of Hebrews explains this:
1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1
This was the power of Hannah’s prayer, and it moved God to intervene.
Jabez – a simple but effective prayer to win souls
Jabez asked for a lot, and he got it all – a sincere prayer answered by God to the letter.
10And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. – 1 Chronicles 4:10
He asked for four things – to be blessed; his territory to be increased; that God must be with him; and that he would be kept from evil. The territory he asked for was not a physical area or even more wealth, but rather the number of people he would positively influence.
Daniel – interceding for others and God reveals the future to him
Daniel was a man of prayer. In the isolation of living in a foreign country, he could have easily forgotten about his people back in Israel, but he prays as if he himself was guilty of the sins of the nation. He interceded for his people like few others. He read about the desolation of Jerusalem and then decided to pray. Read Daniel 9:3-19 and notice how many times he used the pronoun “we”. Suddenly, while he was still praying, he was visited by Gabriel, not just any angel but a messenger angel, who brings God’s word to the people.
One of the most important things about Daniel’s prayer is that he was an intercessor – he stood between God and others. Because he was faithful, God revealed a synopsis of the entire history of Israel to him (Daniel 9:25-27). Much later, Jesus would reveal the details of this same prayer Daniel had, to John, as recorded in Revelation.
Nehemiah – interceding for a nation and God makes a logistical task very easy
Nehemiah followed the same pattern of prayer Daniel did. Like Daniel, Nehemiah was in captivity, but served in a senior position in the court of a heathen king. Like Daniel, Nehemiah thought about his people back in Jerusalem. He interceded for his people. Read Nehemiah 1:4-11. His first prayer was about to be answered in a way he did not think would be possible in political terms. Read chapter two and see how the heathen king responded after Nehemiah prayed his second prayer, the shortest recorded in the Bible, in Nehemiah 2:4.
Did you ever think this heathen king would allow Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls? Not likely, but God intervened, based on the faith Nehemiah displayed. Not only did the king allow him to leave, but supplied everything he needed to rebuild the walls, from the wood and other materials to letters allowing him to pass through hostile territories on his way back to Jerusalem. Faith made the impossible seem very easy.
Elijah – water does not always prevent fire
In 1 Kings 18:30-46 we read about the standoff between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal. Both had the chance to build an altar and have everything on it consumed with fire. The Baal prophets tried their best, and Elijah mocked them. Then he prayed, and God moved visibly. Starting in verse 36, Elijah started praying. God then answered in a spectacular way.
38Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. – 1 Kings 18:38
Hezekiah – Yes, you can live longer, and time can be changed
More than one prayer of Hezekiah is recorded, one that God would spare them the attack from an enemy. However, when Hezekiah is personally affected, his prayer takes on new meaning:
1In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. 2Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, 3I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. – 2 Kings 20:1-3
God answered Hezekiah’s prayer, based on a life of obedience, and healed him. Hezekiah asked for a sign that he would be healed, and the result shows how God even influences nature, because of the prayer of a righteous person. Read the account in 2 Kings 20:1-11. Incidentally, if you thought that this cannot possibly be true that the sun could move backwards on a sundial, science has proven that it did happen.
These are just a few examples of the ways God changed history when people prayed. What if you started praying today? What if your church started praying today? I do not mean just ordinary prayer but seeking the face of God and praying in earnest. When God’s people pray, the impossible suddenly becomes easy. This week, search your Bible for more examples of where God answered prayer in spectacular ways. He answered prayers then, and He still does today. Follow the example of these people, and God can change your life as well.