Prayer is the elixir of the spirit, the medicine and cure of the soul, the health of the body. Prayer is the builder of faith, the restorer of hope, the ultimate in charity when all else fails. Prayer moves mountains, heals the sick, stops the mouths of lions, seals off the singeing flames and fills the dry, cobalt blue sky with billowing clouds pouring down torrents of rain. Prayer is power. And the power of prayer is awesome. Father, teach us to pray.
by Jerry Gentry
"Pray without ceasing" (1Ths. 5:17).
"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen" (Mat. 6:9-13).
Jesus fell on His face in the garden that fateful night and prayed like no man has ever prayed before. "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39).
He would soon weigh the destiny of mankind in the balances. God's justice demanded that sin's price be paid, but who would pay it? Would sinner, or sinless God in the manhood of Jesus Christ, tip the balances? Would that powerful fallen archangel Satan, with all his demonic forces, have his way? Would Jesus Christ win the victory?
The destiny of every soul of Adam kind met with prayer that momentous night in Gethsemane. Jesus prayed and "began to be sorrowful and very heavy" (Mat 26:37), then returned to his disciples, who slept, and said, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (v. 40-41).
Then He prayed again, "saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done" (42).
He came again to the disciples, and found them asleep, "for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words" (v. 43-44).
After sweating great drops of blood, Jesus finally rose from prayer. Soon He was betrayed, arrested, tried, mocked, spat upon, scourged and crucified. As He yielded up the ghost, darkness fell over all the land. Sin's price was paid, hallelujah! Prayer had saved mankind from the power of the dark side. Heaven's corridors reverberated as angels sang, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."
Prayer. Do we understand it? Can we fathom the depths of prayer? How can we pray and know God hears us and answers our prayers?
Great men of God always prayed. Daniel's routine prayer, three times daily with his windows open toward Jerusalem, got him into big trouble. He was cast into the lion's den and left overnight. There was no bed for sleep, no pillow for his head. Did he stand, sit, kneel or fall on his face amid the hungry lions? Did he sleep or did he pray all night?
"Very early in the morning" the King issued a personal prayer call to Daniel, who needed no alarm clock for morning prayer that day. To the King's call, Daniel replied instantly: "O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt" (Dan 6:19, 22). His heart pounded as a makeshift escape ladder was lowered slowly, quietly, ever so carefully into the pit, so as not to disturb the already stirring lions. No provision had ever before been needed for a return trip out of that pit. All visitors before him had died. Daniel breathed a sigh of relief as he ascended the ladder beyond the reach of the jaws of those restless, hungry lions, whose watering mouths were soon crunching Daniel's accusers.
Daniel's faithful, three times daily prayer, and his unceasing all night prayer vigil under great duress, saved his life to the glory of his God. The power of prayer won the day and changed the course of history.
Great men of God always prayed. Samson prayed. In total darkness, his eyes having been burned out, yet with his full physical strength restored, Samson prayed his final prayer, his death wish, to the glory of God:
"And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life" (Judg. 16:30).
When the children of Israel went out of Egypt, they complained and it angered the LORD. Fire broke out in the camp. But "When Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched (Num 11:2).
Later, "the people spake against God, and against Moses. . . And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. . . And Moses prayed for the people" (Num 21:5-6), and they lived. Psalm 90 records a prayer of Moses, the meekest of men, powerful in prayer.
Prayer changes the divine course of history instantly. Because Israel "provoked the LORD to wrath" (Deu 9:22), God determined to destroy the Israelites and raise up seed for himself through Moses. Moses "fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights" (v. 25), and prayed again, saying "O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand" (v. 26).
"And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people" (Exo 32:14).
Faithful men and women of God always prayed. Hanna prayed. As a barren woman, she prayed weeping at the altar. "And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore" (1Sa 1:10), saying "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" (v. 11).
"She spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken" (v. 13). "No, my lord, " Hannah replied. "I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD" (v. 15). "And the LORD remembered her. . . that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD" (v. 19-20).
Great men of God always prayed. Ezra prayed. As he led some forty two thousand Israelites back from Babylon to their homeland, to reestablish the kingdom of Israel, and to rebuild Jerusalem, Ezra fasted and prayed at the River Ahava "to seek of him [God] a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance" (Ezra 8:21).
Nehemiah prayed, saying "Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. . . Remember me, O my God, for good" (Neh. 13:22, 31).
Elijah prayed. He was a man of "like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months" (James 5:17).
"And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit" (v. 18).
After David's great sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. David confessed: "I have sinned against the LORD" (2Sam. 12:13). He later prayed: "Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. . . Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psa. 51:2-3, 10).
At the dedication of the temple, "Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven" (1Ki 8:22).
Solomon prayed. "And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart. . . hearken thou to. . . thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive" (v. 23, 30).
Prayer, that divine drink of the spirit, that healer of the body, that medication and remedy for the soul, changes things. Jesus taught us: "For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith" (Mark 11:23). Words are important. They are self fulfilling prophecies. It is important that we pray rightly, for thereby we set the stage for our own future.
Prayer completes the Christian's spiritual armour. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Eph 6:18). Persevering prayer brings an answer when all else fails, as Christ illustrated in the parable of the persistent widow. By her continual prayer, even the unjust judge avenged her cause. So "shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" (Luk. 18:7).
Prayer is our means of confirming God's will for our lives. Answered prayer is our means of knowing God is working in us. A Christian who has never experienced answered prayer is not a praying Christian. Prayers are always answered, one way or another. Even unanswered prayer is God's way of testing our willingness to yield to His control of our circumstances. That does not mean we are to relish those circumstances, but we are to give thanks for all things. Job did not relish sitting on his ash heap and scraping his sores with potsherds. But it took just that set of circumstances for Job to come to see God. At the end, Job prayed and confessed: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5).
Job prayed for his friends, and they too were spared the wrath of God's displeasure. God restored Job double in this life, and confirmed his hope in the resurrection: "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:26).
Both Pharisee and Publican prayed, one in pompous self exhaltation, the other in heartfelt repentance. Paul and Peter and James and John and Philip and Stephen and Timothy all prayed. Every genuine Christian prays. God receives our prayers as "the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand" (Rev. 8:4).
Christian, how high do your prayers rise above the ceiling? Do your prayers go all the way to the throne room of heaven? Then you know what it means that he prayed again. When all else fails, when your life vision crumbles into a thousand tiny pieces, when you wonder how your life will ever be normal again, that is the time to pray again. And again. And again. Pray without ceasing.