Monday, June 10, 2013

Powerful Prayer

My 11-year old daughter recently commented to me that praying was a bit of crap shoot.  You pray, then you hope God will answer, and all in all there's really no guarantee that what you want and what He wants will line up.  I immediately disagreed.

"There are kinds of prayers, things we can say, and know that God WILL do exactly what we ask." I said to my daughter.  She crooked an eyebrow up in disbelief.  

"We know that God gives us what's good for us." She said with a tiny Mama's-lost-her-mind-again 'tude.  

What do you think?  Do you think prayer is always like a roll of the dice?  Or maybe you are one of those people who think if you do enough good stuff and then you get a reward.  Be good all year and hope Santa comes through for you. Or perhaps you believe that God is like a parent who wants you to be healthy and thus has only carrots and vaccines for you when what you really want is buttery popcorn and a trip to see Disney on Ice.  

None of those ideas is altogether wrong.  Sometimes we pray for rain but God sends another day of sunshine.  Sometimes God does not answer our prayers positively because of our sin (1 Peter 3:7, James 5:16 ). Sometimes God does give us what we need, what will work out for our good instead of the thing we want.  God sees our unhealthy attachment to that handsome jerk from work and instead of answering our prayers to let him ask us out, sends us a bald preaching student instead.  He does have our long-term good at heart. 

But I still contend that there are prayers, powerful prayers, that God will answer in the affirmative every time.  

Take Solomon's prayer of dedication at the temple.  He stands in front of all Israel and the temple he built and thanks God for letting him complete the work that David wanted to do.  God promised that David's son would be allowed to build the temple and he fulfilled it. Then Solomon says this: 

Now therefore, O LORD, the God of Israel, keep with Your servant David, my father, that which You have promised him, saying, `You shall not lack a man to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way, to walk in My law as you have walked before Me.'

"Therefore..." is a really powerful word. Solomon is declaring that since God kept one promise (that He could finish the temple his father envisioned) he could be entrusted to keep David's sons on the throne forever if they would not abandon God.  Solomon was totally confident.  God was faithful.  He said it.  He would do it with his own hand.  

Solomon asked God for more than the continuance of his line.  He prayed that God would continue to hear and answer the prayers for help that the people offered with repentance in front of His temple.  God answered that prayer with a miracle: fire came down from heaven to consume the sacrifice and his glory filled the temple. (2 Chronicles 7:1-3)

Many years later, in front of Solomon's temple, Jehosophat prayed again.  He was in trouble.  Three allied nations had invaded Judah and the king was afraid.  More sensible than some of his later counterparts, he responded to his fear by declaring a fast and calling all the people out to pray.  He said this"

Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, 'Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us.'  

Just like Solomon, he states confidently the work of God in the past (he drove out the inhabitants of the land as he promised Abraham) and calls on God to do what he implied he would in answer to Solomon's prayer (rescue the people when they cry out to him from the sanctuary they built in His name).  If you've forgotten the rest of the story, read 2 Chronicles 20 and be encouraged by God's power to save! 

The years slipped by.  The people forgot God.  They were exiled in Babylon and their temple was destroyed.  But still when Nehemiah, serving in the King's palace, decided to pray he reminded God of his promises.  After confessing the nation's sins he asked God to 
Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, `If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples;  but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.'

Nehemiah said that God promised Moses to gather the people after he exiled them.  And Nehemiah had faith that God would do what he said he would do!  

Me too. 

But the question is what did God really promise us?  What could we confidently take to God like Solomon, Jehosophat or Nehemiah and receive simply because he promised to give it? 

This is the question I asked my girl. She started naming things, reciting verses, getting more and more excited.  I hope you're excited too.  Next week, I'll give you a list of promises that we can and should bring to the throne of God.  I'll give you a hint, a new car, a handsome husband and well-behaved children are sadly not on the list.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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