As Jesus was making His way near Jericho, He came upon a blind man sitting near the road. When the man heard that it was Jesus approaching he started yelling, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stopped and very bluntly asked the blind man, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Now obviously, Jesus knew the man was blind, so why did He ask him a question like that? He was asking the man to verbalize his heart’s desire… and his fervent hopes. He was also asking him to be explicit not general. The Lord wants us to pray specific prayers…for He wants to hear our heart’s desires. I remember well when we were looking for a new home in Idaho…my prayers were very general, “Lord, help us find a new home.” But it was during one of my generalized prayers that the Holy Spirit stopped me and asked what I wanted in that home. I started listing my heart’s desires one by one…large kitchen, fireplace, walk-in closet, jetted tub, a large space for a garden, and East facing windows to watch the sunrise. And He gave them all to me in a perfect home!
I can still remember the little plaque in my Grandmother’s house that read, “Prayer Changes Things”. And I believe with every fiber within me that prayer does make a difference. But when my mind is overwhelmed and I struggle to even put together words…my prayers seem weak and ineffective. When this happens, the Scripture here in Psalms shines bright in my mind. God will never spurn my prayers, however clumsy they may seem…and He will never stop loving me because of my awkwardness of words. For if you think about it, the real power of prayer is found in the Listener of our prayers, not in the one uttering the words.
I’m writing today’s Devotional for me and no one else, but you get to read it! The new year looms ahead with endless possibilities…all good things I could be doing. And as with most of you, I have more than enough opportunities to do good works for the Lord… to the point I’d spread myself so thin I would be ineffective in them all. The verses here in Philippians tell me that I need to let God know what it is I want. For me it’s clarification, direction, and purpose of all the things I could be doing…for I don’t want to be running down a road that’s not of God, simply for the sake of running. I Timothy 2:1-2 tells me the purpose for prayer is that I may lead a peaceful and quiet life…and for me, that comes from calmly resting in the very center of God’s Will.
You may know them as Prayer Chains, or a Prayer Wall where requests and concerns are brought so that many can lift them to God…or maybe you’re part of a Prayer Warrior Group that regularly unite in focused prayer on behalf of others. Here Paul is thanking Believers for their continued prayers, telling them that he knows their prayers have rescued him from many dangers. He looks at these answered prayers of God’s grace in his life with hope and gratefulness…knowing those praying for him are praising God also. For the beauty of answered prayers is that they touch everyone….those who pray and those who were prayed for.
Your prayer life…is it good, bad, or non-existent? What about the quality and quantity of your time spent in prayer? We all would admit that our prayer life could be better. For most of our prayers are quick apathetic words thrown at God, lacking energy and even the confidence that they’ll even be answered. So how can we change our weak and impotent prayers into the prayers spoken about in this verse? James tells us that as Believers our prayers are capable of producing great results, and through God, He is able to accomplish incredible feats because of our prayers. So think of it this way…our prayers start God (and all of creation He has at His disposal) moving. Our simple prayers trigger God’s all powerful and magnificent response… opening the way for Him to do miraculous things on our behalf. That puts a completely different spin on our prayers, right? For if we could only take hold of and comprehend just how powerful and effective our prayers were…we could change the world for Christ.
Distress comes in many different forms, and no one is immune to worry. But it’s how we approach difficulties and troubles that can make the difference between barely wallowing through them, and coming out the other side better not bitter. This Psalm gives us a blueprint or a road-map, if you will, when it comes to offering our supplication before the Lord. First we need to realize that when we cry out to God, He actually hears us. He’s not some far off entity… aloof and distant. Rather, God longs to hear our prayers and work in and through the troubles we’re going through. Next, He’s a just God full of kindness…He knows what we’re going through and wants to help. Finally, He’s a listening God. For when there’s no one else you can confide in…He’s always there.
Jesus taught by example. And over the course of His ministry here on earth, He modeled for the disciples not only the power of prayer…but the necessity for constancy, and steadfastness in the process. Prayer wasn’t an after thought for Jesus…it was the main thought. Nor was it the last thing He did after everything else had failed, it was the very first thing. So after Jesus had ascended into heaven and the disciples were alone and scared, they relied on the discipline of prayer Jesus had shown them to face the uncertain world ahead. The early Church was devoted to prayer…the Church of today should be as devoted.
Sometimes our prayers sound more like a toddler in a toy store…”I want that, and that, and that, and Oh, that!” God willingly listens to all our wishes and desires, but only He knows what we really need. And sometimes what we want and what we need are very far apart. So just remember, God understands and loves you far more than you can ever imagine…that only He can see “around the corner” of the future…and that He has only your best interest at heart. God may not give you everything you want, but He will give you everything you need.
When life’s going along smoothly…we tend to ignore God. We smugly think it’s us that’s making it all happen. So when disease, death or tragedy hits – we’re thrown for a loop. ” How can this possibly be happening to me…what am I going to do…how can I fix this?” It’s at that point of distress, we finally cry out to the Lord. But how do we know God’s listening to us…how do we know we have His attention? We can start by reading His Word. The Bible is full of times when God miraculously answered His people’s cries for help. And each time He answered, their faith was built up a little more. The Psalmist showed this confidence when he wrote, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me.” (Psalm 86:6-7) It’s that assurance from past answered prayers that enable us to have confidence every time we cry out to God anew.
Praying shouldn’t be a publicity stunt for the cameras while seeking 15 minutes of fame. For it’s our personal, intimate conversation with God…and He takes prayer very seriously…and so should we. As a Believer, I’ve seen the power of prayer and witnessed how intercessory prayer can literally change the atmosphere. But we tend to think of prayer as some sweet little poem we recite at the dinner table before meals and not the authoritative commands we can speak under the power of Jesus’ blood. To paraphrase I John 4:4, Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world. And if we could but grasp a glimpse of just how powerful our prayers are…this world would be shaken, and all the evil in it. May I then be so bold as to encourage you to prayer walk around your town…around your schools…around the area you live in. For we are all asking ourselves the same question, “What can I do in the face of all this evil in the world?” The answer is prayer…bold, impassioned prayer.