Nothing Takes the Place of Prayer

Nothing Takes the Place of Prayer

You and I cannot make contact with God without prayer. If we don’t make that connection, no matter how sincere our intentions, we will not see a change in the circumstances of our life.  Pastor and author Dr. Charles Stanley wrote of prayer: “I would say to anybody: the greatest lesson you can learn is to learn to live by faith on your face before God. You can face anything, no matter what it is.”

God said, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you.” But if I’m too busy then I’m not listening to Him, I’m not waiting for Him, I’m not expecting Him to do something. I think people face a lot of circumstances and go through a lot of heartache and trouble that would be unnecessary if they would just stop and listen. Often, I think we are like little children—not so much hard of hearing as we are hard of listening. We hear, but we do not necessarily heed His warnings.

Learning to hear God’s voice from Scripture—learning the way He expressed Himself to the men and women of old—teaches us how to distinguish the sound of His voice from our own and helps us avoid the deceptive whispers of the Enemy. My journey to wholeness in Christ has been painful at times, but it is not an unfamiliar path. I meet people all the time who feel that in order to get God’s attention they must do more, work harder, talk louder, be smarter, but God tells us that in order to hear Him, we must wait and seek and listen closely.

Seeking first the Kingdom and His righteousness leads us to increased faith and less worry. Peace and worry cannot occupy the same space. One forces the other out. Instead of doing more, we must learn to worship at His feet. Our prayer should be, “Help me to wait patiently for the very best You have for my life.” God places watchmen on the walls of our lives. I call them Esthers and Nehemiahs…people such as Corrie ten Boom and, perhaps, people like you. The world has figuratively been scratching its collective head trying to find an answer to the ongoing crises we face. That answer is in your hands and mine…we just have to hear from God, through prayer and intercession.

God Uses Flawed People

God Uses Flawed People

Moses had been called to lead a company of people that continually grumbled, complained, and finally mutinied. It was not surprising that eventually, Moses’ patience reached its breaking point, and in anger, he failed to follow God’s instructions. He disobeyed God at that one crucial juncture, showing a lack of trust in God’s ability to provide, and his punishment was that he would not be allowed to enter into the promised land. Instead, that honor would belong to his successor, Joshua.

However, God did take Moses to the top of the mountain and allow him to see the other side—the land that flowed with milk and honey. Then Moses died, and the Lord buried him. As we read in Deuteronomy 34:5–6: “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day.”

Despite his missteps, Moses’ life was characterized by obedience. He led a nation of rebellious, dissatisfied, disobedient, quarrelsome, and complaining people through the wilderness to the banks of the Jordan River. Through all the ups and downs, the years of wandering in the desert, Moses held high the name of Jehovah-Nissi—God our Banner. It was a banner of encouragement “to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11b).

Moses was able to defeat the forces of the Enemy because he was submissive to God’s will. He delivered his people from the chains of darkness and degradation because he complied with Jehovah’s instructions. Moses’ obedience and trust won him unfailing favor with God, and he is still known as a hero of the faith. This is not because he was perfect, but because he was obedient. All of us fail, sin, and fall short. Yet in his grace and mercy, God forgives us and still uses us for His work. Nothing in the past should deter you from obeying God today.

Obedience, Praise, and Power

Obedience, Praise, and Power

Imagine how Joshua must felt have when God ordered him to have the children of Israel march around Jericho for seven days. He was still new in the job of leading the Jewish people, and he had the unenviable task of following Moses in that role. Now he was facing a city that he had no hope of defeating militarily, and God had ordered him to do something that didn’t make sense in the natural.

Could the leader of the Israelites secretly have wondered if it was an exercise in futility? Jehovah had given the people specific instructions regarding the city that now stood between the sojourners and their promised land, and the plan must have seemed fraught with pitfalls. The people would be exposed to possible attack from those inside the city’s walls.  They would be mocked and ridiculed; what good would that do? Marching around in a circle?! They were also to carry their trumpets, yet not utter a sound.

So it was, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord advanced and blew the trumpets, and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them. The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. Now Joshua had commanded the people, saying, “You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout.” —Joshua 6:8–10

After six days of what surely must have felt like utter nonsense, they were to follow the same routine…but with two notable exceptions: They were to march seven times, and then the people were to shout in praise to Jehovah for delivering the city into their hands. Obedience is the key to moving the hand of God, even when we do not understand what He is doing. When we obey Him in a spirit of praise, He works in ways that man cannot understand—or stand against.

“God Heard”

“God Heard”

Hannah, wife of Elkanah, a Kohathite of the tribe of Levi, must have felt a great sense of despair when, month after month, she remained barren.  Hannah might have felt that by not bearing a child with Elkanah, she lacked status and merit in his eyes.  Author and professor Dr. Noreen Jacks wrote of the stigma of barrenness: “Barren women were habitually taunted and ridiculed, made to feel like second class citizens, and were considered a public embarrassment to their husbands.  The shame of barrenness was always on the minds of infertile couples.  In some societies, husbands were free to acquire secondary wives or concubines to fulfill their need for progeny, preferably a male heir.”

A childless couple faced an uncertain future with no offspring to work the fields, tend the herds, and assist with the daily chores in the home.  Even worse, who would care for the couple in old age, mourn their passing, bury them with dignity, memorialize them annually, and carry the family name to the next generation and beyond?  Such were the time-honored duties of one’s loyal children.  With critical needs of this magnitude, it is not surprising that desperate people in the ancient world were obsessed with reproduction of the species.

It must have been emotionally draining for both Hannah and her husband that she had failed to present him with a child from their union.  Being from the tribe of Levi, Elkanah was likely among those responsible for leading praise and worship in the tabernacle at Shiloh.  Each year he was summoned for several weeks to serve Jehovah.  As a faithful and devout wife, Hannah often accompanied him.  While Elkanah fulfilled his duties in the tabernacle, Hannah would slip away to a quiet place in the tabernacle to petition for Jehovah’s favor and for an end to her infertility.

One day as she prayed fervently, she was in such despair that her lips moved silently as tears rained unchecked down her cheeks.  Only a barren woman can totally understand Hannah’s sense of frustration and unhappiness and her petition for a son in her despair.  When Eli, the high priest, saw her he came to the erroneous conclusion that the woman was drunk and had no place in the vicinity of the tabernacle.  He marched over to where Hannah bowed beneath her burden of hopelessness, reprimanded her, and then shamed her drunken state.

Aghast at his rebuke, Hannah responded: “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15, ESV).  Eli then blessed her and sent her on her way with the inexplicable sense of peace and hope that Jehovah had heard her prayer.  Assuredly He had; soon Hannah was able to reveal to Elkanah that she was with child, and not many months later, she presented Elkanah with a child that she had named Samuel, which means “God heard.”

Prayer and Spiritual Warfare

Prayer and Spiritual Warfare

The time has come for Christians everywhere to stand up and “Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly” (Joel 2:15). There is a gap, a breach to be filled, and a price to be paid. Dedicated watchmen are needed on every wall. God’s Word is rife with examples of intercessors who prevailed against the Enemy, the prayer warriors of Hebrews 11 who subdued kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, set armies to flight, raised the dead, and secured the promises of God—all through faith in God and prayer!

Daniel put his life on the line by praying three times a day despite the king’s order to abstain. Prayer is a priority we cannot and must not overlook. Israel’s, and indeed America’s, future hope lies in the hands of prayer warriors, those who will take up the banner and commit to prayer. Prayer is not the last resort; it is the first step in winning the battle against the evil that stalks this world today.

If Daniel prayed and mighty angels were sent to do battle against demon spirits, so can you and I. Since Daniel lived in the Babylonian Empire, it is quite possible that the prince of Persia he fought in the spirit realm was one of the same spirits at work today to bring death and destruction. Regardless of which spirits are now involved or how many there are, the clarion call goes out to God-fearing people everywhere to man the battle stations and fight the war in prayer.

Just as America has been forced to take the war on terrorism to the battlefields of the nations that sponsor it, we must take our fight to the battlefield in the spiritual realm to defeat the demons that sponsor it. We must take the battle to the Enemy and defeat them through prayer in the name of Jesus! Prayer is the only exploit that takes hold of eternity. It is the action that touches heaven and moves earth.

Prayer pierces the heart of God, turns the head of God, and moves the hand of God. It’s worth repeating again: for a Christian, prayer is not the last resort. Prayer must always be the first line of defense! Through prayer, we must do everything possible to overthrow kingdoms of darkness, shut the mouths of the lions of terror, and quench the flames of hell by the power of almighty God! How you and I respond to God’s call to pray will determine whether we succeed or fail. The people of God have been called to intercede for our world. Will you accept the call?

God Hears Our Prayers

God Hears Our Prayers

Prayer is as essential as air and water if we are to maintain a spiritual life of constant contact with God. If we don’t make that connection, no matter how sincere our intentions, we will not see a change in the circumstances of our life. We must pray! James 4:2 tells us: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”

During a dark hour of Israel’s history, the Assyrians demanded heavy tribute from King Hezekiah. In response, Hezekiah stripped the Temple of its gold and silver in order to meet that demand. Still, that was not enough; the Assyrians mounted an attack against the city of Jerusalem. When King Hezekiah was informed in a letter from the king of Assyria that Israel would be destroyed if the demands were not met, he took the letter to the Temple.

There, in the presence of God, he spread the letter on the altar and prayed: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. . . . Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone” (2 Kings 19:15–16, 19).

God answered the king’s prayer with an overwhelming victory! The Bible says the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. In great gratitude for God’s mercy, Hezekiah cleansed, repaired, and reopened the Temple of God. Worship to Jehovah was restored, daily sacrifices were resumed, and the Passover Feast was again celebrated by the nation of Israel.

Years earlier, when King Solomon had prayed at the dedication of the Temple, God revealed himself and His plan to Solomon with great power: “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (2 Chronicles 7:12–16).

Isaiah encouraged the Israelites with: “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’” (Isaiah 58:9).  God hears when we call on Him.