As I sat and prepared over the little free time I had this week, preparing for today’s sermon at Good News, I was convicted about my own prayer life. I poured over some of the prayers of the great men of the Bible and realized that I need to pray more. I need to intercede more on behalf of my fellow man the way that the great men of the Bible did. I would like to share what I learned this week so that you can be strengthened spiritually as well as being a tool for me to think through the sermon before I preach it later on this morning.
I came across a good quote this morning from a man named Soren Kierkegaard and I would like to share it because there is much truth to it and it is one of the essential Biblical teachings on prayer.
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
This happened to 5 great men in the Bible and I would like to share their examples in this article. The men and their prayers are all found in the Word of God, the source of our understanding of all spiritual things. There are; Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Paul. For the sake of space, I will link to all of the Biblical Texts but I do encourage you to open and read the passages.
Moses has to lead a very difficult people through the wilderness and in to the Promised Land. This is not an easy task and because of the difficult nature of the task, Moses totally depends upon God for everything. In the midst of a conflict between the people and Moses, God intervenes and puts Moses to the test saying that He will wipe the people out and start over with him (Moses) which would still be true to the Covenant promise that He made to Abraham all of those years ago. Moses immediately intercedes because he cares about the Name of God, that it will not be spoken bad about. He appeals to the character of God and brings up all of the promises that God made to His people as well as the fact that the Egyptians are just looking for a reason to mock the God who whipped them severely. This lesson is not for God, it is for Moses. Then, after speaking about the Name and character of his God, he moves to the people and prays for them. They do not deserve God’s mercy nor do they deserve Moses’ goodness in sacrificially leading them as well as praying on their behalf. As believers we are to be the same way. We work with and are surrounded by people who do not deserve God’s mercy or our service but that is what God has called us to show them; His mercy through our service. The first step in showing this mercy is by interceding on their behalf and praying for them. Do you pray for the people around you, especially for the ones who are stubborn and hard to deal with? Do you do it because God has shown you mercy? If you do not, then why not? Could it be that you do not realize how merciful God is to you? I was greatly convicted by this passage. I want to be more like Moses, praying for the people around me so that they will no longer mock the Name of God but instead learn to praise and worship the Name of God.
Abraham was a man who would influence human history as well as eternity. Through him, God would bring about the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Before any of that would ever take place, Abraham had to trust the Lord day in and day out, similar to Moses. In fact, Abraham was an example whom Moses would later follow. Abraham had a message from God. He had the promises. He could have been satisfied with that and said (literally), “to hell with the rest of you, I know where I am going in this life and in the after life”. He was not like that though. He was surrounded by the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah yet he cared about people and therefore interceded on their behalf, hoping to give them more time and another chance to repent of their ways. He does all that he can do for them even though they do not deserve his mercy. He had experienced the mercy of God and wanted to extend that mercy to the wicked people around him. They were so selfish that they did not appreciate or even care about his sacrifice yet that did not stop him. We also are surrounded by wicked people who mock the Name of God and do not appreciate anything yet they can still experience the mercy of God and we are called to show it to them the way that God has shown it to us. Are you doing this? Do you pray for the wicked people around you or do you say, “to hell with them, I know where I am going and anyway, they would not appreciate my service so why bother?”. I was greatly convicted this week to be more like Abraham, reaching out with God’s mercy to the wicked people around me even though they may not appreciate what I do. They may even become hostile but that is okay. In the previous situation, the people often decided that they wanted to kill Moses for his sacrifice and service to them.
Daniel’s task was a bit different. He interceded on behalf of his nation, a nation that had once embraced God but because of their sin and the consequences of that sin, had forgotten about their God. They were living as if He did not exist or did not care if He did exist (very similar to the USA today). Like Abraham and Moses, Daniel appeals to God’s character for the good of His Name on this earth. Again, Daniel does not teach God anything through this prayer, instead, he reminds himself of who God is and what all He has done for him and his people. Daniel understands why the state of his nation is what it is, because of their sin. They forgot about God and began to serve their sin nature walking further and further away from God. First Daniel confesses his own sins as well as the sins of his people. He then asks for forgiveness and writes down his prayer so that he can teach his people about God, His ways, His mercy, His forgiveness, and the bright future that He has for them if they will just repent of their actions and return to Him. Once again, these people did not deserve God’s mercy nor did they deserve Daniel’s faithful service to them. He did not look at their actions or their reactions. He focused on God. Since he had been shown the mercy and favor of God he wanted to show those same things to his people whether they listen to him or not. What about you, do you live among a people who once embraced God and now has almost completely forgotten Him? Do you intercede on their behalf? I was once again greatly convicted by this passage because I want to be more like Daniel. I need to be more like Daniel, praying for my people and seeking to teach them to return to God.
Nehemiah lived in a society that had fallen apart. In fact, he was no longer living in that society when his book opens. He was a slave in a foreign land yet he had not forgotten about his people or his country. He received a calling from God to go back to his land and rebuild a fallen society. In order to do so, he had to depend totally upon God which is very similar to Moses and Abraham. He followed in their footsteps and interceded with God on behalf of that fallen society. He begins his prayer as Moses did, as Abraham did, and as Daniel did. He appeals to God’s character and Name. He knew His God personally, intimately. Nehemiah understood the root of all societal problems, sin. This was before the white-washing of modern psychology which teaches people to blame their environment for society’s problems instead of themselves because of their own poor choices. He understood that if society were ever going to change then the people must admit their sin (take blame for their actions), repent of all of the evil that they had done, return to God, and walk with Him faithfully day in and day out. Because of these factors, Nehemiah prays for repentance and spiritual revival among his people. We live in a similar society today. There are many, many problems as a result people’s sins. Instead of playing the blame game, we need to admit our faults, confess our sins, repent of them, return to God, and walk with Him faithfully. Is that your prayer for your people? Do you need to spend more time in prayer, praying for these specific things as Nehemiah did? I sure know that I do. Are you going to do something about it or just say, “Lord, please come back soon. I can’t take it here any longer.”? Take the first step. Hit your knees and intercede before God on behalf of the wicked people around you and you will be amazed at what God will do.
The final prayer that I would like to consider is a prayer that St. Paul offered up to God on behalf of his disciples. If you are a New Testament believer then you are in the process of being a disciple and making disciples. In order to learn how to pray for your disciples, I would advise to read and study all of Paul’s prayers for his disciples. There is so much to learn. Paul, as busy as he was traveling and teaching the Word of God, always found time to pray on behalf of his disciples. He prayed specific prayers for them. He desired that they would grow spiritually so he taught them the Word of God and prayed that It would take root. He wanted them to have great spiritual fruit in their lives and he constantly prayed for this to happen. I need to spend more time praying for my own disciples, praying specific prayers for them that they would grow spiritually and produce awesome spiritual fruit for the Lord. Do you have disciples for whom you constantly pray? Do you know their spiritual needs and pray for those specific needs? I want and need to be more like Paul, investing a lot of time in intercessory prayer on behalf of my disciples. May the Lord help me apply all that I have learned this week, living a life of prayer day in and day out so that I can be changed and see God work in a mighty way.