4-2 The Power Of Prayer
In all the above examples, prayer and repentance can change God's stated purpose.
Prayer changes things. It really does. What would otherwise have
happened can be changed by prayer. We, little and tiny humans, can
change the mind of Almighty God. This is the extent of His sensitivity
to us. Moses, Samuel and Jeremiah had the power to within limits
change God’s mind towards His people (Jer. 15:1). David prayed and
fasted for his child by Bathsheba not to die- even though God had
said that it would (2 Sam. 12:16). He clearly believed that God
was a God who was open to changing in response to prayer. The prayer
of a righteous man can even affect how God may hear the prayers
of less spiritually committed people- thus Nehemiah prayed that
God would hear the prayers of the rest of Israel in captivity (Neh.
1:11). Reflect how Abraham reasoned with God over Sodom's destruction.
If 40 righteous had been found there....it wouldn't have been destroyed,
thanks to Abraham's prayer. And he reasons with God, down to 10
righteous. Now I ask...if Abraham had asked: " If...one
righteous man be found there...??" . Would God have said 'No'?
We don't know, but the impression I have is He would have agreed.
The salvation of Sodom depended upon Abraham’s breadth of vision.
God's mercy is upon us, and upon others, according as we hope in
Him. Abraham's amazing spiritual ambition in changing the mind of
God and reasoning with Him is really intended to be our example.
Gideon picked up almost the very words of Abraham in Gen. 18:32
when he asks God "Do not let your wrath blaze...let me speak
just once more" (Jud. 6:39). And if Abraham's spirit in prayer
could influence Gideon... it can echo down through a few more centuries
to influence us too.
All of the above may have sounded philosophical. But the bottom
line is: prayer changes things. And seeing that it does, well then
pray on your knees, fervently! Not cuddled up in bed about
to fall asleep. Jacob is a symbol of us all. He became Israel, he
who struggles with God. And this is a key feature of all those who
comprise the true Israel. When God told Moses to leave Him alone
to destroy them, and go back down to the people immediately (Dt.
9:12), Moses stayed on to plead with God not to destroy them. And
God listened (Ex. 32:7-14). He repented of the evil He had thought
to do. He changed His mind, because Moses stayed on. There is an
element of striving with God in prayer, knowing that His mind is
open to change (Rom. ). This is what stimulates me to what
intensity in prayer I can muster. That God is open to hearing
and even changing His holy mind about something. Such is His sensitivity
to us. Such is His love. And such is the scary implication of the
total freewill which the Father has afforded us. This is why God
could reason with Moses as a man speaks to his friend and vice versa.
It was a dynamic, two way relationship in thought and prayer and
being. This is why Jesus likens requesting things from God to a
man asking a favour of his friend at midnight (Lk. 11:5,9). We are
to see God as our friend to whom like Abraham, we respectfully
and rather awkwardly present ourselves. And He sees us as His
friends. There's a wonderful mutuality between a man and his God.
Revelation describes Angels rushing in response to human prayers, vials of
judgment being poured out on earth as a result of the incense of
prayer accumulating...this is the power of prayer. If prayer is
like incense, we must give Dt. 33:10 RVmg. its full weight- that
incense would come up "in your nostrils". This is how
intimately we are invited to see our prayers being received by God;
this is the power of prayer. The golden vials full of prayers of
Rev. 5:8 become the vials of judgments which are poured out on the
land in Rev. 8:5- so close is the connection between the events
that mould history, and the incense of prayer. The way the Angel
comes out from the incense altar to begin the final judgments implies
that the beginning of the end of human history is related to our
prayers (Rev. 14:18). The more of it, the greater and stronger the
effect- that was the lesson of the allusion to prayer as incense.
The more the unjust judge was nagged [cp. prayer], the more he responded.
This is why the Lord’s rememberancers remind Him day and night of
the needs of His people (Is. 62:6 RV). It really does produce response
in Heaven that would not otherwise happen. Psalm 18 is full of the
wonder of this. David marvels that when he cried to his God, "
then the earth shook and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains
were disturbed" as God " came down" in response to
his mere human words and thoughts, prayerfully expressed.
The final reminder at the end of the Lord’s prayer that “thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory” is evidently a conscious reference to David’s prayer on gathering materials to build the temple: “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1 Chron. 29:11). The context is David saying that God can do absolutely everything, because absolutely everything, past, present and future, belongs to Him. He continues: “Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou rulest over all; and in thy hand is power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all” (1 Chron. 29:12). So what David is saying is that because the Kingdom, power and glory all belong to God, absolutely every material thing and every possible action is His and within His potential power to do for us… therefore we leave our prayer on that note. It’s not only a note of praise, but an expression of faith that, quite simply, God can and will provide, in the very end.
Jer. 27:22 states that the temple vessels “shall be carried to Babylon”. And yet the people of Jeremiah’s time were urged to “now make intercession to the Lord of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the Lord… go not to Babylon” (Jer. 27:18). An absolute unconditional statement of God’s intentions can be changed by prayer. This is how powerful prayer is.
Finally, some encouragement not to fear the awesomeness of the power of prayer. Faith in prayer can result in mountains being cast into the sea. Yet this same idea occurs in Rev. 8:8 describing an Angel casting a mountain into the sea. The idea surely is that our prayers here on earth can really result in Angels acting from Heaven in a dramatic way here on earth. And yet Ps. 46:2 encourages us not to fear when mountains are cast into the sea. Putting the passages together, we're surely intended to realize that answers to bold prayer can actually be quite terrifying when they actually happen. I think we can all think of examples in our lives. The young sister prays to be able to go do missionary work; and when she's out there in the field, the answer to that prayer can seem terrifying. Another young sister pleads to become pregnant; and then there's some element of fear when that mountain is cast into the sea, and she realizes she is expecting a child.