Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Oh, that men (and women) would praise the Lord for His goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to (His) children! For He satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with good…He hushes the storm to a calm and to a gentle whisper, so that the waves of the sea are still.”
Psalm 107: 8, 9, 29
“Only when Christ opened thine ear to the storm, did He open thine ear to the stillness.”
Today’s Study Text:
“As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before Whom I stand, there shall not be dew or rain these years but according to My word.”
1 Kings 17: 1
“Real Prayer -- Real Strength”
“The best prayers have often more groans than words.”
How do I view the place prayer holds in my personal life?
Do I ever feel too busy to take the time for “real” prayer in my life?
“No one should give the answer that it is impossible for a man (or woman) occupied with worldly cares to pray always. You can set up an altar to God in your mind by means of prayer. And so it is fitting to pray at your trade, on a journey, standing at a counter, or sitting at your handicraft.”
“When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words than thy words be without heart.”
With a courage unseen in the face of pervasive evil and a strength of character borne of divine origin, Elijah boldly stood before King Ahab and informed him that God was not only alive, but that a time of judgment had come. God, in response to the prayers of His faithful children, was putting Ahab and Jezebel, along with their evil co-horts, the prophets of Baal, on notice that their false rulership was contested.
For an unknown amount of time, it had appeared to the people of Israel, who were loyal to God, that the rampant spread of evil had proliferated -- unchecked! From Jeroboam’s take over of the throne of Israel to Ahab’s rule, this 40 year time-span, had been consumed by six evil kings -- one worse than another. Just think of how the people who prayed for God to intervene during this time period must have felt as they watched with horror as their society, as they knew it, went to hell in a handbasket.
Maybe they, like Elijah, were “jealous” for the name of God. And they began to wonder what would happen to God’s followers, especially after hearing about Jezebel’s personal vendetta to eliminate all God’s prophets in Israel. One thing is clear, though, as the Apostle James writes, one prophet, Elijah was “praying earnestly for it not to rain” (James 5: 17, Amplified Bible).
You might wonder why Elijah was interceding in such a specific way. This interested me until I found out that the earthly god Baal was believed to control rain and fertility. It is more than ironic that the God of heaven, the Creator of the sky and rain was being challenged by an earthly idol that was worshipped for the ability to be a “rainmaker.”
Since we know that Elijah’s relationship with God wasn’t some “here-today-gone-tomorrow” affair, we can be certain he was well aware of the proclamation by Moses to the children of Israel, when God warned His children that if, by their own choice, they decided to close their ears to His Word, certain “curses” would befall them, not the least being this pronouncement: “Thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 28: 23, 24, KJV).
As the Bible confirms, Elijah the unknown nobody, living in remote Gilead, was praying that God’s Word would be fulfilled. Not only does James 5: 17 tell us that Elijah prayed that it would not rain, but it also goes on to report that, “no rain fell on the earth for three years and six months.” Talk about an answered prayer!
What encourages my heart today is that when Elijah left his home in Gilead, and made his way to Ahab’s palace, he had to pass by streams that were filled and flowing. On his journey to Samaria, he witnessed the beauty of fertile green land and lush forests. And yet, he continued on his heavenly mission, to inform the king that everything was going to become dry as a bone. I tell you, I might have asked myself if I knew what I was doing. But not Elijah, for the power behind his strength was based on the power of his prayers. And the power of his prayers was based on the God he trusted.
Recently, I was readying a biography about the great English Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon. One experience told of a time when Pastor Spurgeon was taking a group through his Metropolitan Tabernacle in London and in the basement, as they passed a room, prayers could be heard and Pastor Spurgeon noted that this room was the “power center” of the strength of the church. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, prayers were continuously offered for the ministry of that church in London, by its praying members.
This dedication to a life of prayer is exactly what we see in Elijah’s committed pleas. And just as Elijah lifted his voice to heaven on behalf of the trouble in Israel, so our heavenly Father invites us to call on Him regarding the personal needs we face in our lives every day.
In a treasure of a book, Praying Successfully, some of Pastor Spurgeon’s most powerful sermons on prayer are shared. One of my favorites is based on the text found in Psalm 50: 15, KJV, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.” As I’ve read our recent prayer requests, there is no doubt in my mind that many of God’s daughters and sons are facing severe trouble right now, be it health issues, financial challenges, family crisis or internal upheaval. If you are in trouble, then God has asked you to “Call on Me.” Not as a last resort, but as your first line of defense.
In his sermon, Pastor Spurgeon offers this encouragement which applies to us as we pray. “God loves sincerity. When we mean it; when the soul melts in prayer; when it is no sham, no vain performance but a real heartbreaking, agonizing cry, God accepts it. That is why He says, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble.’ Let me suppose there is someone who is in trouble…I wish you would pray now. You can plead, ‘Lord, this is a day of trouble! I am in great affliction, and my case is urgent!’ Then state what your trouble is -- a sick husband, a bankrupt business, your failing health or poverty staring you in the face. Say unto the Lord of mercy, ‘My Lord, if ever a person was in a day of trouble, I am. Therefore I pray to You now because You have said, Call! This is the hour that You have appointed for appealing to You: this dark, stormy day. If ever there was a person who had a right to pray according to Your word, I do, for I am in trouble. Therefore, I will make use of the very time I am in as a plea to You. Do, I entreat You, hear Your servant’s cry in this midnight hour!”
I will freely admit, as I read these beautiful words, tears rolled down my cheeks for who among us hasn’t found our lives, maybe more than once, nearly wiped-out by trouble. When the future looms before us like an impending cloud of doom, what a comfort we can find in “real prayer” for this is where you and I will receive “real strength.”
Today’s “Inspiration” begins with a quote by John Bunyan. Author and Pastor John Piper’s book, The Hidden Smile of God, contains detailed stories about the life of John Bunyan who is best known as the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, written during his lengthy imprisonment in Bedford Jail. During this time of affliction, separated from family and friends, John Bunyan wrote, “I found it a hard work to pray to God because despair was swallowing me up.” But as he later admitted, during this time of suffering, he came to “live upon God that is invisible.”
At a time in history when God seemed to be “invisible,” Elijah was building a daily prayer life that at the moment of God’s calling, gave him the strength to not only believe what God said was true, but he also believed God’s Word would be fulfilled. From the “real strength” given to him by “real prayer,” he delivered a message to King Ahab -- “Before God whom I stand, His word will come true. The sky will be brass and the earth will be iron.”
“Prayer is a summit meeting in the throne room of the universe.”
Ralph A. Hearing
“Lord, teach me to pray, to want to pray, to delight to pray. When I pray, teach me to pray with faith, with hope, with love. Let me make prayer my first work, my persistent work, my most important work; work that I do for You, for others, for the whole world. Let my prayer be a channel for Your love, Your grace, Your peace for those for whom I pray, and for myself, O dear and blessed Lord.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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