Saving Prayer

It was John Wesley who said “God does nothing on earth save in response to believing prayer”. Think about that sentence for the moment. Read it again. Consider the implications. “God does nothing on earth save in response to believing prayer”.

The first question which this statement raises is “Is that true?”. There is a remarkable passage in Ezekiel in which God indicates that the only reason He destroyed Israel is because He could find no-one to “stand in the gap” for Israel (Ezekiel 22:30-31). When God told Elijah that He was about to end the three-year drought, Elijah had to pray seven times before the rain came, even though God had told him His plan (1 Kings 18). Daniel prayed for Israel’s release from captivity, and was met by the angel Gabriel, who indicated that he had been dispatched immediately Daniel began praying. It took him 21 days to penetrate the heavenly warfare and reach Daniel. On arrival, he informed Daniel that he had “come in response to your words.”

Such passages are only the tip of the iceberg which shows how much God acts in response to prayer. And they pose the question back to us, “How many promises of God have gone unfulfilled because of my failure to pray?

E.M. Bounds said “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.... The prayers of God's saints are the capital stock of heaven by which God carries on His great work upon earth. God conditions the very life and prosperity of His cause on prayer.”
I feel uncomfortable with Wesley’s remarks, partly because it places a much greater responsibility upon me to do the work of God. If God does all without me (and He certainly could), then it matters less whether I am obedient or not. But if the eternal destiny, if the depth of struggle of another, if the unfolding of God’s plan depends upon my involvement through prayer, then my failure to pray shapes the world (at the very least somebody’s world).

And this calls into question what we mean by prayer, and what it is to pray. Clearly it is to be part of unfolding God’s purposes on earth. I would suggest that it is time to put the meeting back into prayer meeting! Prayer as meeting with God, prayer as meeting the purposes of God, prayer as an encounter.

But let’s leave that thought for another time. How goes your part in unfolding God’s plans and purposes?

August 13, 2000
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