On January 15th, seventy-two world leaders met in Paris with the intent of taking Israeli land and giving it to the Palestinians. When word of this came, Christians all around the world hit their knees to pray for God’s chosen nation, and I learned a valuable lesson about prayer. When we come to God in fervent prayer, the Holy Spirit really does intercede for us. I know this is kind of a “duh” for some of you. And of course, we have Scripture that tells us just that.
Romans 8:26-27 (NKJV) says: Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
I’ve always imagined that the Spirit communicates to God at those times in this guttural, mystical, rumbling and groaning that is like an alien language only God, Yeshua, and the Holy Spirit can understand. Truthfully I don’t really know how to understand those verses, but I have learned another way the Spirit helps us in prayer. He speaks to our hearts ways to pray. A number of years ago, while praying for a particular situation, the Spirit laid an Old Testament Bible story on my heart. I began to pray for this situation using how God worked in the story to ask Him to work in my situation. At that time, I did not recognize that it was the Sprit who gave me that direction. I didn’t even recognize it as direction from Him. But after what happened on the 15th, I see it, and am amazed by it.
Let me step back to last week and the situation with the UN and Israel. An urgent call for prayer went out on Facebook on Saturday, January 14th. Christians were being asked to pray for Israel asking that God would step in to halt what the UN was planning on doing. I felt a burning urgency to pray for them, and I did time and again. Then I heard the Spirit speak two names to me, Balaam and Balak. You have to go back to the book of Numbers and the Israelite’s time wandering in the dessert to find these two fellows.
Balak was the king of Moab. He was frightened by the reputation of the Israelites whose God defeated other nations and now appeared to be headed his way. Balak sent for the pagan prophet Balaam. His desire was to hire Balaam to curse Israel. God, however, was not going to allow that. He told Balaam that he was only to speak the words that God gave him. Balaam and Balak tried to curse Israel four times. Each time, God put words of blessing in Balaam’s mouth. Take the time to read this story found in Numbers 22-24. In case it is unfamiliar to you, allow me the fun of a little spoiler…this is where an animal speaks.
Joshua 24:9-10 sums it up: “Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand.”
I began to pray that, just as God caused Balaam’s curses to be turned to blessings, so would the words of the leaders at the UN. I fervently prayed for blessings instead of curses.
Sunday evening I saw word that the intended resolution had failed. One nation stood against the resolution, and I praised God for answered prayer. It wasn’t until Monday, however, that I learned how much of an answer to prayer it really was. I learned that there was so much discussion and debate among the 72 nations, that by the time the resolution came to a vote, it had been watered down to the point that it was essentially worthless…and harmless to Israel.
God had stepped in and made the curses ineffective. The words they intended to speak against Israel became nothing. As soon as I heard this report, I understood that thinking to pray for this situation to resolve the way it had in the time of Balaam and Balak was more than just a Bible story that popped into my head. It was the Holy Spirit guiding my prayers, so that they would be the most effective they could be. I wonder how many other people were praying the same thing? And what different direction He gave to other Christians so that all areas were covered- talk about a community organizer!
Secondary to this lesson came a better understanding of James 5:16b-18 (NKJV) – “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”
Elijah is the example James gives to explain the first statement. Elijah prayed earnestly and pointedly (effectively and fervently). One Bible version uses the word urgent. Elijah’s prayer was urgent and specific. God answered his prayer, exactly as it was requested.
When we pray, we are to pray specifically.
Matthew 6:7 says the following: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that hey will be heard for their many words.” Be direct, and to the point. But then there is this verse in 1 John (5:14-15) – “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
The question I have always had is, how do I know what God’s will is? How can I pray specifically and to the point when I don’t know the will of God?
Yet Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to “come boldly to the throne of grace.” Here is the understanding the Spirit has given me on this: We are to pray with boldness, as ones who are confident that we are praying the will of God. We are to pray with urgency and in earnest, and we are to be specific with our requests. The Holy Spirit is in us, giving us direction in our prayers, and interceding for us before the Father. We are to trust God to answer according to His will.
There will be times when we have not prayed what is His will no matter how boldly we come to Him. There will still be times when we pray outside of the guidance of the Spirit. But I believe that if we follow the guidance given to us in the Scriptures and pray as we have never prayed before, we will see the mighty hand of God at work in ways we have not seen before in our lives, in our nation, and in the world.
I want to go back a minute to James 5:16. Notice that he says the prayers of a righteous man will avail much. I don’t know about you, but I very rarely feel righteous. I’m too familiar with my own sin. But God reminded me that as a Christian, I wear the righteousness of Yeshua. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And James points out that Elijah had a nature like ours. Yet because we are covered in the righteousness of Messiah, our prayers can be just as powerful as Elijah’s. Having the righteousness of Messiah does not negate the need to seek forgiveness in order for our prayers to be heard, however. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” We must come boldly before the throne of grace…grace…would not the presence and grace of God cause us to bow humbly and confess our sins before Him before presenting our petitions?
One final verse on prayer. Yeshua said (John 14:13), “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” This verse is the reason I pray in Yeshua’s name, rather than Jesus’ name. Yeshua was Jewish. He spoke Hebrew, as did his parents. The name the angel Gabriel told Joseph and Mary to give to the Son of God was Yeshua, not the Greek translation, Jesus. If we are to pray everything in the name of the Son, then I chose to pray it in His real name. Either way, it is a key direction given by our Savior, and one we should not slack away from.
May our prayers be effective, fervent, and bold. May God answer in mighty ways for His glory and praise.
*All verses are taken from the New King James Version