Our Pastor preached on prayer and praying recently. It wasn’t what he’d planned on preaching for that service . . . God had other plans, and faithful as always in going where God leads, Pastor went with God’s plan. Interestingly, to me, prayer was something God had been speaking to me about in the day before this service.
On the night that Pastor preached on prayer, he wondered what our services might be like if more people attended the prayer meetings that are held fifteen minutes before every Sunday evening service. There hadn’t been very many women or men in the prayer rooms on any given Sunday, or on this particular night. He asked if maybe we might be more fired up and open to God’s Word if we were in the prayer meeting, opening up our hearts to God and praying for each other and our lost family members, our sick family members, our grandchildren, our children, etc. He also wondered what some of the reasons were that a woman or man didn’t attend prayer meeting, and he said he’d like to hear, privately, the excuses we might have.
Notice that I said what excuses WE might have and not what excuses THEY might have. In that service, God was talking to every single person in that room. The words were coming from our Pastor, but they were words placed on his heart by God. I was one of those that God was speaking to, but I know that I wasn’t the only one in that room that felt like they were the one the words were being directed to.
Just for the record, I’m not good at out loud prayer, or group prayer. Prayer has always been a personal thing to me in how it is done. I do pray, on my own, daily, nightly . . . often several times during the day. My prayers are short, like: God, be with my son and his family as they bring home the new baby. Help them navigate the short nights and long days that a new baby brings with peace, good humor, and love. Or God, help me to be who and what you need me to be today. Or even, God, if I’m supposed to do something for you today, help me to see it, and to do it so that you are glorified. Your will God, not mine, be done. Some people, however, are super good at praying; they can pray at length, they can pray out loud, they can pray as soon as they’re asked to and don’t seem to be at a lack for the right thing to say. I’m not one of those.
The day before the above-mentioned service I was listening to another pastor and he said that one time the prophet Daniel had been praying and fasting for twenty-one days. He said there are several reasons why Daniel may have been praying at that time, and one of those reasons may have been because he longed for the Lord to reveal additional truth to him about the future of Israel. For three weeks he’d been praying but there seemed to be no answer to his prayer. Why would the Lord not immediately answer the petitions of His beloved Prophet?
Then, after twenty-one days the Arch Angel Gabriel appears before Daniel and tells him that his prayers had been heard. He tells Daniel that it had taken him those twenty-one days to reach him because he’d had to fight “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” – an evil angel – whose job was to see that Daniel’s prayers didn’t get answered. It took Gabriel and the Arch Angel Michael together to win the battle so that Gabriel could get to Daniel. At that point in my listening, the thought came to me that when we pray and don’t hear or see the answer we are looking for – could it be because the angel sent to deliver our answer is fighting battles designed to keep us from getting it?
Imagine the battle that goes up in the spiritual world when we pray. The angels for good are dispatched and the demons of darkness have to try to stop them. Now, to be fair, maybe our prayers don’t seem as big, to us, as what Daniel was asking God for – a vision for the future of Israel. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is just no. We don’t like to hear that, but sometimes it just is a plain and simple no. Sometimes, it’s the fact that our timing is not God’s timing. Maybe we’re asking for Him to heal our friend/family member, and nothing happens. Perhaps that’s because although God didn’t send that illness, God is using it to reach someone else; someone who needs to reach out to God.
Our Lord Jesus took the reality of Satan and his demonic forces seriously, and so should we. There is a spiritual war going on around us all the time. If Satan feels the necessity to send his forces out to try and block God’s responses when we pray, that right there tells us that prayer is power. Doesn’t that alone lift prayer out of the level of a side thought or something we’ll get to later, and show it to be one of our strongest and most important spiritual weapons? That brings what Pastor was preaching that night into crystal clear focus. How might WE aid our church services if WE used the power of our prayers in the minutes before service? How might WE aid the angels dispatched to answer our prayers for our friends, family, and others by using the power of prayer, together in God’s House?
Some who read this, might think that the Pastor preaching about prayer, and me hearing another preacher preach about prayer the day before, is all a coincidence. I say, think again. God speaks to us through others. The people he puts in our lives to help us through a hard time. The pastors in our churches that preach the Word as it is written, whether it feels good or not. If you're hearing the same thing, over consecutive days and weeks, try thinking about what might be happening in your life that God may be trying to help you with. The problem is whether we’re listening or not. If you’re not a believer, you won’t see the connection because you’re not listening or looking for it. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you’ll be listening for that gentle nudge, that stern, loving sermon, that word of love or hope from a friend.
The fact that I've been hearing about prayer a lot lately tells me that God is warning us that we need to pray. Our land desperately needs healing. Our people desperately need healing. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God says, “If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” We need to be listening. We need to be praying.
So, to bring this back to the last part of Pastors sermon that night, and his question regarding what excuse someone might have for not going into the prayer room, here’s mine:
I don’t go into the prayer room before service on Sunday nights, because a lot of times I don’t get to church until right before service. I have a lot I take care of at home, and I do my best just to get to church on time. That, however, is not the at heart reason. The main reason is that I haven’t felt that my presence would contribute anything in the prayer room. I’m not comfortable with a lot of different voices praying, like when Pastor opens up the service with prayer and everyone starts praying out loud. It’s very confusing to me. It’s taken me a long time to get used to hearing more than one voice pray during service, and it’s less confusing to me than it was, but I still have to focus on one voice and close out all the other voices as best possible.
So, if you’re wondering if after all of this, would I go into the prayer room now if I could be there early enough? The truth is that if MY God, who is very much present and moving in our church, puts it in our Pastors’ heart to speak of prayer, then I should listen . . . WE should listen, shouldn’t we? The truth is also that while I still may not be comfortable with it, and while I may still be confused in there and my praying may be silent . . . in my desire to see God’s will be done, I will go into the prayer room.