Throughout my life, there has been one thing that I have resisted more than any other. I wish this could be some form of sin or another, but it’s not. Naturally, there are many sins I’ve dealt with but those are not what drive weariness down in my soul. Rather, I have resisted spending my time in prayer unless I’ve felt it absolutely necessary. I have not been what you would call a man of prayer.
Prayer is one of those disciplines that we Christians are taught to do and are expected to be good at. If you’re a good Christian, you pray. Yet, regarding prayer, I find myself to be more like the Israelites in the days of the Judges than any of the Christians that I look up to.
When I read over the passages in the Old Testament, I see page after page of Israelites suffering under the oppression of their enemies. Sometimes, the opponent would dominate for 50 or 60 years, sometimes it would be 200 or 300 years. Then God would finally respond to the crisis saying something like, “I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. Ex. 6:5” Then the people would be delivered.
The reasons listed for the oppression vary, but they all come essentially to the same root: nobody cares to pray to God and He knows it. They often would rather sit in suffering or ask help from somewhere else than do the simple thing of asking the Lord for deliverance.
For that matter, I could be worse than the Israelites. Often, I find that I don’t want to ask anyone for anything. It’s a simple thing to call the bank when my card is not working, but I don’t want to do it. Instead, I wait and try again later, “maybe it’s fixed?” Still nothing.
But Chronicles tells us the real answer to the problem. Rather than sitting in the dust groaning and wondering if anyone out there will take interest and show mercy, there is a direct route to receiving rescue. Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
The recipe is simple. God may rescue us if we moan about something long enough to no one in particular. But He will forgive us and heal our broken land if we repent of our wickedness and seek after him.
If this doesn’t work then consider James 4:2b-3 “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
If you have checked yourself and know that your prayer is humble and that your desire is for the Lord and your prayer is still going unanswered then look to the example of the Israelite exiles in Babylon. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”” Daniel 3:16-18.
You see, this is the kind of prayer we need. The Lord desires to answer us and bring us back to Him. He wants us to have good things. But, he also wants us to desire Him above all else. The hard part about prayer isn’t asking God to give us things, rather it is praising Him and turning from our wickedness even if we might not get the thing we’re after.
If we could humble ourselves and pray, maybe we wouldn’t have to sit in the dust, groaning for a hundred years.