Since Ecclesiastes reminds us that “there is nothing new under the sun.” [ref. Eccl. 1:9], its quite possible someone else far smarter that me said it first; but it is something I truly believe.
That being said, the Bible records repeated circumstances when significant things happened because God’s people prayed, and each of these moments illustrates the power and priority of prayer.
One of the most striking examples is found in 1 Kings 18. This is where Elijah had the high noon showdown with the prophets of Baal. You can read it if you are not familiar with it; but after all the hoopla of the prophets of Baal, Elijah stepped up and offered a very simple yet powerful prayer. He prayed:
“O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” [1 Kings 18:36-37]
In response to that prayer, the fire of the Lord fell [v. 38] and a nation was changed.
It’s a pretty cool moment, but notice that it was only after Elijah prayed that the Lord moved. His prayer precipitated a response from God, and that response led to an even greater response. Verse 39 captures it. Check it out: When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!”
Through prayer, a nation was transformed as the people turned their hearts back to God.
What’s the point?
When God’s people pray, God moves.
Nothing we do as people, or as a church, will ever be more impactful than prayer. Jim Cymbala said it well in his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. He wrote, “No matter what I preach or what we claim to believe in our heads, the future will depend upon our times of prayer.”
That is powerful truth!
The 19th Century British preacher and theologian, Charles Spurgeon, understood this reality when we said: “The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be a slothfulness in prayer.”
What America is most lacking is not preachers, books, Bible translations or grand ministry plans. What we lack is passion to pray until the King of kings and Lord of lords shows Himself and His power…by falling upon us like He did that day on Mount Carmel.
There is certainly no lack of issues, problems or challenges in a church of 3000+. Like any other church, we have plenty of them; and those things often consume my thoughts and time. But if I am honest, the thing that causes me the greatest concern is that we could see our time here on earth pass by without seeing the Lord move mightily on our behalf.
The greatest movements of God start in the prayers of His people.
James 5:17 reminds us that “Elijah was a man like us.” He was like you & me; and we can be greatly encouraged to know that we can also make a difference right now through prayer.
Will you join me in praying for those in this region who need to turn their hearts back to God and surrender to the lordship of Jesus?
O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God and that we are your servants and have done all these things at your command. Answer us, O LORD, answer us, so these people…the people of the Quad Cities and beyond…will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again. May your Spirit fall from Heaven as the fire fell on Mount Carmel. Consume us as living sacrifices for Your glory! In Jesus name I pray AMEN.