The Son of God had to suffer separation from God, the Father, for a time when sins of humanity were piled up on Him on the cross. Evil forces and the darkness of sin was so overwhelming that for three hours, from 1200 in the afternoon, the whole earth was covered with complete darkness. Despite this Lord Jesus did not lose faith and on completion of His work, surrendered His Spirit to the Father till His resurrection on the third day. In today’s world, when all around us, sin, hatred and violence has reached alarming proportions, people are losing faith and doubts start creeping in about offering prayers and about God answering. In such a situation most feel that the prayer itself has lost its value and efficacy.
What is the value of prayers? The last few days that the Lord spent with the disciples before His crucifiction, were spent in providing them a glimpse into the future and all that awaited them and us till His second coming. Just before His final prayer to God the Father, His words of consolation to the disciples were, ‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). It is surprising that those who were always trying to catch the Son of God in something that He spoke believed His words more, about His resurrection than the disciples who were so close to Him for more than three years. Day after the crucifiction, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pontius Pilate seeking a guard to be placed on the tomb and it be made secure for they said, ‘we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise’ (Matthew 27:62-66). This they sought to obviate stealing of the body to propagate lies about His resurrection.
Revelation was provided to Apostle John about the devil knowing and getting filled with great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time’ (Revelation 12:12). The cup of God’s wrath for the sinners was accepted by Lord Jesus on the cross, to buy their freedom from the clutches of the devil and that period of darkness on the cross is testimony of that. After the final battle, an angel and not some great and mighty warrior from heaven, came down with key to the bottomless pit and a great chain ‘and he laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him’ (Revelation 20:1-3). The devil’s power is in his lies and deception and once that is removed, he is powerless and easily defeated.
We are living in end-times and as per Lord Jesus, about that day and hour of His second coming, ‘no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ (Mark 13:32). This being so we are supposed to be ever ready to meet and join the Lord in the clouds. In this time of and going into great turbulence, each believer has a special role for self as well as for others. First of all I must make sure that for any reason I or anyone from my close family does not surrender to the temptations and lies of the devil. This requires close fellowship with each other and with God.
The first of the three pillars of a close relationship is worship, which was the devil’s role in heaven before his fall for he was equipped with ‘timbrels and pipes’ on the day of his being created by God (Ezekiel 28:13-14). The second is the message from God, His Word, and angel Gabriel is responsible for that, for he is the one who has always carried God’s Word all over the earth when commanded. The third is prayer, which role is performed by Archangel Michael and he is known as a mighty warrior and is supposed to lead the heavenly armies under their Commander, Lord Jesus Christ. Worship leads us into God’s presence and His Word reveals His commands, His statutes and His plans for us but it is only through prayer that we open our hearts to Him to welcome Him to do His will in and through us.
It is through prayer that we share our feelings, our concerns and fears and express thanks for His mercy and grace that leads, guides and transforms us. Lord Jesus ‘Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed’ to receive power from God and remain surrendered to His will (Luke 5:16). That is why one who regularly prays is called a prayer warrior and is equipped to face the challenges of the forces of darkness. Archangel Michael is one such warrior who challenges the devil everywhere and puts fear into his heart. In the present time of turmoil each and every believer’s responsibility is to pray and seek intervention of the LORD to face, overcome and help others becomes more dependent on God.
Giving right direction to prayers – Apostle Paul has taught clearly that on the one hand we all, ‘with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is possible, so that we can compare our own sinful state with the glory of the Lord and then submit to change into that. Second, we ‘are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory’ and our life as a believer is a continuous process of change which is administered by the ‘Spirit of the Lord’. What is that ‘image’ that we are being changed into? The task that Lord Jesus completed here on earth was that of our Redeemer and Ruth 4 defines the role of a ‘kinsman –redeemer’. He was a close relative; responsible by law to ‘act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, need or danger’. A redeemer had the first right of purchase of property and even one who was enslaved. Like our Lord we assume this role for others, our neighbor (all those we meet) to let them know of their redemption. We are also to intercede for them like our Lord does for us in heaven (1 John 2:1). This prayer of intercession is to be made for all whom we meet and know, our relatives, friends and acquaintances to urge the Holy Spirit to lead them to the Lord. About this prayer, Lord Jesus has taught that all those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, provide shelter to the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick in the hospital and the prisoners join the Lord in His work for caring for the needy (Matthew 25:34-36). This is intercession with prayer and action both.
Prayer of Agreement is another important prayer for these days. Lord Jesus has promised to be ‘in the midst of them’, where two or more gather together in His name (Matthew 18:19-20). Further, the promise is that when these two or more ‘agree on earth concerning anything that they may ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven’. Two or three in the family, parents with their children, praying together with an agreed prayer request can not only be a blessing for others but also for themselves.
Prayer of petition –Apostle Paul, being fully aware of the tribulations and difficult times ahead has, urged all believers, ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). A heart filled with gratitude for what he has received in the past, confidently goes before the Master with fresh petitions for others and for self to seek His hand in leading us through and out of the present trouble also.
Persistent prayer – After teaching the disciples how to pray, Lord Jesus told them the parable of one going to his friend at midnight seeking three loaves of bread to feed his friend who has come on a journey (Luke 11:5-8). He has then taught that initially the one inside may refuse but in answer to his persistence, he will give – The Greek word used here is ‘anaideia’ meaning ‘shameless persistence or unembarrassed boldness’. This is the prayer of a faith-led believer who is not halted by human fears, even when others may accuse him of overdoing, excessive or reaching the extreme. Talking about the time of His coming, Lord Jesus doubted that ‘will He really find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8). Many had abandoned the Lord and refused to follow Him and during these difficult times when it has become difficult for many to gather together to worship and pray, some will backslide (John 6:66). Understanding this our Lord has made it so easy for us to receive His blessings without going to any great lengths but to just pray together as a family and continue till answers are received.
When others will quote difficulties, we should become more and more ‘shamelessly persistent’ in our prayers to win souls and be a blessing to others.
Giving strength to our prayers – Every letter from Lord Jesus to the seven churches has a promise and the last one shows our Savior Lord knocking at the door of our hearts to enter and be with us (Revelation 3:20). The Creator -Redeemer does not come in uninvited and our prayer is an invitation to Him to intervene and help in our situation. Prayer being a conversation between two parties, it must have a motive, meaning and faith in each other by both parties. First, the motive of prayer – Lord Jesus has promised to answer the prayers so that ‘the Father may be glorified in the Son’ (John 14:13). Any prayer using Lord Jesus’ name must bring glory to God the Father so that it be answered.
Second, the meaning of prayer – Prayer cannot be futile or foolish babblings, for in it mind, heart, soul and spirit are all involved and this oneness then brings one into closeness to God. The gift of tongues is given by God to believers to help them overcome their hesitation in asking from God.
Third, faith in both parties – Man must have faith that God will hear and the answer will come and God must have faith in the one asking that the grant of request will not lead him astray. It is for this reason many of the prayers are not answered for a long time till the one receiving the blessing is not fully prepared in every way.
Lord Jesus has taught, ‘When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do’ but think beforehand what you want to pray for. One seeking a marriage partner or a job, usually never specifies what sort of partner or job he/she needs. Some people feel that merely saying ‘Your will be done’ in my life will be sufficient, but God wants you to exercise your free will to decide your choice.
Prayer in its real sense is ‘heart and hard work’ and equally so for God, for He has to align everything to fulfill what you have sought with His overall plan for your life. It then binds both parties in a covenant; the one asking must glorify God and He must answer in due time. The devil tries to create situations for us to lead us away from God and pray to Him but the more the darkness, the more we should converge towards the ‘Light of the world’, Lord Jesus, who alone can then lead us home.
Prayer is not only a way to be blessed but is the means to bring about change in our own and others lives. We tend to forget this and keep asking for more and more material blessings with little or no spiritual growth. When prayer becomes a routine and a ritual only, it loses its value and relevance. Before, during and after praying, we must have a distinct desire to bring about change in our own souls first and then in others around us. Only such prayers receive God’s attention that seek a positive and good change in the lives of our friends, relatives and acquaintances . Such prayers are effective and shot like a deadly arrow and bring about changes in our neighborhood.