The other day I came across an inspiring anecdote which illustrated the workings of prayer in a refreshing way. Once, a man woke up in the middle of the night and was overwhelmed by a deep sense of dread and danger. However, the feeling had nothing to do with the man himself but concerned his friend, a missionary who was working in the heart of Africa. Although it was dark, his bed warm and the man tired, he forced himself out of bed and made intercession for his friend. The foreboding feeling of danger did not leave immediately, but this prayer warrior did not yield to the temptation to give up and he fought in prayer like Jacob wrestled with the angel. Finally, as it was already getting light, a great sense of peace flooded into the man’s heart and he went back to bed.
A month later he received news from his missionary friend and learned what had happened the night of his prayer. The missionary wrote: “On one of our journeys we stumbled upon two lions and a lioness. We shot one of them, but the others got away and fled into the wilderness. However, unbeknownst to us, the lioness followed us and some time later, when we were not expecting it at all, she jumped out of the bush and ripped my shoulder open. I was thrown down into the sand while the lioness came in for the kill. I yelled to my helper to shoot her, but the man ran away in fear. As he dropped the gun, it went off when it hit the ground and it scared the lioness. She ran off and I survived, although badly wounded. Today I am much better, but I wanted to tell you this because I know you are always praying for me. I am certain if it had not been for your prayers, my life’s mission would have ended. Thank you.”
The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.*
We all pray. Praying comes easy and a promise to pray for someone in need is quickly made. After all, saying we pray for someone gives us the sense we are spiritually active and, what’s more, it looks good to others.
But, unlike God, we can also just as easily break our promise, or resort to a half-hearted prayer, just to get it over with.
Such praying does not deserve the label of real prayer. When Paul admonished us we should pray without ceasing* he most certainly was talking about a very different kind of prayer.
Of course, not everyone is a pastor or is called overseas as a missionary. And yet, every Christian is called to participate in the spiritual battle between good and evil, and the way even the smallest among us can join in the fight is through our fervent prayers.
The above anecdote teaches us something remarkable about the workings of the spirit. Whether the sense of dread on that fateful night was brought to the sleeping man by his guarding angel or was directly inspired by God Himself, we do not know, but that is not the point.
What is important is that we apparently receive impulses and messages from the spirit world that will challenge us to take action.
What if the man had refused to get up and pray? Chances are, the missionary would have died that very day and an important worker for the Kingdom would have been taken from the fields of harvest.
Prayer is our weapon against the forces of darkness. Prayer works, but because we don’t usually see immediate results, it demands faith and perseverance.
Compare it to you calling an office on the telephone. You really need to speak to a certain person there. But you don’t usually get to speak to that person right away. You first have to get through the secretary. You have to state your cause and she will then help you to get the connection. However, if the secretary doesn’t care, laughs at you or decides to disconnect you because she’s tired, you never get to speak to that person.
In the same way, our prayers connect God to other people.
It’s like God is calling someone’s heart. He wants to talk to them, but He has set it up in such a way that he often goes through us, the secretary. God implants a thought about someone or a situation into our minds and wants us to pray. If we are lazy, unconcerned or we don’t even hear the telephone, God’s message for that person does not get delivered.
Someone said that the poorest person on this earth is not the person with no money, but it is the person for whom nobody prays. Such a person has hardly any connection to God.
Even though we don’t usually see many tangible results; still, prayer works and removes whole mountains. If we could see behind the curtains and would be given a look at the workings of the Spirit, we would be amazed at how much God is dependent on our prayers and our concern.
Jesus Himself believed in fervent prayer.
How much more should we?
* James 5:16 (KJV)
* 1 Thessalonians 5:17