One of the ‘Uniquely Cornerstone’ core values is embedded in the understanding that the church is called to be God’s House of Prayer. For this very reason, we should pray. It’s therefore not a matter of if we should pray, but when we pray. The result of our prayers should reveal the Kingdom, the power and glory of God.
From Matthew chapters 5 to 7, after Jesus had finished speaking to the multitudes, the people were astonished at His teaching for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. And when Jesus taught them to pray, it was not some heartless command but a result of their witness of His relationship with God, His Father.
The effective, fervent and heartfelt prayer is quite the opposite of lethargic, repetitious, and superficial prayer. While we’re passionate, it’s not the conjuring of emotions, or the generating of exciting sounds or words – but prayer must be one of intense sincere confidence in a personal God.
When the Holy Spirit inspired James to illustrate such a prayer, he chose Elijah. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:16-18).
Elijah’s mighty prayers, which withheld rain in Israel, were legendary. His exploits of calling down fire from Heaven, destroying 450 prophets of Baal – who can forget this? And this same Elijah was also a man of frailties and flaws which was not obvious until God used him to demonstrate His mighty power to King Ahab of Israel, the wicked idolater. Elijah recoiled in fear and fled from the threats of Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, and crawled under a juniper tree where he asked the Lord to take his life (1 Kings 19:2-4).
We can easily identify with the Elijah who ran away from the fear and threats rather than his mighty prayers and exploits; not always strong in the face of opposition, embarrassed often, and recoiling because of the spirit of intimidation. Elijah was as human as you and I, imperfect and a mere mortal, but God used his prayers in such awesome and astonishing ways.
Our God has the power to give and to withhold life. Therefore your prayer and your life is of consequence. No one walking this earth has an unimportant life and we’re to pray into and invest in every life with a message the entire world needs to hear. Our prayers must be of faith and substance and gleaning from men of faith like the late William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army and Rees Howells, founder of the Bible College of Wales – men who knew something about radical prayer.
In 1865, this 36-year-old Englishman, William Booth, with the intent to evangelise the poor, who literally changed his society with the salvation message of Christ, once said, “You must pray with your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel, with eyes wide open, while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God. It means that grappling with Omnipotence, that clinging to Him, following Him about, so to speak, day and night, as the widow did to the unjust judge, with agonising pleadings and arguments and entreaties, until the answer comes, and the end is gained.
“This kind of prayer be sure the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame. They will ply you with suggestions and difficulties. They will ask you how you can expect that the plans and purposes and feelings of God can be altered by your prayers. They will talk about impossibilities and predict failures; but, if you mean to succeed, you must shut your ears and eyes to all but what God has said, and hold Him to His own word: and you cannot do this in any sleepy mood; you cannot be a prevailing Israel unless you wrestle as Jacob wrestled, regardless of time aught else, save obtaining the blessing sought—that is, you must pray with your might.”
Likewise, in the life of Rees Howells, founder of the Bible College of Wales, “The Spirit told him: ‘The meaning of prayer is answer, and of all that I give you, see that you lose nothing.’ He also told him that effectual praying must be guided praying, and that he was no longer to pray for all kinds of things at his own whim or fancy, but only the prayers that the Holy Ghost gave him.”
We should tremble when we read such words of passion and faith. Men such as William Booth and Rees Howells stood on the front lines of intercession, and persevered until God honoured their fervent radical prayers of faith. Likewise, we should pray with everything we’ve got, with all our heart, for God’s Kingdom to come, for His authority to reign in our hearts and His will to be done in our lives.
And if God could hear and answer the passionate faith-filled prayers of Elijah, a common man ‘with a nature like ours’, He can likewise hear and answer yours and mine. The Lord is eager to answer the effectual, fervent prayers of ordinary – but righteous – followers of Jesus Christ!
Ps. Daphne Yang