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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Prayer: On asking God to intervene

I was distraught. Something was troubling me. I can't remember exactly what now - it was a long time ago. What I do remember was sharing with this sister in Christ one Sunday morning after a church service about my situation. She listened empathically and then opened the Bible to share a passage of Scripture with me. It was from the book of Exodus chapter 3. She read the passage out loud:
The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
She highlighted to me the four things this passage tells us about God 's response to His people's prayers. He sees their misery... He hears their cries... He cares about their suffering... and He comes to rescue... I was encouraged about God's active response to His people's prayers. Although I now can't remember what I was distressed about at the time, I do remember that I felt a deep sense of relieve as if a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders, upon realizing that the God I worshipped is one Who actively engages Himself with me.

This passage has impacted me quite a bit over the years. And I have reflected much about its message. I am encouraged of God's reassurance of His love, knowledge, compassion, and power. This passage says it all. When we pray and cry out to God, we do not do so in a vacuum. He says He sees the reason for our prayers. He hears our petitions. He shares our feelings. And He comes down to act on our behalf. To rescue us.

Then one day I was asked to teach at church on the topic of God's Sovereignty, Omnipotence and Providence. Big words. I started with my theology texts, moving on to the concordance and Bible commentaries and started thinking about these exalted topics. My meditations led me back to this passage, and then it was as if a light bulb went on. More light a spot light, actually.

Verse 10 in the passage says, "So, now go. I am sending you..."

It became clear to me. When we pray, God comes down to interact with us. He comes to commune with us. He comes to be with us in our situation. Not just be with us. He wants to be God in our situation. He says, "I am with you; therefore, Go." So, prayer and God's answer to our prayer is about entering into God's heart and being ready for Him to enter into ours in a mysterious way to transform us.

So often we think of prayer as God transforming circumstances, others, situations, governments, demons, and everything else outside of us. Yet, prayer is one of the ways God uses to focus on us, and He is more interested in working in us. We say, "Lord, give us a job, give us a wife/husband, give us good fortune, give us..." He says, "Son/Daughter, what can I do in you?" We ask... seek... knock... and He says, "Here is the Holy Spirit. Myself. Let's talk."

You see, prayer is not just about asking God to do or to give. It is not so much asking God to do it on our behalf but to enter into God's work in and through our lives as we enter into His life and work. In my series on God's Sovereignty, Omnipotence and Providence, I used this passage to illustrate these grand theological ideas. I ended that section with these words, "When you get on your knees, you better be ready to get on your feet."