A Mother’s Thunderous Prayer

Hannah only appears in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, but her legacy thunders through her son, and its rumblings continue to reverberate today. At first glance, it seems somewhat ironic that Hannah’s name means grace (undeserved favor) because we tend to think of a grace-filled person as quiet and unassuming. We don’t typically think of grace as thundering, but indeed it does! 

Notice 3 P’s from Hannah’s life—

  1. Hannah is grace personified. She didn’t crumble because of Peninnah’s taunts, nor did she compromise on her heart’s prayer because of Elkanah’s compliments. She never responded verbally to either Peninnah or Elkanah, but she took all her anguish to God in prayer. 
  1. Hannah is persistent in prayer. Hannah lives out the definition of importunity—unswerving, unabated, persistent prayer. The Bible tells us, “year after year…in bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord … she kept on praying to the Lord.” Notice an important contrast: Peninnah means jewels (from earth), while Hannah means grace (from God). God wants to give us answers that are eternal.  
  1. Hannah is piously reverent. Three times Hannah called herself a servant. She is respectful to the high priest Eli even when he falsely accuses her of being drunk. After Eli assures Hannah that God is going to grant her prayer request, notice her reverent actions—she broke her fast, her face was no longer downcast, she worshipped before the Lord, and she and Elkanah tried again to get pregnant.  

Hannah’s anguish drove her to God. Year after year her bitterness of soul kept her in God’s presence. And after God answered her prayer, her rejoicing continued to keep her in God’s presence. She was importunate in prayer.

But also notice that God was silent while Hannah prayed year after year. Oswald Chambers says, “God’s silences are His answers. … Some prayers are followed by silence because they are wrong [this wasn’t Hannah’s case], others because they are bigger than we can understand.” 

God was going to give Hannah a son, but the time wasn’t right yet. God needed a strong man in a dark time, and it wasn’t dark enough yet. 

Israel had to sink into even deeper darkness. While Samuel was still a young man, the Israelite army was defeated, Eli and his two sons all died, and the ark of the covenant of the Lord was captured. This prompted Eli’s daughter-in-law to name her son Ichabod—God’s glory has departed. 

This darkness allows Samuel to lead the people into a revival and then on to victory (1 Samuel 7:3-10). But notice how God responded to Samuel’s revival prayer—the Lord thundered with a loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 

God’s response was a fulfillment of Hannah’s prayer. After God answered her and gave her a son, Hannah’s song of rejoicing foretold God’s response that was coming years later in Samuel’s revival—“It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High WILL thunder from heaven…. 

Hannah’s song of rejoicing after years and years of bitter, importunate, persistent prayer was prophetic—and God’s thunderous answer to Hannah’s prayer is still rumbling today! 

Moms, don’t stop praying! God wants to answer your prayer. The Holy Spirit will help you pray (Romans 8:26). God’s timing IS coming. He will thunder His thunder in answer to your persistent prayer! 

If you have missed any of the posts in our We Are: Pentecostal series, please click here to access them.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Oftener The Better

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Oftener The Better 

     It is strange that spiritual blessings are our only possessions that we do not employ. We get a great spiritual blessing and we let the rest get on it for many a day. There is the mercy seat, for instance. Ah, my friends, if you had the cash box as full of riches as that mercy seat is, you would go often to it, as often as your necessities require. But you do not go to the mercy seat half so often as you need to go. Most precious things God has given to us, but we never overuse them. The truth is, they cannot be overused. We cannot wear a promise threadbare. We can never burn out the incense of grace. We can never use up the infinite treasures of God’s lovingkindness. … 

     How seldom do we ask counsel at the hands of the Lord! How often do we go about our business without asking His guidance? In our troubles how constantly do we strive to bear our burdens, instead of casting them upon the Lord, that He may sustain us! And this is not because we may not, for the Lord seems to say, “I am yours, soul; come and make use of Me as you will. You may freely come to My store, and the oftener the better. Welcome.” … 

     Have not God in name only. Since He allows you to have such a Friend, use Him daily. My God will supply all your wants. Never want while you have a God. Never fear or faint while you have a God. Go to your treasure and take whatever you need. There is bread and clothes, and health and life, and all that you need. O Christian, learn the divine skill to make God all things; to make bread of your God, and water, and health, and friends, and ease. He can supply you with all these. … 

     Oh! Child of God, let me urge you to make use of your God. Make use of Him in prayer. I beseech you, go to Him often, because He is your God. … Fly to Him; tell Him all your wants; use Him constantly by faith, at all times. …  

     Go to God continually, importunately, confidently. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will bring it to pass. Commit your way to the Lord, and He will guide you by His counsel and afterward receive you to glory (Psalm 73:24).

From God In The Covenant 

Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

15 Quotes On Prayer From J.C. Ryle

In my current Bible reading time, I am reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels as a read-along companion with my Bible. Bishop Ryle correctly feels the weight and effectiveness of prayer in the life of a Christian. Here are some of his quotes regarding prayer. 

“If afflictions drive us nearer to Christ, the Bible, and prayer, they are positive blessings.” 

“It is not for us to prescribe either the time or the way in which our requests are to be answered.… Let us rather ‘continue in prayer,’ ‘watch unto prayer,’ ‘pray always and not faint.’” 

“Why is it that there is so much apparent religious working and yet so little result in positive conversions to God—so many sermons, and so few souls saved—so much machinery, and so little effect produced—so much running here and there and yet so few brought to Christ? Why is all this? The reply is short and simple: there is not enough private prayer. The cause of Christ does not need less working, but it does need among the workers more praying. … The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard are those who are, like their Master, often and much upon their knees.” 

“If we would have good ministers we must remember our Lord’s example and pray for them. Their work is heavy. Their responsibility is enormous. Their strength is small. Let us see that we support them and hold up their hands by our prayers.” 

“Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we shall hear with profit and return with praise.” 

“Let a petition for more faith form a part of all our daily prayers. As ever we would have peace, and calmness, and quietness of spirit, let us often say, ‘Lord, increase our faith.’” 

“Let us strive and pray that the same mind may be in us which was in our blessed Master. Like Him, let us be willing to go anywhere, do anything, suffer anything when the path of duty is clear and the voice of God calls. Let us set our faces steadfastly to our work when our work is plainly marked out, and drink our bitter cups patiently when they come from a Father’s hand.” 

“We must seek to have knowledge as well as zeal. Zeal without knowledge is an army without a general, and a ship without a rudder. We must pray that we may understand how to make a right application of Scripture.”

“Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. … Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel—and they ought to pray for it daily.” 

“Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:17, 18). This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ’s work.” 

“Daily bread and daily mercy are by far the first and principal things that mortal man needs. He is the rich man who possesses them. He is the wise man who is not ashamed to pray for them every day.” 

“Nothing that concerns God’s people is too little for Him to manage or for them to bring before Him in prayer.”

“‘He spoke a parable to this end: that men ought always to pray, and not to give up.’ These words, be it remembered, are closely connected with the solemn doctrine of the second advent, with which the preceding chapter concludes. It is prayer without fainting during the long weary intervals between the first and second advents which Jesus is urging His disciples to keep up.” 

“Let us often pray that we may have wisdom from above in order to answer rightly when perplexing questions are put to us. The servant of Christ must expect a portion like his Master. He must count it no strange thing if the wicked and worldly-minded endeavor to entangle him in his talk, and to provoke him to speak unadvisedly with his lips.” 

“Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace.” 

God Knows Your Name

Allow me to introduce myself in the Aramaic fashion—I am Craig bar Raymond. I am proud of my father and want my name to always be associated with his, so I remember my heritage by telling people I am Craig son of Raymond. 

If I wanted to be a little more formal I might introduce myself as Craig Bar Raymond Bar Colson, or even Craig Bar Raymond Bar Colson Bar Walker, to honor my forefathers back four generations. 

People took great pride in their family heritage. They wanted to keep their connection to their family and their tribe intact and known to those around them. It’s how they kept their standing in their community.

That’s why it’s odd that Luke—the premier historian that he is—introduces us to a man he simply calls “a blind man” in the city of Jericho. Luke was always so precise in mentioning names throughout both his Gospel and the Book of Acts, and it appears that this man does have a name. In the Gospel of Mark he is called Bartimaeus, and presumably Luke used Mark as one of his source documents. So why would Luke omit this guy’s name?

Keep in mind that “bar” simply means “son of,” so although Mark calls him Bartimaeus, his name is really something like “_________ son of Timaeus.” Is that because he was born blind and his parents didn’t even name him? Or was he thought so little of that people couldn’t remember his first name? Maybe it’s because Timaeus means unclean, defiled, polluted. So this blind beggar is really just the Anonymous son of Filth! 

This beggar is looking for alms in Jericho when he hears a commotion. He asks what is happening and is told, that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. 

This man knows the reputation of Jesus, recalling that He has even opened blind eyes. Immediately he shouts, “Jesus, son of David have mercy on me!” Son of David is a title only used twice in the New Testament (also see Matthew 15:22), and both times by desperate people who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. 

Actually, his phrase is in the form of a command, so he really says, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me NOW! 

“Who do you think you are, you nameless beggar,” the townspeople rebuke him. “How dare you demand anything of anyone! Shut your mouth, you worthless piece of filth!” 

Undeterred, this man now raises his voice to a shriek and repeats, “JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME NOW!” 

This shriek gets Christ’s attention and He stops dead in His tracks. He commands that this man be brought to him.

Check out the confidence this blind man shows—he throws his cloak aside to get to Jesus. Why is that significant? Because he’s blind! If he can’t see, how is he going to find his cloak again? Who would ever want to help him? 

Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He was testing him: did he want a hand-out? did he want revenge on the cruel people in Jericho? did he want to get back at his parents? 

He specifically prays, “I want to see.” Jesus is moved by compassion (Matthew 20:34) and says, “Your faith has made you whole.” The blind man immediately is healed! 

What was his faith that healed him? It was a loud, insistent, persistent, won’t-take-no-for-an answer, audacious request. The crowd said he was asking too much, but Jesus was moved to compassion by his insistence and boldness and answered his prayer. 

That community may have forgotten that man’s name. Maybe the blind man had even forgotten his own name. But God hadn’t! 

Jesus is moved by faith-filled, won’t-be-silenced cries for mercy. He wants to answer your specific requests. You aren’t an anonymous son or daughter of filth. You aren’t marginalized, worthless, or overlooked by your Heavenly Father. 

God knows your name. He knows your need. He is passing by. Cry out to Him again and again and again! When He answers your prayer, you are made whole and our Heavenly Father is glorified. 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn lessons for our prayer life from the bold pray-ers we find on the pages of the Bible. 

No Asterisks

This past Christmas I was quite surprised to receive a package in the mail. It was something I ordered as a Christmas gift for my wife. 

Sort of. 

It was actually half of what I thought I ordered. I went back online and discovered some “fine print” that I hadn’t really noticed earlier. 

You’ve probably experienced that too—asterisksfine print … footnotes … hidden fees … “limits and exclusions may apply” are all so frustrating!

Unfortunately, we get so used to these things that we begin to—consciously or subconsciously—plug them into places where they don’t actually belong. So even when Jesus Himself says something that sounds wonderful like, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20), we want to insert an asterisk. 

Or when He says, “And I will do whatever you ask in My name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14), we think we’re supposed to ask, “What’s the catch?” 

Christians are inserting asterisks where they don’t belong and, as a result, are praying timid prayers. 

Why do we pray this way? Perhaps we are…

  1. …fearful of being too bold. But in telling us how to pray, Jesus says God rewards our bold “shameless persistence” in prayer. 

I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless persistence and insistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. (Luke 11:8-9 AMP) 

  1. …unsure that God hears us, cares for us, or even wants to answer us. But the Bible is quite clear that all of these things are true: He hears us, cares for us, and does want to give us what He has promised (1 John 5:14-15; Romans 8:32; Romans 4:20-21).  
  1. …ignorant of what/how to pray. T.M. Moore reminds us, “God has given us three great helps to assist us in our prayers. His Spirit groans for us; His Word guides us; and His Son governs and intercedes for us.” 
  1. …not looking for God’s answer. David said that after praying, he expectantly watched for God’s answer (Psalm 5:3). Indeed, the Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” 

“He is the God of limitless resources—the only limit comes from us. Our requests, our thoughts, and our prayers are too small, and our expectations are too low. God is trying to raise our vision to a higher level, call us to have greater expectations, and thereby bring us to greater appropriation. Shall we continue living in a way that mocks His will and denies His Word?” —A.B. Simpson 

Why are you hesitating to ask God for even a tiny amount when such vast resources are available? What would happen if you started to pray more boldly? What if you began to make mountain-moving requests? I dare you to try! 

Stop looking for the asterisks and start taking God at His word!

Join me next week as we continue our series on Boldly Praying, looking at some bold pray-ers in the Bible.

4 Thoughts To Help Prayer Become A Daily Habit

ImportunityI have shared several strategies about prayer throughout January (you can read them here, here, here, and here). One danger in putting these steps into practice in our life in what I call one-and-done. We do it once and think we’ve done all we need to do.

Scientists tell us at a minimum it takes 21 days in a row to make a habit. Jesus went even farther than that in talking about prayer in Matthew 7:7. When we look at the three aspects of the verbs ask, seek, and knock in this verse, it would be better stated like this—

You need to keep on asking, and keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. This is not good advice or a helpful suggestion, but it is vital for your spiritual life. So after you have asked, sought, and knocked, then do it again, and again, and again.

Matthew Henry said it this way: “Here is a precept in three words to the same purport, Ask, Seek, Knock; that is, in one word, ‘Pray; pray often; pray with sincerity and seriousness; pray, and pray again; make conscience of prayer, and be constant in it; make a business of prayer, and be earnest in it.’”

In the English language the dictionary has a word for this: importunity = being urgent and persistent, sometimes annoyingly so!

I believe importunity requires these four characteristics:

  1. Trust. Remember Jesus taught us to pray Our Father. We have to come to Him again and again and again trusting that He loves us, that He alone is the Source of our help, and that He wants to help us (Matthew 6:8). We also have to trust that our Father wants to give us the very best (Matthew 7:7-11).
  2. Perseverance. I love the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-5. This determined lady kept coming back again and again. Henry Ward Beecher said, “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is, that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.”
  3. Creativity. One of my favorite New Testament stories is about a mother who is not only as persistent as the widow in Luke 18, but she is creative in her prayer as well (Mark 7:24-30). This lady bantered with Jesus in a way that I believe caused Christ to throw back His head and laugh! This is not bargaining with God, as Oswald Chambers wrote, “Repetition in intercessory importunity is not bargaining, but the joyous insistence of prayer.”
  4. Action. Paul was looking for an open door to preach the Gospel, but he didn’t sit still while he waited for God to say “yes” (Acts 16:6-10).

Keep these in mind as you make importunity a key part of your prayer life. And check out the full video of my message on importunity in prayer here—

Importunity

Praying HandsImportunity is not a word that pops up in everyday conversation, but the concept permeates Scripture. Check out these words from Jesus—

I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is a friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. (Luke 11:8, NIV)

Boldness here in the NIV is translated IMPORTUNITY in the King James Version. It’s the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament, and it is used in context to prayer (see vv. 1-4). The English and Greek dictionaries both agree on the definition of importunity…

…urgent, shameless asking, sometimes to the point of being annoying!

This is how Jesus tells us to pray.

Notice Jesus said the friend responded not out of friendship, but because of the importunate attitude.

God responds to our importunity as well (vv. 9-10). He responds not as an annoyed friend and not even as a loving earthly father (vv. 11-12). Friends and fathers have moods and they have limits—Our God has no limit on His love nor on His supply!

He will give him as much as he needs … Ask and it will be given to you… How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (vv. 8, 9, 13).

“Our giving depends much on the state of our minds at the moment. When depressed, we have no pleasure in giving; we either refuse, or we give merely to get quit of the applicant. Darkness of mind shrivels us up, makes us selfish, neglectful of others. When full of joy, giving seems our element—our joy overflows in this way; we cannot help giving; we delight in applications; we seek opportunities of giving. So with the blessed God. Being altogether happy, His delight is to give; His perfect blessedness flows out in giving. We can never come wrongly to such an infinitely happy Being.” —Horatius Bonar (emphasis added)

May the Holy Spirit help us to be importunate in our prayer today, for you can never come wrongly—nor too often—to such a happy, loving, generous Father!

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