Smith Wigglesworth was one of the most fruitful and effective preachers ever. But, he was not always a godly, righteous man. He was a ruffian. His Christian wife attended church regularly. Often Wigglesworth locked her out of the house and left her to sleep on the back porch. She committed her husband to prayer and the result, they say, is history. I often confess my salvation came through the persistent prayer and intercession of my wife, Yvonne.
Years ago we were overseas on the mission field when my wife had a dream. She had seen our son John in the surf but caught in a rip. His life was in danger. She woke and prayed for him. Later when we came home to be with the family she learned he had indeed been swept away. He called out to his brother-in-law to say goodbye to the family. As he prepared for the worst a wave picked him up and threw him to safety. When Yvonne and John compared notes his rescue came at the same time she had been praying. Maybe you also have a story of answered prayer.
In ancient times prayer was not exclusive to the Israelites. Prayers to Yahweh, the God of Israel, were very different from those offered to the surrounding foreign deities. In Egypt Amon was acknowledged as the creator and giver of life. An ancient hymn Amon-Re described Amon as the god “who made mankind and created the beasts, lord of what is, who created the fruit tree, made herbage, and gave life to cattle.” (Hymn Amon-Re 1: 5) Amon was declared to be healer and magician.
Egyptians also praised Aton as ‘the beginning of life’ who ‘didst create the world….All men, cattle, and wild beasts, whatever is on earth.” (The Hymn of Aton). There was also a ‘Hymn to Ishtar’ which declared ‘life is in her mouth.’
“Akkadian Prayer to the Gods of the Night depicts the great gods of Old Babylon – Shamash, Sin, Adad and Ishtar – asleep in their chambers, indifferent to the concerns of their devotees.” (Prayer- The Lexham Bible Dictionary).
Through Old Testament study we learn Yahweh was the God who listens and responds to prayer. He gave attention to His people. An intimacy between Yahweh and His people was special. Foreign gods were distant and aloof needing to be cajoled. Prayer to them was often pleading, even grovelling.
As prayer in the Israelite family developed some structured formula also came. As usual Jesus broke through the religious approach and in His prayers displayed a close intimate relationship with the One He called Father. He spoke to His Father with humility and submission and He was always sensitive and relaxed with His language. The Apostle Paul emphasized the ‘Abba’ Father in prayer. He reminded believers they were now children of the Father. (Romans chapter 8 verse 15 and Galatians chapter 4 verse 6).
Is that your relationship with Him? Is He your Father or more like a distant Sovereign?
As our Father we know He is constantly watching and observing us and caring for our eternal well-being. He delights to give His children ‘good things.’
Prayers in the New Testament flowed from their ancient Jewish roots. We learned from what has been called The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 to 13. It is more correctly the Disciples Prayer. Jesus taught the disciples how to pray with this basic formula. (Also Luke chapter 11, verses 2 to 4).
Christianity brought a major innovation into the power of prayer. We learned to pray in Jesus name. Throughout history the names of individuals were linked with their names. The name Abram means ‘great father.’ He became Abraham meaning ‘father of multitudes.’ Jesus was named Yehoshua which means ‘Yahweh is salvation’ or ‘Yahweh saves.’ He was Yahweh in the Book of Exodus and described as ‘God who is loving and compassionate but does not leave sin unpunished.” (Exodus chapter 34, verses 6 to 7) The name Jesus (Yehoshua) came from His Old Testament identity.
Before Jesus departed to be with His Father He made a significant promise. “And whatever you ask in my name I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John chapter 14, verses 13 to 14) Jesus was about to leave His disciples but His message was clear. Even though He will be physically absent He will be with them, always.
Life as a believing community is to continue with Jesus still effective and powerful as the Lord and Saviour. Bad things happened and Jesus knew about it. He knew what Judas was about to do even as He shared Passover with His disciples. He did not avoid the situation but with the love and support of the Father He moved forward and accomplished the salvation plan.
There are events in our world that signal all manner of events may unfold. The importance for all of us is to avoid fellowship with fear and take hold of the trust and assurance that has stood against adversity over and over again. This week analysts have warned of a possible world war, some have said Australia may be drawn into a war with China. Every day we hear of ‘wars and rumours of wars.’ If world events or your personal circumstances lead to stress or anxiety, your answer is found in prayer.
Try these words from knowingjesus.com -“Protect my mind I pray from the clamour and intrigue of this world system, that so often fills our hearts with fears and deflects our thoughts away from You – so that I may rest in Your arms of love and be filled with Your perfect peace that passes understanding. Help me to take every thought captive and when the difficulties of this complex world seek to manipulate my attention away from You, may I fix my mind on Jesus knowing that He is the Author and Finisher of my faith – and my Prince of Peace, in Whose name I pray.”
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)