This past week Rosie and the team have held a holiday programme called Egypt. The kids learned that the problem facing the people of Israel at the time of Moses was that they were treated as slaves and needed to escape from the Pharaoh. They needed a breakthrough that would cause the Pharaoh to let them go.
When we look at Moses, we don’t find him praying a wonderful prayer asking God for help. What Moses had to say to God wasn’t that inspiring, Here I am … Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? What if they do not believe me or listen to me? I have never been eloquent… I am slow of speech and tongue. And finally, Please, send someone else. Moses’ prayer is honest, but not very inspiring. This is not the model prayer of a person who is going to make a spiritual breakthrough with the Pharaoh.
Instead we find God responding to the cries of the people of Israel. This helps us understand breakthrough prayers are not necessarily prayed by spiritual giants who are accomplished at prayer. Rather it is often the prayers of many reaching God which together form a breakthrough prayer. “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.” (Exodus 3:9)
The cries of the people who were suffering as slaves were probably not well crafted, deeply theological, wordy prayers. I think it would have often been few words, cries for help, cries of desperation, perhaps questioning or even angry prayers. These are typical of the prayers many of us pray, and typical of the prayers we find the Psalms. “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted.” (Psalm 77:1–2)
Heartfelt prayers from people in distress reach the Lord with a cumulative effect. God hears every prayer, from the cry of a broken heart, to prayers about everyday matters, to praise joy and thanksgiving, to our requests for ourselves and for others. God hears the prayers of those too young to know how to pray to the prayers of the elderly who have become too frail to pray as they once did. Prayer is not about God hearing the heroes of the faith, but of hearing the most humble of the faith stumbling and stuttering to pray.
The breakthrough came when the humble prayers of the people of Israel reached God who was listening and willing to act. You might be tempted to say, I am not important, my prayers don’t matter. Like Moses you might have great excuses, I’m not eloquent, I can’t think of the right thing to say. The wonder of prayer is not that any of us are good at it, as if our ability to pray had merit in and of itself. Rather the wonder lies, as one author put it, when we as weak prayers … meet a willing Saviour. It is not that we as prayers or the content of our prayers have merit, rather it is that God who invites us to pray … is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Ephesians 3:20).
With this in mind, I encourage everyone at Greyfriars to pray. As we pray we are spiritually trusting God, leaning on Him, and putting our trust in Him. We recognise although we may be weak, He is strong and able to answer our prayers.
Greyfriars is a church that gives priority to prayer. We invite you to join us in prayer at a weekly prayer meeting, at our 8-2-8 Prayer Day or at one of our Seasons of Prayer. I am sure that many of the good things we have seen happening in the life of our church in the past are linked to the prayers we pray. And I am convinced that any spiritual breakthrough we see in 2019 will be directly linked to our prayers this year.
What encourages you/dissuades you from praying?
How would you know if God was willing to answer your prayers?
Rev John Malcolm