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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

When we think about the things we long to see for the Kingdom of God in our communities, our nation, and the world, we probably think first about prayer.  And that’s a good thing!  However, while we are right to prioritize prayer, there’s a chance we’re prioritizing it too highly.  ‘What?’  You say, ‘Prioritize prayer too highly?  What we need to do is pray more!’ 

Now, I completely agree that we should be praying more.  My comment about prioritizing prayer too highly has nothing to do with quantities of prayer.   So what do I mean by “prioritizing prayer too highly,” and how in the world could this kind of talk serve to increase prayer?   I believe that if we would prioritize and esteem God’s promises higher than our prayers, our prayers would actually become more frequent and fervent.

We often consider our prayers, rather than God, as the ‘first-mover’ in the advancement of His Kingdom – as if God is merely waiting around for the news of our prayers, so that He can spring into action on our behalf.  Now this is not altogether untrue.  God has ordained that His redemptive work be realized through the prayers of His people.  Prayers are powerful.  However, just because God has ordained us to pray, and our prayers are powerful, it doesn’t mean that our prayers are sovereign and omnipotent.  Only God is sovereign and all-powerful, and He alone can speak creation and redemption into life –  by His power – and His promises.

It is God’s promise of salvation through the Gospel that is the ‘first-mover’ in God’s plan not our prayers.  So our prayers are not first.  God’s promise of forgiveness and eternal life for every nation through His Son is first.  Take a look at Ezekiel, chapter 36, beginning at verse 33:

“Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.

Thus says the Lord God: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. Like the flock of sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

Cleansed from iniquities, desolate wasteland made like the garden of Eden, ruined cities strengthened and fruitful, and the Name of the Lord known!  How will this come about?  By a promise:  “I will cleanse…I will cause…I am the Lord, I have spoken, and I will do it.”  Only then does God say, “This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people…so shall the waste cities be filled…Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

Whatever good and saving work we can imagine for our communities and nation has already been promised by God!  He doesn’t need us to pray, He allows us to pray.  Why?  Not so that He can spring into action.  His promises have already set His saving power in motion.  It is so that we will know He is the Lord.  It’s so we, and every nation, might see that God is powerful.  Prayer is utterly dependent on God’s promises in the Gospel.  Prayer is permitted by God not needed by God.  Thus, prayer is for the sake of God’s own glory.

This is ‘promise-driven’ prayer.  Promise-driven prayer derives its power from the sure promise of God to us in Christ and the Gospel.  The power of our prayers is the promise of God’s Word and the finished work of the cross of Jesus.  When we bank on God’s ability to make good on His promise, rather than our ability to pray, our prayers will increase and become more fervent and confident.  So let’s pray according to the promises of God’s Gospel today, that in our communities, universities, and nations, desolate land would become like the garden of Eden – and in the confidence of God’s Word, which says: “I am the Lord, I have spoken, and I will do it.”

Jim Thomforde
Ministry Director at Cornell