Historian Cassius Dio told a story about Hadrian, a Roman Emperor (117-128 AD), and a woman who made a request of him as he passed by her way on a journey. Hadrian curtly replied, “I haven’t time”—to which the petitioner responded, “Then quit being emperor!” Upon hearing that rebuke, the emperor turned and granted the woman a hearing.
Our God never ceases being alert to the cries of His children who are in intercessory prayer: “There is an eye that never sleeps, beneath the wing of night; there is an ear that never shuts, when sinks the beams of light.” We are thankful, therefore, that today—and every first Thursday of February—a National Prayer Breakfast is held at the United States Capitol. Initiated in 1953, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, this annual event has had as many as 3,500 in attendance. This year, between 200 and 300 were expected due to a major scaling back of invitations.
But we are thankful for any movement of men and women in Congress, along with the members of the Executive Branch, to call upon the Sovereign God of the universe for His grace and guidance. May it not be said of our America that “the Lord saw…and wondered that there was no intercessor.” (Isa.59:16)
Leonard Ravenhill once lamented of the church that there were many organizers, but few agonizers; many who pay, but few who pray; many resters, but few wrestlers; many who were enterprising, but few who were interceding; many who were not praying, but playing.” Paul, the Apostle, wrote to the first century church at Ephesus, “whereof I also…cease not to give thanks for you making mention of you in my prayers.” (Eph.1:16) To the saints at Philippi he wrote: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.” (Phil.1:3) And to Timothy, in 2 Tim.1:3, he reminded his young protégé, “without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.”
I have been humbled on several occasions by some friend, either one who is close by or one who is separated by many miles, that he (or she) prays every day for my wife and myself. Many shut-in saints have encouraged us with that assurance, but sometimes those words come from a person that we would not have guessed would have been daily interceding before God’s throne of grace and mercy for us. It is, to be sure, a humbling experience to know that; and it is, without doubt, why we have been able to continue for decades in the spiritual warfare of ministry without having been wiped out by the darts of the Wicked One.
The early-church leader John Chrysostom is credited with saying: “A monarch vested in gorgeous habiliments is far less illustrious than a kneeling supplicant ennobled and adorned by communion with his God. Consider how august a privilege it is when angels are present, and archangels throng around, where cherubim and seraphim encircle with their blaze, the throne of God, that a mortal may approach with unrestrained confidence and converse with heaven’s dread sovereign. O what honor was ever conferred like that?”
About this privilege of prayer, we must remember to ask, seek, and knock. (Matt.7:7, 8)
We must have a clean heart (Ps. 66:18); we must petition in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-15) and be guided in our asking and seeking by His Word. (John 15:7) It is imperative, too, that we ask according to His will, not ours (I John 5:14); and there must be no unforgiving spirit harbored in our heart. (Mark 11:25, 26) Finally, we must be unselfish (James 4:3) and pray believing. (Mark 9:23, 24; 11:22-24)
History records an incredible prayer meeting that purportedly lasted 100 years, as related by Leonard Ravenhill in his book Revival Praying. He says that Count Zinzendorf, 18th century founder of the Moravian church, and a small group of believers were assembled in intercessory prayer when, “at precisely eleven o’clock in the morning on Wednesday the thirteenth of August, 1727, the Holy Ghost descended.” One bishop wrote of this, “When the Spirit came, was there ever in the whole of church history such an astonishing prayer meeting as which began in 1727? It went on one hundred years and was something absolutely unique! It was known as the ‘Hourly Intercession,’ which meant that by relays brethren and sisters made prayer to God without ceasing for all the work and wants of His church. Out of that small community, more than one hundred missionaries went from them in twenty-five years.”
F.B. Meyer, when once crossing the Atlantic by ship, was asked to address the passengers. At the Captain’s request, the pastor spoke on the subject of prayer. An agnostic who was present at the service was asked what he thought of Dr. Meyer’s sermon, to which he replied: “I didn’t believe a word of it.” That afternoon, on his way to a service, the agnostic passed an elderly woman sitting in a deck chair with both of her hands open and extended while she was apparently sound asleep. The agnostic, having some good-natured fun, pulled two oranges out of his pocket and put one orange into each of the woman’s hands. Later, passing back by where the woman had been sleeping, the agnostic found the woman happily munching on one of the oranges. He said to the woman, “You seem to be enjoying that orange,” to which she replied, “Yes, sir, my Father is very good to me.” “Your father! Surely your father cannot be alive still,” the agnostic replied. “Praise God!” she said, “He is very much alive!” “What do you mean?” queried the agnostic. She went on to explain, “I’ll tell you, sir. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God that He might somehow send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me an orange, but just like my Father, He sent me two oranges!” The astonished unbeliever came under conviction and was later led to Christ!
Never underestimate the power of prayer, or the possibility of any prayer being answered by our God. He hears your petitions millions of years before you mouth the words, as with Him there is no time but only infinity!
So, we applaud the National Prayer Breakfast today. You may be able to tune in via YouTube, CBN News, or C-Span.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honestly. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (I Tim. 2:1-3)