I heard a great message from John Piper this morning. PRAYER MOVES GOD TO CHANGE PEOPLE’S WILLS. I never thought of it that way before. I never realized that as we are praying for situations and/or people, God is hearing and working through circumstances that we often don’t see or understand. Here is a story of the apostle Paul, where first we seeing him asking for prayer:
Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints.
Paul is asking his friends to pray with him…. to ‘strive with him in prayer’…. that he may be delivered from his enemies in Jerusalem (he’s going there on a ‘mission trip’). When he gets there, (Acts 21:30) he encounters a mob. The people are rushing to kill Paul. Verse 31 says they are ‘trying’ to kill him. But they’re not succeeding. WHY? God has moved. Maybe they’re trying to stone Paul, and the rocks they are throwing are going off course (by the hand of God!). Then a ‘report’ gets to a Roman Commander. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? Someone was moved by God to leave the mob and go report it! The Commander actually listens to this person, whoever he or she was! Then the Commander was moved to gather some soldiers and go there! WHY? Why would the Commander care about getting involved in a Jewish squabble? GOD MOVED HIM TO DO IT! Then when the Commander and the soldiers arrive, the mob stops beating Paul! HOW WAS THAT? Don’t mobs usually get MORE violent when they see police? Again, we see God moving!
Than, later, in Acts 23:13, we see more of this amazing working of God. Paul had been taken into custody. But there were more than 40 people vowing to kill Paul. They had made a plan. Paul’s nephew overhead them plotting. So he goes into the prison and tells Paul. WAS THIS YOUNG MAN SCARED? I’m guessing he was. I would be, ‘ratting on’ these violent, angry people out to kill Paul. But God moved in him and gave him courage. Then more amazing chain of events: Paul asked the centurion at the jail to take his nephew to the Commander. The centurion agrees!!! Then the Commander agrees to listen to this young man! AMAZING! I’m sure he could have easily not given him the time of day. BUT GOD WAS WORKING TO CHANGE HIS WILL TOWARDS THIS YOUNG MAN! And then, after he listened to this wild story, he believed it and put his own reputation on the line by gathering 200 soldiers with 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen!!!!!
WOW. And Paul’s ministry continues.
I recently experienced a great move of God. I witnessed a loved one whose will was suddenly turned to God, after years of rebellion and rejection. It was amazing. There had been so many prayers over the years and it was so awesome to see this answer to prayer. But there have been other times when it didn’t seem like my prayers were being answered. But this message from John Piper helps me understand that God is sovereign, that how He works things out is HIS business. I’m sure when that mob was attacking Paul, and trying to kill him, that he – Paul – didn’t feel like God had answered his prayer either.
Prayer is so important…. prayer is our only hope in our world…… So yes. Let us pray.
(to hear John Piper’s message, go to http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/prayer-changes-peoples-wills)