“But they were not the only ones. It was a community of prayer.”
We could tell again the story of, “the two old ladies and their praying - Peggy and Christine Smith. Although both were over 80 years of age, infirm and arthritic, they were effective prayer warriors and knew God in a special way.”
Yet, Peggy and Christine were just two out of many, “As people visited one another in their homes, they would pray and then continue on until they felt that they had got through to God.”
It is said that “The place was soaked in prayer. It became a way of life - to seek the Lord for His mercy.”1
And if it was not Peggy and Christine, nor the people of this specific village in this particular time, then it was people like Cornelius, “a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.”2
And if not Cornelius, we could go on to tell of the long line of men and women who set themselves to seek the Lord, making their prayers heard day and night, refusing to give up until an answer came.
Men such as Daniel, “Suddenly, a hand touched me and set me shaking on my hands and knees. ‘Don’t be afraid, Daniel,’ he said to me, ‘for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers.’”3
So often throughout history, it is not the complex cry that moves the heart of God, but it is the simple groan, repeated, uttered in anguish.
Prayers from women like Hannah, “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.”4
And from men like Nehemiah, “So it was when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”5
As we have seen over and over, when men and women pray, God responds. Sadly, many do not believe this statement anymore. In word? Maybe more would still agree. But in practice? Very few believe.
Where could we go today to find a place soaked in prayer? A place where it was not just a handful of people in constant petition before the throne of God, but a community of prayer?
The old hymn writer John Burton posed the following question in the opening line of one of his songs, “I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray?”6
Is it possible this describes the time we are in?
We have many who busy themselves with spiritual activity, but few who, like Nehemiah, sit down and weep and mourn for many days.
We have many who are willing to defend the Gospel in the media, in the courts, online, on the street corner, and in many other places before men. But few who go into their room, shut the door and make such an impassioned plea alone, before God, “who is in the secret place.”7
For the most part, we are a people who know the Scriptures, but perhaps we have forgotten the call to wait, however long it takes, for His answer to come:
“No one who waits for You will be disgraced.” (Psalm 25:3)
“I will wait for You all day long. I will wait for You.” (Psalm 25:5, 21)
“From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened to, no eye has seen any God except You who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4)
Peter pulls no punches on this matter as he sees his own life coming to a close, “I think it is right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder.”8
So let us respond accordingly and be stirred up again, reminded, and awoken from our slumber. Because, before we can again become a community of prayer, we must become individuals in prayer. Therefore, let us make a close and careful examination of ourselves - are we awake or asleep?
In Paul’s words, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”9
We have slept long enough, “now it is high time to awake out of sleep.”10
It is time to heed the words of Isaiah, “Awake, awake! Put on your strength.”11
Let us awake to again take up our place of strength - as Peggy, Christine, Cornelius, Daniel, Hannah, Nehemiah, and others before us - on our knees, in constant prayer to a God who hears, waiting for His response at exactly the right time.
At this point, it is common for the preacher to overextend the promised blessing of prayer in order to convince you - the Lord wants to give you everything you want, so what do you want. Ask and you will receive. Or to take a more dramatic approach, raising their voice, and explaining how they want to SHAKE YOU TO WAKE YOU UP.
I refuse to do either, and instead, besides sharing from church history and the Scriptures, the only thing I have left to add are the stories of prayers of my own.
I set my heart to seek the Lord. I sought wisdom, for I knew I didn’t understand. I could see and feel my inability to grasp the truth. And as I purposed to understand and to humble myself before God, my prayers were heard. He came and it set me shaking on my hands and knees. He spoke and I trembled. Strength left my body and I fell down at His feet as though dead.
Who am I, as a man, to answer back to You, as God. I see now my inability. I am a man wholly dependent on Your mercies.
Friends, I make my last appeal - wake up. Be stirred and reminded. Come with me. Let us once again be a community of prayer.
Sounds from Heaven, Peckham, p. 111
1 Samuel 1:10
This is the opening line to an old hymn that appeared in The Song Book of the Salvation Army, written by John Burton (1803-1877).
2 Peter 1:13
1 Thessalonians 5:6