“Our Chief Weapon”
In the second week of June 1873, a southwest wind carried a strange brown cloud over the border from Dakota Territory into Minnesota. Although initially mistaken for a rain or dust storm, they could soon see that it contained millions of winged insects known as Rocky Mountain locusts. For five straight summers, the locusts ravaged farmland and battled humans for control over the American Midwest. But in 1876, the locusts were particularly aggressive and destructive. Desperate farmers turned to new inventions to rid themselves of the locusts, yet to no avail. New governor, John Pillsbury, toured the state incognito to view the devastation first-hand. He was shocked and made a decision that brought the ire of religious skeptics. He declared April 26, 1877, a day of statewide prayer and fasting to invoke God’s help. For the next three days, temperatures soared to mid-summer-type highs. The larvae began to wiggle and quickly hatched to begin their usual damage. However, on the fourth day, the temperature plummeted and the locusts were the victims of a heavy frost. The bumper wheat crop of 1877 was the best in the state’s history, but it also would be best remembered as the day God answered the prayers of the people of Minnesota.
All across America, the concerns and patience of God’s people are being tested unlike any other time in our history. We are appalled at the assault upon traditional values. We feel helpless against the threats to our security. We are contentiously divided in principles, policies, and prejudice. As the confusion now mingles with frustration, the growing sentiment of many is like that of the sailors amidst the storm in Jonah 1:11, “What shall we do...?” Perhaps that is how the first century church felt in Acts 12. Persecution was growing more violent, and disciples were put on the run for fear of their lives. James had already been killed, and news came that Peter had been taken into custody. They were facing a dilemma, but felt the burden to do something. Had they lived in our day, they might have signed petitions, carried picket signs outside of Herod’s palace, or even stormed the jail and taken matters into their own hands. But, verse 5 records their response, “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” They engaged the problem by imploring the aid of God’s power, and God sent an angel to deliver him. Sidlow Baxter said, “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons -- but they are helpless against our prayers." Prayer remains our chief weapon for which the world has no answer. Consider with me why praying is such a mighty force.
Prayer adjusts the presence of God into focus. In Isaiah 58:9, the prophet offered this word of hope in a time of trouble, “Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am...” Long before prayer brings benefits and blessings, it brings the conscious awareness of God’s holy presence. While some may view prayer as a chore to perform, God meant it as a privilege for us to enjoy. However, those that only live conscious of problems are those that have made prayer about seeking His hand. God’s challenge has always been to “seek My face” because there is always some new wonder and beauty He longs to reveal. The amazing thing about genuine prayer is that it disconnects us from the problems and circumstances and connects us to God. For this reason, life is always lived at its safest and best when we gaze into the face of God before we stare into the eye of the storm. With just a glimpse of God, we discover that no challenge we face is ever bigger than God. It is much easier to exercise strong faith when you have the confidence of God being with you. R.A. Torrey said, “All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer. Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do everything, prayer is omnipotent.” God has unlimited means of aid at His disposal, and things can change at His command. That is why nothing is able to intimidate the person that has experienced God afresh.
Prayer affords the peace of God to form. In Philippians 4:7, Paul said that when we bring every issue of our lives to God in prayer that “...the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” There will never come a time that you bring a concern, fear, or worry before God and find Him anxious. The confidence we gain from praying is the fact we quickly learn God is in control of every detail of our life. Just because it may not make sense to us does not mean that it does not make sense. God always has a plan and a purpose, and while He may not always explain it to us, He will always fulfill it for us. As we pray, we make wonderful discoveries about God. One of which is that fact that amidst our impotence, He reveals His omnipotence. As a life-threatening storm raged, the disciples awakened Jesus from His sleep and found that the storm could not go beyond His command nor His control. Seventeenth-century theologian Francois Fenelon wrote, “We sleep in peace in the arms of God when we yield ourselves up to His providence.” God is never burdened when we bring to Him the things that burden our lives. All things become possible the moment we bring God into the equation. No matter how difficult the situation or circumstance may be, just taking a few moments to pause in prayer will always leave one saying to himself, “God’s got this!”
Prayer allows the power of God to flow. In Acts 4:31, the early church gathered together “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost...” While the modern church has many assets that were lacking in the first century, we do not possess the power of God that shakes both places and people. As the convicting power of God grows less, the more we see a society that has no fear of God. No wonder sin which once was reserved for the dark alleys now boldly struts down main street with no sense of guilt or shame. Perhaps the reason we do not have revival power is because we have become acclimated to our environment and have learned how to live without it. Our world is broken all around us, but sadly we are not broken about it. The hour is very desperate for pivotal praying. Through such prayers, God ignites faith, inspires change, and instills hope. Samuel Chadwick said, “Nothing would turn the nation back to God so surely and so quickly as a Church that prayed and prevailed. The world will never believe in a religion in which there is no supernatural power.” The world may not understand such power, but it is strangely drawn to it. However, the demands of God to possess it are neither cheap nor easy. Sacrifice is the supreme quality for which God awaits. God’s fire will only descend upon sacrifice. An empty altar receives no fire!
As you look around at our world, it appears that sin is winning. But, we still possess an intangible weapon that gives us a great advantage. Andrew Bonar said, “God likes to see His people shut up to this, that there is no hope but in prayer. Herein lies the church’s power against the world.” In searching for other means and measures to overcome the plague of sinfulness, have we missed the obvious? The longer we go without measured and meaningful prayer, the more we will watch the locust of sin devour the land.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2016 Alan Stewart