Promise And Prayer
By Arthur Petrie
In his book on “Christian Perfection,” John Wesley says that “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” The Bible teaches that prayer must occupy an important place in the plan and program of God. At the close of a chapter full of promise, God says, “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them…” (Ezek. 36:37). Mysterious as it may seem, prayer is one of the means that God has appointed for the carrying into effect His promises. Matthew Henry says, “We must turn God’s promises into prayer, and then they shall be turned into performances.” F. B. Meyer writes, “Though the Bible be crowded with golden promises from board to board, yet will they be inoperative until we turn them into prayer. It is not our province to argue the reasonableness of this: it is enough to accentuate and enforce it.” He also writes, “God’s promises are given, not to restrain, but to incite to prayer.” The teaching that promise and prayer must go together and be used together is “one of the primal [primary] laws of the spiritual world.” I shall illustrate this from Scripture.
First Kings 18
This chapter furnishes an illustration of the connection between promise and prayer. God definitely said to Elijah, “Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth” (v. 1). Elijah met the condition: he showed himself to Ahab; but he did something more. He prayed. And how he prayed! The echo of the promise was still sounding in his heart when he said to Ahab, “Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain” (v. 41). Now notice what happened. “…Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel” to pray! (v. 42). Oh, how many today are going up to eat and to drink, while the few go to pray! And the many owe the fact that they can eat and drink to the prayers of the few.
The saints that we owe things to are the saints that pray things through.
Prayer was not mentioned as a condition in the promise of rain. Elijah might have gone away from Ahab confident that God would keep His promise. But no, Elijah goes to pray. He prayed seven times for rain. He sent his servant toward the sea to look for the promised rain, and while the servant was going, Elijah put his face between his knees and prayed, as I imagine, “O Lord, send the rain.” The servant comes back and tells Elijah that he sees “nothing.” Elijah says to him, “Go again” seven times. And each time, while he is going, Elijah, with his face between his knees, prays, “O Lord, send the rain.” What a scene it is! Elijah praying for the promised rain as though its coming depended upon his prayers and not on the promise of God! And why? Because we have here “one of the primal laws of the spiritual world.” God wills to be inquired of to fulfill His promises. Oh, blessed way of bringing us into the prayer chamber of God!
Daniel 9 is perhaps the most moving chapter in the Bible on the matter of promise and prayer. Daniel had read the twenty-ninth chapter of the prophet Jeremiah. That chapter contains this promise: “…Thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (Jer. 29:10). Daniel refers to this when he says in his ninth chapter: “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, …I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (vv. 1-2). The time for the accomplishment of that promise was now at hand. What did Daniel do? Did he call his Hebrew friends together and suggest a celebration in view of the end of their captivity? Did he sit around and wait for the edict of the king, permitting them to return to their land? No, indeed. He prayed one of the most moving and fervent prayers recorded in the Bible. (See Daniel 9:3-19.) Do you wonder that such a prayer sent an angel flying out of heaven to bring the answer to Daniel? It moved God Himself to answer.
You cannot read that prayer without getting the fervency of it. Daniel prayed for the fulfilling of the promise of God as though it depended on his prayer. And now note this: When God gave the promise of the Jews’ return, He ordained that prayer should be the means of its accomplishment. It is in connection with the promise through Jeremiah that God said, “Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you” (Jer. 29:12). Daniel knew that, and so prayed as he did. “Then” refers to the time of the end of the captivity, as can be seen by reading Jeremiah 29:10, 12. When that time was up, “then” they were to “call” and “pray,” and God promised to answer: “And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jer. 29:14).
If Jeremiah 29:10-14 and Daniel 9:2-3 teach anything, they certainly teach that promise and prayer go together and that God has ordained prayer as a means to accomplish His purposes in the earth. Matthew Henry makes this observation: “When God is about to give His people the expected good, He pours out a spirit of prayer.”
David Brainerd wrote in his Journal under date June 30, 1744: “My soul was very solemn in reading God’s Word; especially the ninth chapter of Daniel. I saw how God had called out His servants to prayer, and made them wrestle with Him, when He designed to bestow any great mercy on His church.”
That is exactly the case of Daniel. He saw that the time of the promise was at hand, and he wrestled in prayer for its accomplishment. And God answered, not only in keeping with His faithfulness to His promise, but because of Daniel’s prayer, and to teach His people that prayer for the fulfillment of the promises of God is “one of the primal laws of the spiritual world.”
Very strikingly, the whole Bible closes with a reiteration of this “primal law of the spiritual world” – this truth of the connection between promise and prayer. It ends with a promise and a prayer. The promise is, “Surely I come quickly.” And the prayer is, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Exultantly does J. A. Seiss write: “It is the promise of promises – the crown and consummation of all promises – the coronation of all evangelic hopes – the sum of all prophecy and prayer.”
Those who prayed the promises into performances were right with God. John’s heart was so right with God that as soon as he heard the promise of Christ, he immediately and joyfully turned it into prayer. God in heaven is looking for those on earth in whose hearts He can put prayer for the performance of His promises. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him…” (2 Chr. 16:9). And into such hearts, the Spirit of God will put the prayer of God, for “prayer is nothing but the breathing that out before the Lord, that was first breathed into us by the Spirit of the Lord.” May the Lord number us among those who pray His promises.
– From The Sunday School Times.