May 2014

Look at the Nations and Watch!

“Look at the nations and watch– and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5 NIV

“Look at the nations and watch!” This is as timely an exhortation today as it was over 2500 years ago when it was first given! Keeping a watchful eye on what is happening in the nations is critical because Jesus commanded us that as His people we engage in being a house of prayer for all nations. Watching the nations provides us with understanding into the unfolding of God’s purposes in the earth. And, it arms us with strategic insights into ways in which we can intercede for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The manner in which the nations relate to God and His people, both Israel and the church, has always been associated with the blessings or judgments that He metes out. The three chapter book of Habakkuk provides an excellent illustration of how God invites us through intercession, into His history shaping intervention in the nations.

God’s Presence – Our Priority in Prayer

The singular truth about prayer that can most revolutionize a person’s prayer life is this – the primary purpose of prayer is be in God’s presence. When we make that our aim, first and foremost simply to enter into and experience God’s presence, our understanding of prayer takes on transformative meaning. Prayer becomes a relationship more than a responsibility, a place more than a process, a delight more than a drudgery and an end more than a means.

The prayer life of Jesus and the way in which He related to His disciples illustrates this priority in prayer. In His own personal life Jesus frequently sought a solitary place in which He could commune with His Father in prayer. On occasion He brought some of His disciples with Him and the divine encounters He had with the Heavenly Father so impressed them that they finally asked Him to teach them to pray. (Luke 11:1) His response is noteworthy. He began by encouraging them to seek out a relationship with the heavenly Father themselves instructing them to pray “Father, hallowed be Thy name. . . .”

When Jesus chose the twelve He established this same priority emphasizing that relationship precedes responsibility. We are told “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” (Mark 3:14 NIV) One cannot help but notice that His first concern and purpose was that they simply “be with him.” That is Jesus’ desire for each of us with regard to prayer – simply to spend time with Him.

One of the best verses in the Bible that embodies God’s ultimate purpose for and intended blessings from prayer is found in Psalm 16:11. It was penned by David who is singularly described as a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The promise embedded in this verse is that out of God’s presence flows not only joy but also the revelation of His will, i.e. “the path of life.” The wonder of this priority in prayer is that in God’s presence, His perspective and will are revealed, thus enabling us to pray by revelation for the things that are upon His heart. That in turn releases faith because “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15 NIV)

Two Things That Amaze God

Have you wondered if God is ever amazed? And if so, what kind of things do you think amaze Him?

In my searching the Scriptures I have found only two times where we are literally told that God had that kind of reaction to something. One is in the Old Testament and other one is recorded in the New Testament gospels.

It is significant to note that in both cases God’s amazement or astonishment was related to the issue of intercession. Intercession as Biblically defined is a type of prayer, often followed up by action, that protects someone in peril by making “up a hedge and stand[ing] in the gap before” God on their behalf. (Ezekiel 22:30 KJV) See the article “Praying a Hedge of Protection.”

Here then are the only two times recorded when God is amazed:

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