The Power of Prayer - Jeremiah 33.3
November 30, 2008
Introduction: Phil didn’t know what to say when his young children asked if Mommy was going to die. His wife, Ramona, suffered horrible seizures.
Hundreds of friends and relatives prayed, but Ramona’s weight eventually slipped to 90 pounds. Medical specialists tried everything, but by the fall, the seizures were occurring daily, sometimes hourly.
Phil rarely left Ramona’s side. He wondered if she would even make it to her 30th birthday. One evening, when things looked utterly hopeless, Phil paced in his dark back yard.
When everything seems stacked against us and all hope is lost, we begin to think that we are so utterly alone. We’ve tried everything we can think of and still we come up empty. It is precisely at times like these that we must prevail in prayer for great and mighty things.
Jeremiah was commanded to pray for great and mighty things from the confinement of prison. A rebellious king named Zedekiah attempted to stifle the prophet’s convicting pronouncements about the doom of Judah. This king would be the last before Babylon took the nation captive.
The LORD would command Jeremiah to pray and then back the command with His creative power (v. 2). Nothing is too hard for the LORD who made heaven and earth and everything that dwells therein. The LORD commands Jeremiah…
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
We must pray because God has the power to deliver what He promises!
Transition: There is power in God’s position as Creator. This is why it is so necessary to obey His command to call upon Him. So, we see first…
1. The Power of His Position: “Call to Me!”
Explanation: When the Lord thinks about you and me, He thinks thoughts of peace and not of evil (Jer 29.11a). He seeks to give us a future and a hope (Jer 29.11b). This knowledge assists our prayer effort. When we call upon our LORD and pray to Him, He will listen to us (Jer 29.12). Seek Him and He will be found if you search with all your heart (Jer 29.13; Deut 4.29).
As with Israel, is there any other nation that has had God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us in America? For whatever reason we may call upon the LORD our God at any time (Deut 4.7)! You may think that we have fallen from the grace of God as a nation of prayer. That may be true to a large extent. Yet we may come to ourselves even as Judah did and return from our own captivity and realize the promises of God.
We are still able to repent and call to the LORD. We may even obey the admonition Solomon gave to Israel and say, “We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness” (1 Ki 8.47). God will hear and forgive us. That’s why He commands us to call. He will grant us compassion and listen to us whenever we call to Him (1 Ki 8.52).
Call upon the LORD in the day of trouble; He will deliver and cause us once more to glorify Him (Ps 50.15). The Psalmist stated, “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and [the LORD] shall hear my voice” (Ps 55.17). God is “abundant in mercy to all those who call upon [Him]” (Ps 86.5). “In the day of trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me” (Ps 86.7).
“He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91.15-16).
“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Ps 145.18). “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa 55.6-7). There is power in this command because of the position of our God. He alone is God, Creator of everything.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11.9-10). “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4.16). The power of His position is behind His command to pray. So, it natural for us to ask why we don’t do something that is so sensible. This can be answered in a myriad of different ways. Let me suggest three…
· We cannot experience the power of prayer because of our preoccupation with this world. Spurgeon wrote that we have hours for the world and only moments for Christ. We measure our prayer time in minutes because of the allure of this present arrangement of things.
· We cannot experience the power of prayer because of our perception of ourselves. We feel so polluted with sin that we can hardly believe that God would want to hear from us. We feel traitorous. We weep with Peter as we betray the Lord with our denials. We well remember that we are false and full of sin, but forget that He is full of truth and grace!
· We cannot experience the power of prayer because of our persistence in unbelief. God commands us to call, He promises an answer. Yet we say, “I can hardly believe that this will make that much of a difference.” We don’t believe that God will do what He said He would do. Perhaps we’re afraid of His will or we’re too determined to do our own will. It’s pretty sad when as Christians we believe we know what is best for us.
Transition: The power in God’s position as Creator gives authority to His command to call upon Him. We must pray because God has the power to deliver what He promises! Second, notice…
2. The Power of His Promise: “I will answer you!”
Explanation: It is one thing when another person says that he will do something for us; it is quite another when God says that He will do something for us. God always makes good on His promises to us. “By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far-off seas” (Ps 65.5).
Two main lines of thought provide clarification and reinforcement here.
· When we obey the command to pray, the character of God provides confidence that He will answer. Romans 8.32 is just but one example: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” God loves us and desires that none of us be lost and alone. He is merciful. His justice demanded payment for our sin, so He spared not His own Son. The love of God meets the justice of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
· When we obey the command to pray, our experience with God in the past provides confidence that He will answer us.
o I was assured of Heaven by God because my uncle and the church he pastors were burdened to pray for me.
o I am preaching today because I prayed for God’s wisdom and direction, for Him to order my steps and direct my paths.
o My sons are in church today because of a burden for many to pray.
It is beyond me why we don’t obey the command to pray when the answer is assured! It goes to show you how powerful a weapon it is.
Transition: Let’s summarize where we’ve been. The power of His position issues forth an admonition to call upon Him. The power of His promise assures that He will answer. We must pray because God has the power to deliver what He promises! There is also a third and final facet to this admonition to pray…
3. The Power of His Persuasion - “I will show you…”
What is it that God will show us? How shall He persuade us? The demonstration of God’s power unleashed through our prayer effort is fortified around literally three categories of things: Great Things, Mighty Things, and Things We Do Not Know. These categories have the power to persuade.
a. Great Things - Nothing is Beyond the Ability of God
Explanation: When the vengeance of Esau seemed inevitable, Jacob experienced the great deliverance of God (Gen 32.9-11; 33.1-4). When Pharaoh drew near the children of Israel, Moses and the children of God experienced His great deliverance (Ex 14.10, 21-29). Gideon thought little of himself, and yet God did great things on his behalf in the day of the Judges (Judges 6.15-16). Samson thought much of himself, and yet God allowed him a great and final blow so that “the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life” (Judges 16.28-30). David experienced great victories in his life. He wrote many of the Psalms to showcase God’s great demonstrations of power.
When Judah is taken and Zedekiah’s sons murdered (the last image he would literally see), all hope of any future deliverance for this nation was lost. But after the exile, God moved: The temple was rebuilt, the walls were rebuilt, the people were restored. He assured Jeremiah: “I will show you great things!” We must pray because God has the power to deliver the great things He promises!
Application: The disciples came to Jesus in Luke 8 “and awoke Him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But [Jesus] said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!’ Nothing is beyond the ability of God. We must pray because God has the power to deliver the great things He promises!
Luke 12:31 commands, “Seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” Indeed, these are great things promised to us and God has the power to deliver them!
Nothing is beyond the ability of God. Paul called on God three times for the thorn to depart. God answered him. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12.9)
Paul boasted in his infirmities because of the power of Christ resting upon him and showing him great things. Great things for the sickly, great things for the marginalized, great things for the needy, great things for the persecuted, great things for those distressed for Christ.
Yes, we are weak but God is great and strong. We are nothing and He is everything. We must pray because God has the power to deliver the great things He has promised. Nothing is beyond the ability of God!
Sub-point Transition: The second category of things which have the power to persuade is that of …
b. Mighty Things - Nothing is Beyond the Access of God
Explanation: Mighty = hidden or fenced in things; not accessible to us but very accessible to God. Nothing is beyond the access of God. One commentator wrote that the Hebrew word for mighty describes something made inaccessible by fortifying or enclosing it, such as a city (cf. Num. 13:28; Deut. 3:5; 28:52; Ezek. 21:20).
Another states that Jeremiah did not understand how God could restore a nation that was destined for doom (cf. Jer. 32:24-25), so God challenged the prophet to call to Him for understanding.
Still one more adds the idea is that God’s people don’t learn the hidden things of the Lord by “storming the gates” through their own strength but by seeking Him through believing prayer.
The final two categories overlap a bit; however this category is distinct in that it speaks of things beyond our reach apart from the provision of God.
Application: Finishing the year in the black in our missions fund is out of reach humanly speaking. Maintaining a healthy missions’ budget against the bleak background of our economic situation is out of reach humanly speaking. Building a new building is out of reach humanly speaking. Seeing 25-30 people saved and added to the church next year is out of reach humanly speaking.
Prayer may involve humans speaking, but more importantly it assures what God is promising - mighty things. Everything out of reach is within reach when we call upon God. He delights in doing mighty things for His children!
Jesus said this about the mighty inaccessible things of life: “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Nothing is beyond the access of God. We must pray because God has the power to deliver the mighty things He has promised.
Sub-point Transition: The third category of things which have the power to persuade is that of…
c. Things You Do Not Know - Nothing is Beyond the Abundance of God
Isaiah 48:6 states, “You have heard; see all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, even hidden things, and you did not know them.”
1 Corinthians 2:7-11 “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”
This final category is distinct from mighty things in that it speaks God’s revelation to man. The more we call upon God the more He reveals of Himself. It is a never-ending prospect with the thrill of new vistas of knowledge every day and through eternity. This is the abundance of God unmatched by any false rival. And it comes to those who pray!
Transition: The great things, the mighty things, and the things you do not know persuade us that nothing is beyond the ability, access, and abundance of God! The power of God’s position enables His command to Call upon Him in prayer. The power of God’s promise assures His answer. The persuasion of great and mighty things which we do not know is unrivaled.
Conclusion: Remember Phil pacing in his dark backyard? Phil fell to his knees. “God!” he cried out. “I can't take it anymore. Please do something!” He called upon God to do for his wife what he simply could not do.
Suddenly a doctor's name came to mind. Phil called the doctor, who saw Ramona the next morning and diagnosed a rare chemical deficiency.
Within a week, Ramona's seizures ended. Her eyes sparkled again. The miracle was so incredible; Phil knew that God gave him back his wife. It all began with a despairing cry. This is the way it will begin for you as well.
Christian Reader (Jan/Feb 2002), pp.12-13; source: Luis Palau, It's a God Thing, www.palau.org/godthing
Tom Constable. (2003; 2003). Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible (Je 33:3). Galaxie Software.
cf. confer, compare
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:1174). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1995). Be decisive. An Old testament study. (Je 32:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.