For seven years I was on staff at a church that was passionately committed to corporate intercessory prayer. Ann and I typically would spend a minimum of six hours every week in corporate prayer meetings. On multiple occasions throughout the course of a year, the entire church would voluntarily commit to add fasting to our prayer. It wasn’t uncommon for us to go on three-day, five-day, even fourteen-day (and for some twenty-one day) water fasts. It wasn’t easy, but it was incredibly rewarding and we witnessed God move in powerful, life-changing, church-changing ways.
Both from what I read in God’s Word and what I experienced during those seven years I’ve come to the conclusion that we cannot expect to move forward as a church or to experience the richness of blessings that God wants to pour out upon us if we do not come to him and humbly yet persistently ask him in prayer.
I’m encouraged by the truth I read in Isaiah 30:18-19. Although it applied most directly to the nation of Israel during the time of the Old Covenant, the principle is still relevant:
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. . . . He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.”
But why does the Lord “wait” to be “gracious” to us? If he is really gracious and kind and wants to bless us, well, in the words of the Nike commercial: “Just do it!” If God longs to show us mercy and pour out his power, why does he wait until he hears “the sound of your cry” in prayer? Why must he first “hear” it before he blesses us?
I will answer those questions in a moment, but for now what you need to know is that God orchestrates it this way in order that he might be glorified in the mos