By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr.
We hold God to His Promise when We Pray
God is a faithful promise-keeper Who never fails to fulfill His promises at His appointed time. King Solomon testified:
“O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below-you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.
“You have kept your promise to your servant David my father, with your mouth you have promised and with hand you have fulfilled it as it is today” (1 Kings 8:23-24 NIV).
None of the promises of the faithful God of Israel has ever failed (Ps 77:8). He told the Prophet Habakkuk: “The vision is yet for an appointed time, … though H tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (i.e. go beyond the set date -Hab 2:3).
If so, is it the case that God’s promises will be fulfilled by themselves without our having to say a word of prayer?
We must understand that while God’s promises are sure, He uses them to test our faith in Him. He expects us to pray over the many great promises He has given in His word so that we would recognize that the promised blessings didn’t happen by chance but were of His doing!
Throughout the scriptures, we see God’s people move in faith to hold God to His promises.
Take father Abraham. Although the Lord had promised him that He would make his descendants great and give them the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:2. 7), he still found it worthwhile to remind God of His promise in Gen. 15:3: “You have given me no children.”
At the age of ninety-nine years when the promise still hadn’t come to pass and Abraham seemed comforted by the coming of Ishmael, God reiterated His promise a couple of times, stressing “by this time next year Sarah will bear you a son” (Gen. 17:19-21,18:14). And truly at the exact time God promised, Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Gen. 21:1-3).
Here, we clearly see God using His promise of a child by Sarah to test Abraham’s faith over a 25-year period (age 75 to age 100). Abraham, meanwhile, never missed a chance to remind God of His promise in both overt and subtle ways.
God’s promises are meant to be believed and awaited!
Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, was also a great man of faith who wholeheartedly believed in the Promises of God. As an act of sheer faith in God’s promise of blessing in Gen. 28:13-15, Jacob in an encounter with the Divine would not let Him go until He had blessed him (Gen. 32:24 -29). For Jacob, it was not just enough to acknowledge the promise of God but to make a persistent and unrelenting demand for its fulfillment, and he was heard.
Consider also the deliverance of the children of Israel. Although the LORD had promised that after 400 years in captivity the Israelites would regain their freedom (Gen. 15:13 – 16), their cry and affliction would prove an impetus to the deliverance agenda of God. As He sent Moses on a mission of freedom to the Israelites in Egyptian bondage, He said:
“I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.
“And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey: unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
“Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
“Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:7 – 10 KJV).
Without the background story of the promise of deliverance, the above scripture sounds as if the stated rescue mission was a spontaneous reaction to the cry of the Israelites. But in actual fact, it was the fulfillment of a promise which had merely been given a sense of urgency by the plight and cry of the Israelites!
Fast-forward to the time of the Babylonian captivity. At the start of the enslavement of the Jews did the LORD promise deliverance after 70 years. But implicit in the promise was a responsibility for the Jews to fulfill–hold God to His promise:
“For 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.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
“And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.
“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 wither 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. 29:10- 14 KJV).
After 70 years, God would fulfill His promise, but His people needed to hold Him to it!
Having learnt of this truth in the book of Jeremiah, this was how Daniel reacted:
” In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes [or Ahasuerus.,a Mede by descent], who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom.
“In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.
“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
“I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with all who love Him and obey His commands.
“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary.
“Give ear. O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name.
We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.
“O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive!
O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O My God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name” (Dan. 9:1 – 4, 17 – 19 NIV).
Prayer Demonstrates Faith in God’s Promises
God’s promises ought to be a key component of our prayer; they carry tremendous clout (influence/power) with Him. Because God does not lie (Tit. l:2; Heb 6: 18), He will never fail to fulfill any of His promises brought to His “remembrance” in prayer. Not that He forgets anything, but then we must do so to indicate faith in Him as well as show our continued reliance on His promise, which is in itself an outgrowth of faith.
Indeed, the promises of God should form the basis of our prayer requests. When His people pray, He remembers His promises and fulfills them. Concerning the deliverance of the children of Israel, the Psalmist wrote:
“For He remembered His Holy Promise, and Abraham His servant. And He brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness: And gave them the lands of the heathen and they inherited the labour of the people;
“That they might observe His statutes, and keep His laws. Praise ye the LORD” (Ps. 105:42-45).
Believers should not only acknowledge the promise of God, but also ‘play them back’ to Him in prayer for God to fulfill them. Even in saying ‘traditional prayers’ like the Lord’s Prayer, we must always remember the promise underlying the prayer. Implied in the Lord’s Prayer, for example, is God’s promise of providing our daily bread (or needs Ps. 145:15-16) to which we hold Him each time we say the prayer (Malt. 6:9- 13).
As a natural elaboration of this promise, the Lord Jesus urges us in Matt. 6:25 – 32:
“Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour lo his life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin.”
“Yet, I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
“So do not worry, saying. What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or ‘What shall we wear?”
“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (NIV).
God loves to see His children trust in His promises and not unduly worry. That is why when we pray we are also expected to give thanks to God in acknowledgement of His unfailing promises (Php. 4:6).
Prayer and the promises of the Almighty go together. The early Church was not oblivious of the role of prayer in the fulfillment of God’s promises. Instructed by the Lord to wait for the promise of the Father, they didn’t just wait; they added prayer. In other words, they waited and they prayed, until the promise of the Father was fulfilled when the Holy Ghost fell on them on the day of Pentecost (Luke 24:49: Acts 1:4, 12 -14).
Of course, the early apostles would understand the Biblical term “wait” to mean waiting on the Lord in prayerful expectancy; that is, spending time before Him in prayer (See Ps 40: l; Isa.30:7, 40:31).
And what a better way to pray and to wait on the Lord than to invoke His unfailing promises in prayer! We find the early Church doing exactly this when they came under persecution. They appealed to God’s promise of foiling the plans of the enemies of Christ in Ps 2 and then, on that basis, presented their request (Acts 4:23 – 30).
In a haste to fulfill His promise in the might of His power, “the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (v 31).
His promises of God cannot be divorced from prayer; we pray because He has promised.
We have been told to ask, and it shall be given to us, knock and we shall find because of the promise that all things are ours through Christ (Man 7:7 – 8; 1 Cor. 3:21). With this understanding, John 14:14 could be rendered, ‘If you ask for the fulfillment of any promise in My Name, I will do it’.
Every promise of God is meant to believed and repeated in the hearing of God in prayer. Even the kingdom promised the little flock ought to be part of our daily prayers, as in the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ (Luke 12:32; Matt 6:9).
When it comes to the matter of His promises, God expects us to hold Him to His promise and even command Him concerning its fulfillment:
“Thus saith the LORD the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things [promises] to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of My hands command ye Me” (Isa. 45:11).
Here, the message is clear: Concerning the fulfillment of His promise to bring back the Jews from captivity in Babylon through Cyrus, the Almighty said His saints should command Him!
And the same principle can be extended to other divine promises: Concerning your healing command ye Him (Ps 107:20, 1 Pet. 2:24); concerning your blessing and prosperity command ye Him (1Pet. 3:9; 2Cor. 8:9; Gal. 3:13 – 14); concerning victory over the enemies command ye Him (2 Chron. 20:15; Matt. 16:18; Rom. 16:20).
God promises to fight our battles for us, but unless we let Him rise up by prayer that promise will remain unfulfilled (Ps. 35:1- 3, 68:1 – 2).
The promises of God should be the foundation of our faith and prayer. Lack of belief in His promises is a natural faith killer and prayer stopper! Christians who do not feel motivated to pray are people who don’t really believe in the promises of God. By their attitude they tell God that “even if I ask, you won’t and can’t give me, so why bother to pray?’
And that is a serious offence in the sight of the living God! Is the LORD of the whole universe incapable of fulfilling His own promises? 1 John 5:10 sounds a note of warning:
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar: because he believeth not the record God gave of His Son.”
In Luke 24:25, Christ compares those who disbelieve the promises of God to fools:
“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken [concerning the suffering of the Messiah and the glory that should be His hereafter]”.
In other eases the divine rebuke for doubting the promises of God was not a comparison with fools. The rebuke came in the form of stiffer punishments. When one of the chief officials of the king of Israel openly disputed God’s promise to bring to an abrupt end famine in the land, Elisha, the prophet, told him that although he would witness the fulfillment of the promise, he would not live to enjoy the abundant food promised. As it turned out, the punishment decreed against the doubting official happened accordingly (2 Kings 7:1-2, 17- 20).
In the ease of Zechariah, who doubted the promise of God regarding the birth of John the Baptist, his son, this was the reply the angel Gabriel (sent to deliver the message) gave him:
“I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God: and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.
“And, behold, thou shall be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
“And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple.
“And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless” (Luke I: 19-22).
Compare the responsive, faith-based attitude of Mary when the virgin birth of Christ was announced to her by the same angel Gabriel.
Much as she was puzzled by the prospect of giving birth while still a virgin and so asked how it could be, she was open to angel Gabriel’s explanation of the miraculous process that would lead to the virgin birth of the Messiah. With the angel emphasizing that “with God nothing shall be impossible,” Mary replied in faith, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:26 -38).
No wonder, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, eulogized her when she (Mary) visited her: “Blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (v. 45).
Mary’s way is the way to go. The way of doubt is to be avoided if we will be blessed. Indeed, let’s always remember the ill-fate of Zechariah and that of the official of the king of Israel whenever we are tempted to doubt the promises of God! Believers who doubt the promises of God will never go scot-free, for they make God, who cannot and do not lie, a liar!
Now, how do you answer that charge?
So we had better believe and pray on that basis. Those who believe are already blessed because God will never go back on His word as Mary came to experience. After Thomas had expressed doubts about His resurrection, Jesus said to him: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20: 29).
Trust in God’s ability to do all things should fuel both our faith in Him and our prayer life. As the widow in Luke 18 believed that the stem, godless judge was her only hope and so pestered him until he granted her wish, so must we importune God until He fulfills our prayer requests based on His own promises (Luke 18:1- 8).
“Give Him no Rest”
The ancient saints of faith have already shown us the way: They received the promises of God through faith and patience, with fasting and prayer, etc (Heb. 6:12). Having counted God who made the promises faithful (Heb. 10:23), they prayed until the
promises came true. We read of Abraham in Rom. 4:20-21:
“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”
As believers with a firm faith in His promises, we should not rest until He fulfills each one of them. For the timely fulfillment of God’s promise to restore Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah urged the faithful: “Give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:7).
The New Testament counterpart of the above scripture is I Thess. 5:17—”pray without ceasing!” It is an order to hold God to His promises without ceasing because faithful is He that promised, He also will do it (v. 24).
“All His Promises are Yes!”
Prayer based on God’s promises is the prayer that puts God’s credibility and honour on the line – if He does not answer it, and so He readily listens and performs. God’s glory is precious to Him, it’s sacrosanct; He will never give His glory to another. That is why He has magnified His word (promise) above all His Name. (Isa. 42:8; Ps. 138:2).
Because God’s honour and credibility are at stake each time we make prayer requests to Him based on His own promises, He is always eager to perform His word of promise. He says in Jer. 4:28:”… because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.”
Isaiah 46:11 concurs: “… yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”
In Isaiah 55:10- 11, we hear of His word of assurance concerning the certainty of His promise:
‘For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater.
“So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
All the promises of God are sure, and they will prosper in their mission of blessing in our lives. We only make them seem to fail in our individual situations when we disbelieve the promises of God and so stop praying. The net result is that we make God a liar.
But in the face of all our doubts, God is always true (Rom. 3:4, Ps. 146:5), and blessed are those who, through faith in His word, pray for the fulfillment of His promises. In Christ, in whose Name we pray, all His promises are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen” (2 Cor. 1:18:20; John 16:23-24). Halleluiah!