Psalm 77:2 says, “I sought the Lord and my day of trouble. My hands were continually lifted up all night long.”
Many times, our prayer strategies go to the next level when situations reach a point of desperation. Health, finances, family struggles…these unexpected moments of intensity call for ‘drop everything’ prayer. It’s when you call or text friends to pray. Rally the church…prayer chains…everybody praying. Desperation can still be strategic.
This week, as we continue our series inspired by the Kendrick brothers’ book. The Battle Plan for Prayer, we’re focusing on how to pray extraordinarily.
The experience of Esther in the Old Testament led to the necessity for extraordinary prayer. You may recall how she, a beautiful young Jewish woman, was selected as a candidate for Queen of Persia when the king deposed his own wife. But from inside the palace, Esther learned from her childhood guardian, Mordecai, about a plan to exterminate the Jewish people.
The situation was dire – no less for Esther than anyone else. She wasn’t yet in a position to approach the king with any petition without permission. Customs of the day meant she could be lawfully killed for attempting to enter his presence. But she made a courageous call for extraordinary prayer: “So, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go into the king, which is not according to law; and if I perish, I perish“ (Esther 4:16).
The result of their praying was miraculous. The mastermind of the genocide was killed instead, hung on his own gallows, and Mortdecai, the Jew, was raised to a key position of leadership, charged with the state-sanctioned program of protecting the Jews from for the persecution. That’s the kind of prayer model the Bible guides us to follow.
There are three important elements of the extraordinary prayers in Esther: corporate prayer, fasting prayer and fervent prayer.
CORPORATE: Extraordinary prayer is a team effort. We read about this in Acts. The apostles gathered after Jesus’ ascension into heaven and prayed together.
When Peter was literally thrown into prison under heavy guard, “prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5). The night before his execution, chained between two soldiers, Peter was trying to sleep. Then an angel appeared, set him free and let him past the guards and gates on his way back home. As one old time author has said “the angel sent Peter out of prison, but it was the prayer that sent the angel.”
FASTING: They prayed with fasting. We know that fasting is one of the keys to prayer. But serious matters call for unusual sacrifice with focus, devotion and dedication.
God, through the prophet Joel, commanded his people to return to him “with all your heart…with fasting, weeping and mourning,“ (Joel 2:12).
Jesus, at the outset of his earthly ministry, prepared himself for the challenges ahead by committing to 40 days of fasting in Matthew 4:2. By taking time to deny the daily demands of our flesh to focus all of our attention on God, we can go more deeply and intimately into focused prayer in times of difficulty, strain, and emergency.
We fast because we mean business. Fasting together means we’re united in appealing to him and hearing from him. When it’s done in sincerity, God consistently honors it.
FERVENT: They prayed fervently, persistently and passionately. Circumstances can reach a point where our survival instinct alone can produce fervent praying. When the men on board the ship with the prophet Jonah began fearing for their lives, they called earnestly on the god they didn’t even know, begging for mercy from the storm (Jonah 1:14). God spared them.
But many situations in our lives and world are just as severe and call equally for fervent prayer. Sin is in our nature, pride is in our churches, heartbreak is in our homes and persecution happens among our brothers and sisters. The seeds of hardship and hospitality against Christians – experienced even now and many nations of the world – are already here on our shores. But is the church of God broken and surrendered? Are we willing to be “miserable and mourn and weep when necessary?” (James 4:9)
We know without a doubt that difficult times will come (2 Timothy 3:1). Jesus realistically told his disciples, “you will have suffering in this world,“ in John 16:33. “Do not be surprised “Peter said, “at the fiery ordeal among you.” When these problems reach an insurmountable breaking point, they require an unusual power that will only result from extraordinary prayer.
All of us tend to revert to a default level of praying – most likely an easier and more comfortable praying then we like to admit. But Jesus, in his own life, would ramp up the fervency of his praying depending on the need of the moment. From a joyful request, to praying all night, the crying out on his face before going to the cross.
Fervent prayer touches God’s heart. “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). But imagine what the combined, persistent, united prayers of many righteous people, each of them fasting and praying, might accomplish. It doesn’t just connect – it works miracles, moves mountains, ushers in revival, and changes the course of nations. Extraordinary prayer can produce extraordinary results!
Lord God Almighty, I praise you that nothing is impossible with you. Train us and lead us into extraordinary prayer. Help us throw off any sin, surrendering ourselves completely to you. May we see the needs of our city and our nation the way that you see them. Unite believers in my church and community an extra ordinary prayer. May we walk in love, I agree and heart, fast and faith, and unite in for rent, persistent prayer. Bring revival and spiritual awakening to our land. Be glorified through us, oh God!
- Thanks for listening!