Shalom. Here we are back again to continue on with Soul Shepherds Part Two. In Part One, we began investigating the following questions:
(1) Are our prayers for our loved ones being heard?
(2) Are our prayers being acted upon?
(3) What is going on when the answer to our prayers appears to be “bad”?
(4) Is it possible that we are often guilty of “rescuing” our loved ones from the answer to our own prayers?
And we ended with a challenge to spend time soul searching.
Have you taken the opportunity to really contemplate what it truly means to act (and pray) in love toward others? Personally, I found it necessary to expend considerable time with this task. I needed to be brutally honest with myself in assessing especially whether or not I could allow my children, my family, and my friends to be hurt or even angry with me if I chose not to rescue them, either emotionally or physically. Do I love them enough to risk the possibility that they may interpret my lack of action as not caring (as I did with God)? It was humbling to consider the possibility that my desire to rescue my loved ones could, in even some small way, be motivated by my desire for them to think well of me. Oy!
Do I possess the internal strength and resolve to allow them to experience considerable pain and struggle while I withhold “help,” if the end result will be a transformed relationship with the Most High? Certainly there are times that our aid would be both loving and appropriate. However, if we see a pattern that reveals that our loved ones are living a life leading away from God and His ways, shouldn’t we at least consider that their struggles may be evidence of God working in their lives? And, should this be the case, surely we would no longer wish to interfere with the process designed to bring them back to Him!
So, now that we have reevaluated and discovered that our ultimate desire for those we love is not necessarily physical comfort, but spiritual health and growth, let’s look again at how to fervently pray. Is it necessary to repeat our requests time and again? Scripture does instruct us to pray without ceasing. Does without ceasing mean to offer the same petitions over and over again? Is Our Almighty God hard of hearing? Forgetful? Sleeping? Does He suffer from dementia? Or perhaps, next to our name in the Book of Life, is written a prayer quota which we must reach before He will respond. And what about fervency? Does fervency mean that we close our eyes really tightly and voice each word with heartfelt conviction? Should we try to weep in order to move the Great I Am to action?
A closer look at the verse quoted at the beginning of Part One of this teaching might provide some light.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Jas 5:16b
As it turns out, one Greek word, energeo, has been translated into English as two words “effectual, fervent.” The Strongs Lexicon defines energeo as active and efficient.
So how do we pray efficiently and actively? Several years ago, I ran across a book, War on the Saints, written by Jessie Penn-Lewis and published in 1912. In this very small book about spiritual warfare, Mrs. Penn-Lewis offered sage counsel about the subject of prayer. I share it here.
BEGINNING OF QUOTE:
1. How long are we to continue asking for the same thing?
A: On this point we need clear light about prayer. The Bible says “use not vain repetitions,” and you need to know whether a thing is in the will of God before you come to a definite transaction with Him about it. One thing you need never be in doubt about, however, is this clear statement of the Word: “The Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). There is no doubt about the will of God there, and it will cover a great deal of praying. You might be certain you are in the will of God when asking Him to destroy the works of the devil.
Take an illustration. You may say: “Lord, the devil is at work through that man. We ask you to destroy Satan’s work there.” Are you to keep on presenting that petition? No! You are, however, to follow up that general prayer by prayer in detail. You need to watch and pray all around that man. His daily circumstances are hindering his deliverance, so pray, “Lord, in Your grace, deal with his circumstances and put them right!” His associates, the places he goes to, everything you see to be an obstacle to his deliverance, deal with in prayer until they are removed. Then you should begin to pray for positive blessing, and finally you can pray him “right through.”
Here is another illustration. Think of a church that is struggling. Perhaps you do not know what hinders the Spirit’s blessing, but you sense there is a hindrance to the work of God. Bring it before the Lord and ask that wherever the enemy is at work he may be exposed; that whatever the hindrances are they may be made manifest. You will find that definite material for prayer will come to your knowledge until you have prayed it through in every detail, and the work of God is unhindered.
How long are you to pray for the conversion of someone you are interested in? Pray once: “Lord, save my son.” The Lord has heard you! Now watch, and pray in detail for everything about him – where he goes, what he reads, his friends, his work. Follow it all in prayer. Keep praying for the same persons, but pray new prayers! Do not pray every day, “Lord, save that lost soul!” but pray around his life and circumstances.
Learn to shepherd souls by prayer—then you will look at them with different eyes and God will show you what the hindrances are to their being saved. Doing this will put a stop to gossip! Someone says to you, “Is it not dreadful about So-and-so?” Formerly you might have said, “How sad!”—and passed the information on to another. But now you will say, “I thank You Lord, for letting me know this –now I can pray better for that one.” So everything you hear is turned into prayer.
Praying is work. Pray out the obstacles, pray in the positive power—and that will give you abundant material for this work of prayer.
END OF QUOTE
It is thought provoking, isn’t it?
Yet it also is, without doubt, difficult when the answer to our prayers seems so long in coming. Would you consider with me Yochebed (translated as Jochebed in our English Bibles), Moses’ mother? Try to imagine yourself in her place. Imagine Moshe (Moses) is your son, born into a very perilous time for baby boys. It is already a miracle that baby Moshe was not thrown into the Nile at birth and is still alive! And the one thing that keeps him alive is the fact that when your beloved baby boy has been weaned, (perhaps at the tender age of 2 or 3), you must take him to the palace of the nation that holds you and your people captive in cruel labor camps.! Unthinkable! And there you will relinquish him to the pharaoh’s daughter. You have no guarantee of seeing him again. Ever! You know you are handing him over to a pagan palace where he will be raised and educated in their ways. You will not know when he cries, or when he laughs, or when he is sick, or if he is well. In fact, you know that it is highly probable that Moshe will never return home to you, and likely will never even know who you are.
Certainly Yochebed must have caught glimpses of Moshe from time to time over the years, but if she ever had a conversation with him again, the Scripture has chosen silence on the matter. Then 40 years later (FORTY YEARS), while it must have seemed to Yochebed that her prayers were not being heard, Moshe had to run for his life far away from Yochebed’s watchful eye! Perhaps she feared that her beloved son was lost forever. OR, conversely, it is possible that she gave great thanks to the God of Israel, Who had sent her son running in fear, in order to extricate him from paganism!
Without Facebook updates, CNN and Fox News briefs, or even telegraphs or cell phones, Yochebed’s wait for news of her son would be long indeed. It was so long, in fact, that when Moshe did return, he was EIGHTY! I wonder if Yochebed ever stopped praying for her son, even though she saw no results over such a long period of time!We are not told that she had any reason to hope, and indeed what she DID see in those days before Moshe ran away, was that her beloved son now looked very much like an Egyptian prince!
With the passage of forty more years, Yochebed may have reasonably concluded that her prayers were falling on deaf ears and perhaps even feared that Moshe was long dead. Yet the Master Plan had been at work all along, and was continuing to play out on the other side of the desert. And Moshe DID return to his people and, much more importantly, to the GOD of his people! He not only served the God of Israel, but did so in a very mighty way! He was not only used to bring the Children of Israel out of slavery and to the very edge of the Promised Land, but provided a vivid picture of our Redeemer in the process! And even today, his name is synonymous with the good and perfect teaching and instructions (often translated as “law”) of the Holy One of Israel! Now THAT was an astounding twist in the plot which perhaps even Yochebed would never have anticipated as she prayed for her baby boy!
Surely she must have shed enough tears to overflow the banks of the Nile and must have uttered countless prayers on behalf of her beloved son, Moshe. It is not difficult to imagine her pleading; “Bring him out of paganism, Elohim Most High. Preserve his life. Bring him back home to his people. Remind him who he is and that he belongs to the One True God! Even in the midst of paganism, Elohim, remind him!” I wonder if she would have ever dreamed that the answer to her prayer would involve her son running for his life. Would she have tried to rescue him from the REAL rescue as we often do?
Although there is no Scriptural evidence to indicate whether or not Yochebed lived to see her son’s return (although Jewish sources believe she was still alive), her prayers were indeed being heard and a response was already in play! In His great wisdom, the Master had simply sent Moshe running away, to receive intensive training in shepherding a flock, until the time would be right to bring him back to shepherd His people.
And it is interesting to note that not only was Moshe’s path away from paganism stressful, but his training time included being cheated, slandered, accused and abused, all the while learning lessons he would use far into the future. Yochebed did not have her eye on her son, but the God of the Universe did! Yes, often the answer to our prayers is concealed from us until the time is right for it to be revealed! I am thankful that my not knowing something in no way keeps it from being true nonetheless!
It brings to my mind a program I recently watched; a true story about a cold murder case from 35+ years ago. When the crime occurred and evidence was collected, DNA profiling was still but a distant dream. It was only in recent years that the murder case evidence, filed away in a box in a warehouse for decades, was retrieved and tested with current knowledge and technology, and the murderer was brought to justice. So, is it even remotely possible that the DNA had just recently materialized there in that evidence box? Thirty-five years ago, was there really no such thing as DNA, or did we simply not yet have the knowledge and technology necessary to analyze and understand it?
Surely the evidence had not been evolving in an evidence box in that warehouse! It was, of course, present all along, and designed by the Creator before the beginning of time. And though they didn’t yet know it, thirty five years of prayers by the victim’s family had been answered before they had even asked; a foretaste of what it will be like in the millennial Kingdom when, as the prophet Isaiah tells us,…
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. Isa 65:24
(The Hebrew word translated as “hear” in this verse is “sh’ma” and means to hear with intelligence and also infers action. Therefore, before they called He was already at work!)
We can be certain that if it is His perfect will for which we ask, the answer to our prayers is in the works and simply awaits His perfect timing to be revealed. Selah.
We will take another break to allow ourselves time to ponder and work through the changes He is making in our perspective of Who He is and why He would allow “bad things” to happen to “good people.” This is, after all, part of the process of the renewing of our minds.
In Soul Shepherds Part Three, with God’s help, we will conclude the series and begin the task of implementing what we have learned as we walk on the path that He has chosen for us.
In the meantime, will you pray that in times that I stray from His righteous path, He will give me the gift of extreme DIScomfort so that I might quickly return to the path that leads to Life?
And I will do the same for you!
Hugs and Blessings,
Jacquetta (Soul Shepherdess, still in training)