Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How prayer and Bible prophecy go hand-in-hand

Luke 18:1&8 (1) Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. (8) “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

In today's post we want to look at how Jesus and the Apostle Paul link together prayer and Bible prophecy. 

Jesus desires to find His people praying at His return
In Luke 18 Jesus presents a parable on prevailing prayer.  He tells the story of a poor and oppressed woman who had appealed to an unjust judge for a resolution of a situation.  Everyday she went to him, making an appeal for him to take care of the problem that was vexing her life.  Jesus tells us that this Judge cared neither for her nor her plight, however he chose to intervene in order to get her out of his hair - so to speak.  Jesus' point was that if an unjust Judge would answer the pleas of a woman He doesn't know, how much more will not the Father - who is just and fair, hear the pleas of His people whom he loves.  Jesus then closes the section with the statement of His desire to find such prevailing prayer among His people at His return.

Why we must see the connection between prophecy and prayer
Jesus here is making an important connection for us between prayer and His second coming.  When we explore the scriptures, we discover the premium scripture places upon both.  For instance, 1/5 of the over 31,000 verses of the Bible deal with prophecy or Divine statements about the future.  Of those more than 800 prophecies, 1/3 of those focus upon the most important theme in prophecy - Christ's return. 

On the prayer side of things we find over 600 recorded prayers in the Word of God.  Prayer is such a huge theme in the Bible.  In Genesis 4:26 we see prayer first mentioned, with Revelation 21:20 being the last prayer of the Bible.  In that final prayer of the Bible, we find the combinations of prophecy and prayer in these words: "He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

Jesus teaches that prayer needs hope, and prophecy supplies it
Prayer by its very nature is wrestling to know God, hear God and invite God to be front and center in our thoughts and situations.  If anything, prayer needs hope - for often we find ourselves praying for people or situations where hope is in short supply.  It seems that scripture intentionally connects prayer and prophecy together to infuse our prayer lives with the Hope - Christ.  With prayer being possible because of Christ's first coming, and prophecy focusing us upon His second coming, it is clear why both need to be together. 

Having seen Jesus' teaching us how prophecy supplies the hope that prayer needs, we now turn to the Apostle Paul and learn a second important truth about the relationship between prophecy and prayer....

Prophecy supplies hope and prayer is strengthened by it
Paul writes in Philippians 3:20 "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Hope is present conviction rooted in the certainty of who God is and what He is going to do.  

As you look at the statement made here in Philippians, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul was writing to a church located at a cultural center of the Roman empire.  Much like a "county seat" in an American context - Phillipi was a place where issues such as Roman Citizenship played a huge role.  To be a Roman citizen meant privileges that very few people in the first century had the opportunity to enjoy.  For these people to whom Paul wrote - the fundamental question was: from whence do you derive your hope? The Christian must fight the temptation of placing too much hope in this world, which is why Paul directs their attention, and ours, to the return of Jesus Christ. 

Now in just a few verses we read an incredible statement on the need of prayer.  Philippians 4:6-7 tells us: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understand will guard your hearts and minds in Christ."  Grammar and context connects Philippians 4:6-7 back to Philippians 3:20-21.  In order to "be anxious for nothing" in prayer, I need to keep my heart focused upon the blessed hope of Christ's return.  The hope needed in prayer is supplied by the hope of His return.

Conclusion: The Bible puts prophecy and prayer together
Prophecy's effectiveness can only be seen as we apply its message to our current situation through prayer.  Jesus teaches us that the hope required by prayer is supplied by prophecy, and Paul taught us that the hope supplied by prophecy reinforces the prayer life. When we pray in accordance to Philippians 4:6-7 we are promised "peace that surpasses all understanding" and "guarding of the heart and mind in Christ".  What prophecy does is lift me above the immediate horizon of my circumstances to see Christ who is Lord over my circumstances.  Paul reminds us in Titus 2:13 "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus".  To know that the end of all time is not in the whims of chance, but rather in the will of God, gives great hope concerning personal situations.