Joseph Prince - What Is Earnest Prayer To God?
I want to tell you something, that the ways of God is opposite from man. God chooses the weak things to confound the strong. God used the things that have no esteem in the minds of man to put to nothing things that are huge and big.
Now, when it comes to prayer, it is very interesting. We, in Singapore, we have this expression that I noticed ever since I became a Christian. Even in my previous church, you know, growing up as a youth leader and all that. And I myself have used this expression a lot, okay? Whenever we have small problems, okay, we just say, "Let's pray about it". Big problems, someone came back from the doctor and said that, you know, the doctor's diagnosed this person with this disease or whatever, all right, we say, what? "Oh, got to pray hard," very good. Got to pray hard. I never knew there's a pray hard and a pray soft. The way we think, praying hard gets the job done, okay? Simple prayer cannot get the job done.
It's amazing, and when we look at Elijah, okay? James chapter 5, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours," that's big encouragement to all of us. Have you ever gotten moody lately? Don't put up your hands. Have you ever gotten a little bit short-tempered on the road this past week? Don't put up your hands. Have you got short with anybody recently? Have you imagined things you shouldn't imagine? Done things you shouldn't have done? Said things you shouldn't have said? Well, you know what, Elijah was a man of the same nature as ours. I like the Old King James, look at the Old King James, "Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are". In other words, don't think of him as extraordinary man. He's like us, okay?
So, what happened? "He prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit". Now, have you noticed the phrase, "He prayed earnestly that it would not rain"? He prayed earnestly. Now, the word there in the Greek is prayed with a prayer. He prayed with a prayer. It's Hebrewism. HEB there is Hebrewism. Hebrewism is a manner of speech, all right, that the Hebrews used. For example, they say, prayed with a prayer means he prayed strong prayers intensely, all right? "He prayed earnestly that it would not rain," and it did not rain for three and a half years, wow. What's his secret? "And he prayed again". This time, he prayed again, there's no in earnestly. The word earnestly is not there. You see that? He just prayed. And this time, "The heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit".
Okay, come Patrick, jump up here. I think I'll use Mark. Mark, come up here. You look good. Okay, you can climb up. Stand over here. All right, you're going to demonstrate these, okay? Both of you are Elijah. This Elijah before the famine. You know how he prayed earnestly? Watch this. All right, 17 of 1 Kings, "Elijah the Tishbite," this is the first time in the Old Testament Elijah's name was mentioned. We're introduced to Elijah. This is the first time. And the first time you see Elijah, all right, it says, "A Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, he said to Ahab, 'As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word,'" all right?
So, the first time he appeared, the Bible says what? He prayed earnestly that it might not rain. But when we study the Bible, we don't find him praying earnestly. He just declared, up here, you see, he just declared to King Ahab, "There'll be no dew, there'll be no rain". Are you with me? All right, okay? That's how the entire nation went into a drought for three and a half years, okay? Now, this is how he did it. At the end of three and a half years, after the victory on Mount Carmel, the fire fell, all right? The same day, Elijah prayed. Now, how did he pray this time for the rains to come? He knew that the people had repented, the conditions are right, all right, he kneeled down to pray for rain.
The Bible says in chapter 18 now, of 1 Kings, that Elijah said to King Aha, "'Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.' Ahab went up," look at this, "Elijah went up to the top of Carmel," again, "then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees". You got it? Yeah, yeah. And up, up. Do it like, praying like praying, yeah, pray intensely, yeah, praying... Okay. Now, listen, for men, for the mind of man, the thoughts of man, which is intense prayer? Which is earnest prayer? Declaring something would happen, or praying? You know, praying like this. You know how many times he did it? Seven times, verse 43. Seven times he prayed, and told his servant, "Go and see, is there any cloud"? No cloud. Came back again. He prayed again. "Go and see," all right? Seven times he prayed like this, his face between his knees on the ground, he prayed like that.
Now, for all of us, we'll say, which is earnest prayer? Which one? This one, right? Amen? This is what? Simple declaration. We don't even call it prayer, all right? To declare by faith, we would say, is a simple prayer, if it's a prayer anyway. We don't think of it as a prayer. We say this is a simple prayer. For us, what is intense prayer? This is intense prayer at the end of three and a half years praying for rain. What is simple prayer? Declaration in the mind of man. But in the mind of God, God calls this earnest prayer. God calls this prayer. Let's read again. All right, back to James, "Elijah prayed earnestly," you can look up here, Mark, all right, "He prayed earnestly".
Now, and he prayed earnestly again? No, the word earnestly is missing, and he just prayed again. You see, in the mind of God, this, "Oh, God; oh, God," all right? To man, it's intense prayer. God calls it just a prayer. When we speak in faith, declare by faith, God calls that intense prayer. Give them both a good hand. Thank you, thanks. Thanks, Patrick. Thanks, Mark.
Isn't it amazing, God's ways, you know, it's like this, God says when you declare by faith, that's a powerful prayer. It's a prayer of command, it's a proclamation of faith, amen. And some of us, we are asking God constantly to do things that is already God's will. And because we don't have the answers immediately, or the manifestation thereof immediately, we start to think that God may not want us to have it. When actually, we must realize we are in the real spiritual warfare, and there are forces, you have spiritual enemies that don't want to see you blessed. They want to hold back the blessings of God. They want to restrain the riches of God, the blessings of God, the healing of God from manifesting in your life, in your bodies, in your families. So, your problem is not God. God is on your side. God is for you. Your problem is the devil. Your problem are his opposing forces. And you are to speak to that problem.
So, Jesus said it like this in Luke chapter 17, Jesus says, "And the apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith.'" How many of you want your faith increased? Amen, how man want your faith increased, all right? We all want increased faith. "Increase our faith". What's the Lord's answer? "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be thou pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you," all right? So the way to increase your faith is to learn to issue commands with what little faith you have because a faith as small as a tiny seed of mustard will uproot that tree. So, whatever you have, even as simple as a pimple or a tumor, speak to it, all right? Command it. "Be thou plucked up by the roots," by the roots, by the roots, "and be thou planted in the sea," all right? If you have faith as a mustard seed.
Now, I'm' a show you something here. If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to the mulberry tree, "Be pulled up," be pulled up. Do you know in the Greek, be pulled up, be planted are imperatives? What are imperatives? Imperatives are commands. It's aorist passive imperative. Imperative are commands in the Greek. Why is it passive? Because the root is not uprooting itself. Faith is uprooting it, is being done to it, all right? Aorist is the past tense in the Greek, okay? So in other words, when you speak, speak as if it's done. "But Pastor, I don't have that kind of faith". You only need the faith of a mustard seed. That's how you increase your faith. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, and you start commanding, that's how you increase your faith.
"Pastor, I heard this teaching that once you say it, don't say it anymore". Oh, is that true? "Yeah, they said that if you say again, it's not faith". Well, I beg to differ because in this passage here, when Jesus taught his disciples how to increase their faith, he said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say". The word say is in the imperfect active indicative, which means what? It's not a one time saying. It is actually a continued action. You can speak to the problem again and again. You can command it, that condition, again and again to be uprooted. Be rooted, be plucked up. Are you with me?
Now, what I'm trying to say today is that God calls that prayer earnest prayer. Some of us don't even think it's a prayer. The amazing thing is that when it talks about Elijah praying earnestly, there's no record he put his head between his knees. That happened at the end of three and a half years when he prayed for rain again, where God just says it's just a prayer. What men think is simple prayer, God thinks is earnest prayer. What men think is earnest prayer, God says it's just a prayer. In fact, this is confirmed and double-confirmed, doubly-confirmed in the context of James 5 because before, it talks about Elijah. Do you know it talks about, same chapter, he talks about, "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church, anoint them with oil in the name of," now, look at this, next verse. "And the prayer of faith will save the sick". You know what's the prayer of faith? It's a commanding prayer.
Look up here, I want to show you something else, okay? Why pray like this...? Put his head down there and prayed seven times. After his guy came back, he stopped praying. "Go again," he told his servant. Then he started praying again. The guy came back. Seven times this happened. He was praying true, right? Listen, why is Elijah doing that? When actually, the heavens giving rain is a blessing. Why must he pray like that when God wants to give the blessing? Okay, you're not with me. I did a research. I was asking myself, okay, how long was Israel under idolatry? How long did God bear with them? And you know what I found out? I had to go chapter after chapter backwards, all the way to Solomon. It started with Solomon. He worshipped the idols and the gods and goddesses of his wives that he married from different nations. It started Solomon. Solomon then Rehoboam, all the way down, all right, you find that Jeroboam, Jeroboam is the one that started, then all the way down, you know how many years it was? Nearly 80 years. Israel was never totally free from idolatry for 80 years. And God still held back drought and famine. You see God's heart?
But the moment the fire fell from God on Mount Carmel and the people repented and said, "The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God"! on the very same day, the rains came. When it comes to blessing, God is fast. When it comes to judging, God is ever so slow. This is our God. Is your mind changing? Are you understanding? So, my question is: why is Elijah praying like that? Which, in the mind of man, "Oh, he's praying true, praying hard". And God says, "It's just a prayer". Why is Elijah trying to persuade God to give blessing, which came anyway on the same day? Because in the Old Testament, the prophets were judgment-minded. Are you understand? They were judgment-minded, okay?
When it came to judgement, "There'll be no rain, no dew for three and a half years," that's judgment, right? He was able to say it like that. He didn't even know it was intense prayer. In his mind, in the mind of man, that's a simple declaration. You know why he knew that God has promised in his Word that if the whole nation worships idols, God would hold back the rain. He knew that, all right? In the writings of Moses, it's there. So, he knew that, all right, but he didn't realize it was intense prayer. But he said, "You know something, before God whom I stand, there'll be no dew nor rain". He was speaking scripturally, he knew it, all right? But, you know something? God calls it, the simple declaration of faith, intense prayer. I was gonna say, many of his mentality, you look carefully, is judgment mentality, and rightly so during that time under law and Israel worshipping other gods. Do you understand, church? But Jesus has not come to bring judgment. He has come to bring grace.
In fact, look at James 5 again, 17, it says, "It did not rain on the land for three years and six months". Jesus ministered for three years and six months before Jesus was crucified. Elijah, judgment mentality, there was no dew, no rain for three years, three and a half years, no dew nor rain. Dew in the Bible speaks of favor. In Proverbs, his favor is like dew upon the grass. So, there was no rain speaks of the Holy Spirit: no favor, no Spirit for three and a half years. Jesus, three and a half years, was full of dew. He went about healing, he went about setting people free, he went about lifting people up, giving courage to those who were afraid. He gave comfort to the broken-hearted. Jesus's ministry was full of dew, full of rain, full of the Spirit.
At the end, when the fire fell on Mount Carmel, the Bible says it burned up the bullock, it burned up all the wood, and burned up all the twelve stones. Nothing was left. But, that means what? The fire of judgment is greater than the sacrifice because that sacrifice is only a picture of Jesus. But when Jesus died on the cross, you know something? When he cried, "It is finished"! when he cried it is finished, the fire was like, watch this, whoosh. I don't know how else to describe it, you see. If you are my generation, you watched "Star Wars" and all that, so I don't even know how to describe it like that. The whole thing absorbed into him, whoosh. He absorbed all the judgment of God and he was still alive. This time, under Elijah, the judgment was greater than the sacrifice. Here, the sacrifice was greater than the judgment. Amen?
So, what is it, church? What is God telling us today? God is telling us don't always think the more you push, the harder you try, all right, that's pleasing to God. God's way is like sometimes, you pray softly, it's a powerful prayer. Stop this praying hard. Show me a verse that says pray hard. "And thou shalt pray hard". It's not praying hard, praying soft. Do you know something? There was a woman who wanted a baby, and she could not conceive for a long time. And the Bible says one day, she was at the temple, the tabernacle in Shiloh, the place where the tabernacle first was erected in the land of Israel. And there she prayed with her mouth, her lips moving. So much so that the priest, the high priest, Eli at that time, thought she was drunk. Cannot hear her voice, and told her, "How long will you be drunk"? And she says, "I'm not drunk". Because her lips was moving, but there's no noise. And she says, "I'm just pouring out my complaint before the Lord". And you know what, God heard that prayer. And Samuel was born. But he couldn't hear the prayer. Powerful? Yeah. Audible? No. It's not how loud, it's not how soft, it is who you're contacting.
You see, when the Bible says, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name," it come right after, "If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything they ask, it shall be done of my Father who is in heaven". Why is that so? It's not the two or three because the next verse says, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them". You know why we can ask for anything? It's not the two or three. It is them and I. It is the I that makes all the difference. It is who is there.
Let me close by saying this, in closing. Go back to Elijah's first word in 17. "As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, before whom I stand, there shall be no dew nor rain". He was conscious he's standing in the presence of the Lord Most High. You see, you must be conscious of the Lord's presence when you confess, when you speak, when you command. You must know he is there, and it is him who makes the difference. There I am in the midst of them that makes what they ask happen. It is all about the I. So, when you are speaking, don't think it's you, the Lord is there. He says if you demand anything in my name, I will do it, not you. You demand, I do it. I will perform it for you. In other words, what he's saying that, when you command the evil spirit, I will send him away. You command the diseases to die, I will kill it. But he's there with you. But he won't use the authority for you. You got to use it in his name, but he will do it.
This is secret of Elijah. And I close with this, he says, "Before whom I stand". You see, he's not conscious, "What, you are a king? You're not a king. I couldn't give any..." you know, "give any rip for who you are in the natural. Who I'm more concerned with is before whom I stand. He's the most important person. What you think of me, it really is immaterial," is what he thinks at the end of the day. "I'm not here to impress you, King Ahab. I'm not here to, you know, smoothen your feathers, I'm here to tell you there'll be no dew nor rain, except at my word". That belongs to the king, actually. The king should say, "It's at my word". But you see who's the real king? When you're conscious of the Lord who is with you. Amen, church? I pray this has been a blessing to you. Give Jesus a praise, hallelujah, amen.