Sunday, July 3, 2011
The Power of Prayer
The sun is setting over the city of Nahor in the Middle East. A Syrian man named Eliezer arrives with a train of ten camels at a well outside the city. Though no doubt tired and thirsty, Eliezer is more concerned about the needs of others. He has come from a foreign land to find a wife for the son of his master. Moreover, he must find this wife among his master's relatives. How will he accomplish this difficult task?
ELIEZER believes in the power of prayer. With remarkable, childlike faith, he makes this humble request: "Jehovah the God of my master Abraham, cause it to happen, please, before me this day and perform loving-kindness with my master Abraham. Here I am stationed at a fountain of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. What must occur is that the young woman to whom I shall say, 'Let your water jar down, please, that I may take a drink,' and who will indeed say, 'Take a drink, and I shall also water your camels,' this is the one you must assign to your servant, to Isaac; and by this let me know that you have performed loyal love with my master."—Genesis 24:12-14.
Eliezer's confidence in the power of prayer is not in vain. Why, the very first woman who comes to the well happens to be the granddaughter of Abraham's brother! Her name is Rebekah, and she is single, morally chaste, and beautiful. Remarkably, she not only gives Eliezer a drink but kindly offers to quench the thirst of all his camels. Later, after a family consultation, Rebekah willingly agrees to go back with Eliezer to a distant land to become the wife of Abraham's son Isaac. What a dramatic and clear answer to Eliezer's prayer back at a time when God occasionally intervened miraculously in events!
We can learn much from Eliezer's prayer. It showed his outstanding faith, humility, and unselfish concern for the needs of others. Eliezer's prayer also showed his submission to Jehovah's way of dealing with mankind. No doubt he was aware of God's special attachment to Abraham as well as His promise that future blessings would come to all mankind through Abraham. (Genesis 12:3) Thus, Eliezer started his prayer with the words: "Jehovah the God of my master Abraham."
Jesus Christ was the descendant of Abraham who would be the means for blessing all obedient mankind. (Genesis 22:18) If we want our prayers to be answered today, we need to show humble recognition of God's way of dealing with mankind through his Son. Jesus Christ said: "If you remain in union with me and my sayings remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will take place for you."—John 15:7.
A follower of Christ who experienced the truthfulness of these words of Jesus was the apostle Paul. His belief in the power of prayer was certainly not in vain. He encouraged fellow Christians to take all their anxieties to God in prayer and testified: "For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me." (Philippians 4:6, 7, 13) Does this mean that all of Paul's prayerful requests to God were granted? Let us see.
Not All Requests Are Granted
In his unselfish ministry, Paul suffered from what he described as "a thorn in the flesh." (2 Corinthians 12:7) This could have been the mental and emotional distress caused by opposers and "false brothers." (2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 2:4) Or it could have been the physical discomfort of a chronic eye affliction. (Galatians 4:15) Whatever the case, this "thorn in the flesh" had a weakening effect on Paul. "I three times entreated the Lord that it might depart from me," he wrote. However, Paul's request was not granted. It was explained to Paul that the spiritual benefits he had already received from God, such as power to endure trials, were sufficient. Furthermore, God said: "My power is being made perfect in weakness."—2 Corinthians 12:8, 9.
What do we learn from the examples of Eliezer and Paul? Jehovah God indeed listens to the prayers of those who humbly seek to serve him. But this does not mean that he always grants their requests because God has a long-range view of matters. He knows better than we do what is in our best interests. More important, he always acts in harmony with his stated purpose as recorded in the Bible.
A Time for Spiritual Healing
God promises to heal mankind of all physical, mental, and emotional maladies during the Thousand Year Reign of his Son over the earth. (Revelation 20:1-3; 21:3-5) Sincere Christians eagerly await this promised future, with full faith in God's power to make it a reality. While not expecting such miraculous healing now, they pray to God for his comfort and strength to cope with trials. (Psalm 55:22) When they fall sick, they may also pray for God's guidance in obtaining the best medical treatment within their economic means.
Some religions encourage the sick to pray to be healed now, pointing to the miraculous cures that Jesus and his apostles performed. But such miracles were done for a special purpose. They served to prove that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah and to show that God's favor had been transferred from the Jewish nation to the young Christian congregation. Back then, miraculous gifts were needed to strengthen the faith of the newly established Christian congregation. When the infant congregation got on its feet, as it were, and became mature, the miraculous gifts were "done away with."—1 Corinthians 13:8, 11.
At this crucial time, Jehovah God is directing his worshipers in the more important work of spiritual healing. While they yet have time, people desperately need to respond to this appeal: "Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near. Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way."—Isaiah 55:6, 7.
This spiritual healing of repentant sinners is being accomplished through the preaching of the good news of God's Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) By empowering his servants to carry out this lifesaving work, Jehovah God is helping millions of people from all nations to repent of their sins and come into a favorable relationship with him before the end of this wicked system. All who sincerely pray for such spiritual healing and all who pray for help to perform this healing work are indeed having their prayers answered.