When God Stirs, He Hears

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

On Sunday we celebrated Father’s Day at church. A guest speaker—a husband and father from the congregation—brought the message. Well, perhaps I should rephrase that. The Holy Spirit brought a powerful Word through a real estate salesman. The result?

At the close of the service, our Pastor took the stage and gave an invitation. Moved by God’s presence hovering in that place, his voice caught as he told the congregation that he would be joining the speaker on his knees at the altar. He invited any willing man to join them . . . any man desiring to lead his family by submitting himself daily to Christ’s leadership . . . any man ready to believe that true power comes when we bow down.

The next moment bore witness to God’s glory. Men from all over the sanctuary began to rise and walk to the front of the church, dropping to their knees one by one as they reached the altar. When the floor space at the front could no longer hold them, they began filling the aisles between the chairs. I wept before the Lord in worship as my gaze took in the empty seats and the sight of hundreds of men kneeling before their Creator, committing to know Him more, to follow Him more faithfully, to be the example for the next generation.

I could do nothing but bow in my own seat, lifting my hands in worship and my voice in praise.

It was a beautiful moment, glory descending as worship rose to heaven’s throne from the hearts of a people united, carried on the wings of praise. You know what made it even sweeter? The moment reflected an answer to prayer.

Have you ever felt compelled to pray for something that reached beyond the scope of your personal circumstances? That focused on the rise of Jesus’ glory instead of your own needs? If not, I challenge you to listen for the stirring of the Spirit within your soul to intercede for His kingdom. That’s the kind of praying that calls heaven down.

In response to God’s prompting, several women within our congregation have been praying for a spiritual awakening among the men of our church. Specifically, we had prayed for God to raise up leaders among them who would turn their hearts toward the Lord. We asked God to stir up mighty men of faith who would model whole-hearted devotion to God and lead others to follow in their steps.

Those prayers began almost 8 years ago.

And God did it. Last Sunday morning, we saw visible evidence of the invisible work God had been doing within the hearts of our congregation as a result of our prayer. And He raised an ordinary man to challenge His people with powerful truth at just the right time when the hearers were ready to respond.

Don’t you just love God’s faithfulness? It shouldn’t surprise us. It’s what God does. He stirs among the hearts of His people to pray and then He delights in answering. As we read in our opening Scripture,

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15

Even if it takes 8 years to see the evidence of it.

Just this morning, I came across these words in David Earley’s, 21 Most Effective Prayers of the Bible (Barbour Publishing, Inc., 2005), a prayer journal I’ve been working through in my quiet time. [Original quote from David Jeremiah, Prayer: The Great Adventure (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1997), p. 40-41]

Pastor David Jeremiah has written, “I scoured the New Testament some time ago, looking for things God does in ministry that are not prompted by prayer. Do you know what I found? Nothing. I don’t mean I had trouble finding an item or two: I mean I found nothing. Everything God does in the work of ministry, He does through prayer. Consider:

·      Prayer is the way you defeat the devil (Luke 22:23; James 4:7)

·      Prayer is the way you get the lost saved (Luke 18:13)

·      Prayer is the way you acquire wisdom (James 1:5)

·      Prayer is the way a backslider gets restored (James 5:16-20)

·      Prayer is how saints get strengthened (Jude 20; Matthew 26:41)

·      Prayer is the way to get laborers out to the mission field (Matthew 9:38)

·      Prayer is how we cure the sick (James 5:13-15)

·      Prayer is how we accomplish the impossible (Mark 11:23-24)

. . . everything God wants to do in your life He has subjugated to one thing: Prayer."


Do you see the work of God displayed in and around you, dear one? If you are missing out on experiencing the revelation of His power, perhaps you haven’t picked up the key to unlock it.

Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in prayer, beloved. As He directs you to pray the Father’s will, you can know with confidence that God hears. And when He hears, He acts.

And you get to witness glory.

Green Grass & Muddy Waters

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram . . . 2 Kings 5:1

Have you ever looked at someone’s life and felt that twinge of envy because they appeared to have everything you desire? If you lived in Naaman’s day, you might have felt that way about him. Scripture labels him a great man, the highly regarded commander of the King’s army. He had everything. In fact, he had more than he wanted.  

. . . He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

The grass isn’t always as green as it appears in someone else’s yard.

I imagine the acclaim Naaman earned paled in comparison to his problem. I mean, that’s our nature, isn’t it? One struggle has the power to overshadow ten wonderful blessings. And Naaman’s problem was huge; it would literally destroy him. Thank goodness there’s always hope in the God of Israel.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:2-3

A young slave girl planted a seed of hope in the heart of a pagan army commander, and desperation led him to believe. That’s often how it works, isn’t it? We’ll cry out to God in desperation, but only when we’ve exhausted all other options. Naaman had nowhere else to turn, so he turned to the God of Israel.

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

 But Naaman went away angry. (Verses 9-11)

What just happened? What aroused the anger in Naaman’s heart? Let’s take a moment to slip our feet into his army boots. I’ll warn you, you may discover they fit a little too comfortably.

Imagine you are Naaman, commander of the king’s army, pulling up to Elisha’s house with your entourage. You leave the glistening horses and chariots and walk to the door, expecting your host will be delighted by the honor of your visit. But your host doesn’t even bother to come to the door. Instead he sends a messenger with some ridiculous instructions to bathe seven times in the muddy Jordan River. As if that would work!

Can you see why Naaman was so upset? I hope so, because right here is where you and I tend to look most like him. Unmet expectations can send us reeling, causing us to reject God’s instructions and miss His blessing. Naaman believed he deserved better from Elisha. He thought his actions should’ve demonstrated more respect. What’s more, he believed he deserved better than the Jordan from God.

. . . “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. (verses 11-12)

Notice the two parts of Naaman’s complaint. First, he didn’t like the manner in which God chose to offer healing. He wanted the grand miracle, a powerful spectacle befitting his position. He didn’t want to have to do anything; He just wanted a few magic words and a wave of the hand so he could be miraculously cured.

If we’re going to be honest, isn’t that what we all want? When difficulty comes, we want God to wave His magic wand and cure it as we bask in the glow of glory. And when God doesn’t choose to fix it the way we would choose, we turn and walk away in a rage just like Naaman. But when we do, dear one, we may just be leaving our miracle on the table.

You see, God calls us to trust Him.  And very often that means giving us instruction and watching to see whether we’ll exercise the faith to obey. If we allow our disappointment over the means to override our faith, we’ll miss seeing Him work altogether.

That brings us to Naaman’s second complaint. If God was going to make him bathe in a river, couldn’t He have chosen a cleaner one? Obeying this command would mean lowering his standards. Not only did God opt not to give him the grand gesture, he was going to have to get his hands dirty. No thanks; he’d rather deal with the leprosy.

Seriously? Pride can cause us to make some pretty foolish choices. Wasn’t ridding himself of his flesh eating disease worth a few dips in dirty water?

What is God asking you to do, dear one, that pride says is beneath you? Will you take a chance on trusting Him so you can see Him display His power?

Naaman finally came around and received his healing from the Lord. Thankfully, his servants showed him his folly and convinced him he had nothing to lose.

“My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. (verses 13-14)

Naaman chose the road of humility and finally got his miracle. Can you imagine the joy that overtook him as he stood in those muddy waters and watched his decayed flesh restore itself to skin like a young boy’s?

Obedience is always worth it, dear one. What miracle waits to be displayed in your life? Perhaps it’s time to trust God and follow His instructions. Sure, you might get your feet a little muddy, but when you see His arm of power move, I don’t think you’ll care.


Favor & Opposition

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9

I used to believe that God’s favor meant ease. Then I felt the touch of God’s favor.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade following Jesus for anything. I want to walk in the steps of the God who goes before and experience His presence. And at times I am astounded as I witness His unmistakable hand making the impossible possible.

Yet there are other moments along the journey when difficulties arise that sap my strength. Doubt surfaces, bringing with it a lingering question: Have I stepped out of God’s favor?

Have you ever been there? Have you stepped out in faith, following a prompting God stirred in your heart, only to discover that opposition and difficulty seem to overshadow the favor you thought God had given?

If you have, you’re not alone. Scripture is full of stories of faith heroes that clearly possessed God’s favor yet faced terrible opposition. Nehemiah is one of those heroes.

His story begins with a stirring in his heart for the Jewish remnant returning to Jerusalem after 70 years of Babylonian captivity. He had been told,

Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:3-4

Nehemiah poured out his burden before the Lord, confessing the sins of the people and recalling God’s covenant promises. He finished with these words,

“Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king. Nehemiah 1:11

Nehemiah needed the favor of the king he served in order to return to Jerusalem and fulfill his calling to rebuild the city walls. When the time came to seek that favor, Scripture tells us he “was very much afraid” (Nehemiah 2:2). He had reason to be. The king did not serve Nehemiah’s God and had no reason to want to help Israel—or to release Nehemiah from three years of service to complete the project.

Yet after seeking the Lord, Nehemiah stepped out in faith and asked the king if he could go. But he didn’t just ask for time off. He asked for letters giving him safe travel and for King Artaxerxes himself to provide materials for the project. Nehemiah should certainly have been executed for such a request, and yet Nehemiah 2:8 reveals,

And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.

When God’s favor rests upon the head of His own, even a pagan king bows down.

And so Nehemiah set out for Jerusalem—papers in hand—accompanied by army officers and cavalry sent by the king.

Unfortunately, others aren’t always happy to see God’s kingdom advance. As soon as Nehemiah and the Jews began to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, men from surrounding communities who feared Israel regaining strength began to mock and ridicule them.

Still, they worked to rebuild the wall, crying out to God, “Hear us, our God, for we are despised” (Nehemiah 4:4). They managed to rebuild until the wall reached half its height.

Then their opponents plotted to fight against them, so the people prayed to God and posted a guard day and night to meet the threat. Half of the men worked while the others kept watch armed with weapons. Supply transporters even worked with one hand and carried weapons in the other (Nehemiah 4:17). Still, the work progressed.

Then Nehemiah began to help the poor, bringing further opposition. This time they schemed to bring harm to God’s servant another way. They drafted a letter accusing Nehemiah of trying to incite a revolt and proclaim himself king. Now we come to our opening Scripture,

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9

And God did.

So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Nehemiah 6:15-16

God’s favor rested upon Nehemiah from beginning to end. His hand never left him, even when he weakened under the oppression. The difficulty did not mean God’s favor had departed. No. It gave God an opportunity to provide Nehemiah strength in his weakness and became the very thing that proved God’s hand was with him all along.

Dear one, if opposition comes against you when you set out to answer God’s call, don’t despair that God has abandoned you. He hasn’t. He is faithful to keep His Word no matter how circumstances appear. Opposition often affirms your stance in God’s will and provides an opportunity for Him to reveal Glory. And He may just be doing a good work in you in the process.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4