Prayer Thought: The Matchless, Unending Answer to a Prayer
God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. The lips that uttered them may be closed to death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; they outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.
I’ve long been fascinated by the Covenants of the Bible. Ever since I was a wee lad, my dear ole Dad, Larry Elliott, and my wonderful Mom, Carol, have done The Old Testament Walk-Through in small groups at their/our house. During the Walk-Through, we did just that; walked through the Old Testament. We created a map of the Middle East in our living room and went step by step through a full “overview” of the entire Old Testament…including a number of the Covenants. We spent a full session discussing the Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant, Davidic Covenant, New Covenant. I’ve been through this Walk-Through more times than I can count and every time I am still blown away by God’s faithfulness to His chosen people. Moreover, I was elated by the Good News of the New Covenant. But the Covenant that always caught my attention (I even wrote about it in my application to get in to Moody Bible Institute and Union University) was the Abrahamic Covenant.
Recall with me that the Abrahamic Covenant was a unilateral (one-sided) and contraconditional (without any condition on Abraham’s part) covenant. God caused Abram to fall into a deep sleep and His Spirit passed through the animal pieces Abram/ Abraham had been instructed to assemble (Gen. 15:9-12). Essentially, God made a covenant with Himself that was a promise to Abraham. This covenant granted Abraham land (Gen. 15:7,18-19), descendants (Gen. 15:5), and blessings, and all of this was to be forever (Gen. 17:3-8). Question. How long is forever? Forever is forever, is forever, is forever…you get the point. Meaning the Abrahamic Covenant was neither nullified or fulfilled in the New Covenant. Certainly, the New Covenant brought a beautiful, more in-depth understanding of God’s perfect plan. But the Abrahamic Covenant was and still is making its trek through history even before the New Covenant was sealed by the shedding of Christ’s blood. Which is why there will be even more of a Jewish flavor in Glory than many might think. Here’s also a tidbit of unsolicited theology for those Bible trivia fans; the Abrahamic Covenant serves as an umbrella covenant for all the others. The land portion was solidified in the Mosaic Covenant, the promise of descendants was realized in the Davidic Covenant, and the blessings forever was, and continues to be, the cornerstone of the New Covenant,
“You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring (Acts 3:25).’”
What I’m trying to point out here is that this unbelievable covenant made between God and Abram lasts FOREVER!
So, how did I jump from quoting E.M. Bounds on prayer to the Abrahamic Covenant? Think about the quote for a moment. We can all get on board with the understanding that God shapes the world through prayer. But seriously, how many of us have ever thought about the fact that our prayers are deathless…they can’t die…they live forever even if/when we’re gone. The prayers of God’s people live before Him, FOREVER! They are timeless. The prayer I prayed when I was 5 years old, when I was 7, 17, 27, 37, 41…and yes even 87, if I live that long, have God’s heart SET on them and they outlive even the one who prays them.
Do we realize what this means? It means that even if God answers a prayer I prayed 10 years ago, He is still actively engaged in it for all of eternity. This has HUGE implications for how and why we pray. Think about it. One prayer warrior could potentially be more important than 1,000 people in a pew. The prayers of God’s chosen people outlive generations, ages, and even a whole world. We have said many times in our office that nothing gets accomplished, no plans succeed until they are first immersed and brought before the Lord in prayer. There are boundless and unceasing blessings that can pour forth from any dear saint who aspires to commune with God in prayer.
This changes everything! This is THE REASON why Christ’s disciples asked Him how to pray! They could have asked a million other things. But instead, they asked Jesus to give them a framework for how to commune with the Father. Think of the biblical narrative and the characters of Scripture. What possessed the Apostle Paul or Peter or Timothy to encourage their fellow believers by writing to tell them that they were praying for them? If they had this concept in mind, those on the receiving end of these letters would have, I have to assume, been elated and strengthened in their heart…strengthened in their spirit, exponentially. Think about the enduring nature of God’s praying people, whose prayers lifted high the Gospel in the first century church, in the different Councils (i.e. Chalcedon) through history, in the Reformation, through deciding the canonicity of Holy Scripture, and yes, today and to the end of each one of our lives. Our prayers endure. They effect not just our personal outcome, but the generations and ages after us, as the prayers of those generations that have gone before us have shaped OUR understanding of Christendom.
Prayer Action: The 200-Year Prayer
What has been a prayer you’ve had in your life that has lasted months, years, even decades possibly? First of all, I want us to grasp how important it is to know that such perseverant prayer is a pleasing aroma to our God. This kind of praying is done with many tears sometimes and must be done in faith, knowing that whatever the outcome, it was God’s perfect will and His own purposes that have been done (Ps. 115:3).
But now I want us to think a bit differently about that same prayer or maybe even a new one. Think of your prayer, not only as something that reaches God’s ear or rattles the gates of Heaven. Pray your prayer like it will extend and be before the Mighty Hand of the Lord through 2, 3, 4 centuries, impacting hundreds maybe even thousands of saints that will come after you. Our God is that Mighty and He will see ALL our prayers through!
Clayton J. Elliott, Kontaktmission USA
Director of Pastoral Ministries and Prayer