When people want nothing less than a miracle, they often turn to prayer. Champions of prayer often encourage people to pray for miracles. But what they get, often isn’t what they expect. When that happens, doubt creeps in, and our prayer loses its power and passion.
My parents taught me to pray when I was just a little guy. I’ve been praying off and on ever since. But with all the prayers I’ve prayed, prayer is still mysterious to me.
I don’t need to understand how something works before I use it. Chances are you use many things with only a basic understanding of their mechanics. Prayer is like that. We can pray with power and passion, while only knowing the basics of how prayer works.
But what does prayer do?
Sometimes I wonder if my prayers go anywhere. Sometimes I don’t feel like praying. Often, I don’t get what I ask for. I don’t ever pray enough.
So, why do I pray?
It’s easy I to act like God is a vending machine. Put a prayer in with a few good works, and maybe a promise, and get what you ordered. That’s not the kind of relationship I want. It’s not the kind of relationship I need.
A thriving faith isn’t about getting what you ask for. A thriving faith is a relationship with God built on trust. A thriving faith is trusting that God will do what He says He will do, not what I ask Him to do.
Sometimes I’ve approached God in prayer asking for things He never said He’d do. Faith is taking God at His Word. That means, I need to pay closer attention to what He says. Before I start asking God for what I want, I need to first know who He is and what He offers.
It’s easy to skip that part.
So, what does God offer? The most extraordinary thing is that God hears me, and He will hear you. Beyond that, there are 3 extraordinary miracles you can pray for today:
1. The Miracle of Mercy
Have you seen the classic film The Ten Commandments? The late, great actor Charlton Heston portrayed Moses. If you’ve seen the movie, as I have, you might have been led to believe that the 10 Commandments were first received from God by Moses on Mount Sinai.
That’s not exactly how it happened.
God first spoke the 10 Commandments from a glowing fire, as the Hebrews listened in awe and fear, standing at the foot of Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 4). And there they promised to do all God commanded. It was after this that Moses climbed the mountain and received the 10 Commandments from God on stone tablets.
God and Moses met together on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights. But at the base of the mountain, the Hebrews became impatient with Moses’ long absence.
Before Moses’ departure from their camp, God had commanded that if the Hebrews were to be His people, they should not make idols for worship. If they obeyed, God promised they’d prosper. If they disobeyed, God promised they’d lose everything they had that was good. After all, God is good, and all the good stuff comes from Him. If we reject God, we reject the good stuff.
During Moses’ absence from the camp, the Hebrews became inpatient. They reasoned that it would be a good idea to make and worship a golden calf. Left in charge of the Hebrews while Moses was away, Aaron caved in to their proposal,. Aaron tried to keep a positive spin on it, making the unveiling of the calf a feast in honor of God–but the damage was done (Exodus 32).
As God and Moses were finishing up their meeting on the mountain, God revealed to Moses what he’d find when he went back to the camp. Angry that the Hebrews would so quickly go back on their word to do all that He commanded, God made Moses a proposal. He offered to wipe the Hebrews off the face of the earth and make Moses a great nation.
Our ability to enjoy a church experience sometimes seems to be undermined by the other people there. Their hypocrisy. Their gossip. Their complaining. In Moses’ case, it might have been tempting for him to say, “Yeah, Lord, I think it would be better if you got rid of these people.”
But Moses did an extraordinary thing, because he’d been spending time with God.
When we spend time with God, receiving His word, His word changes us. We see things differently. Our hearts of cold stone become hearts of warm flesh.
Moses prayed for the people in the camp. He appealed to God’s compassion and His promises. He prayed that God would preserve them.
In response, God did what He does best.
God showed mercy to those in the camp who turned back from their disobedience and chose again to walk with Him.
God gives mercy to those who want it.
Still, there was tragedy on that day. Moses drew a line in the sand, and called for those to step over it who still wanted to follow God. Those who didn’t, lost their lives. They rejected God’s mercy. They received the consequences they’d signed up for a little over a month before.
Have you had someone you trusted betray you, then ask for your forgiveness–a friend, a spouse, or family member? Did you, like Moses, offer a passionate prayer on their behalf appealing to God to show them mercy? Did you ask God to spare them the worst consequences of their poor choices?
When someone burns me, my natural reaction is to burn them back. Asking God to show the mercy is extraordinary, and grows from a thriving faith.
When you and I get burned by someone else, a prayer for God to have mercy on them is the first step toward God working a miracle in our hearts. When you pray this prayer, expect God to develop a merciful attitude in you.
2. The Miracle of Hope
If you grew up hearing Bible stories, you know the story of Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6). Daniel’s enemies locked him up in the lion’s den because of his faithfulness in prayer. When you read the book of Daniel, you find that Daniel prayed a lot. He kept on praying to God, even when a law was made against it.
But perhaps one of the most remarkable moments of prayer in Daniel’s life occurred near the end of his life.
Daniel discovered in reading the prophecies received by Jeremiah that the time for God to fulfill a promise was near. Daniel and thousands of Jews had been taken from their homeland nearly 70 years before. God had allowed them to be taken as captives to Babylon, because they broken their promise to do all that God asked of them. They’d broken that promise many times. But God had mercy. God had given Jeremiah His word that this exile should last only 70 years.
When God makes promises to do good for us, He keeps His promises as an act of generous love, not because we deserve His goodness.
Daniel knew that. When Daniel read God’s promise, he was overwhelmed with grief. Daniel saw the chasm between the goodness of God’s character, and the rebellious character of his own people. It was in their rebellion that they rejected God’s protection and became captives in Babylon. It moved Daniel to humble himself. He fasted, put on sackcloth, and sprinkled ashes on his head in mourning.
Daniel prayed an extraordinary prayer, because he’d spent his life getting to know God.
In the Bible record, Daniel is one of the few people to appear without fault. But, in his grief over the rebellion of his people against God, he confessed to God their sins as if they were his own (Daniel 9).
In response to Daniel’s prayer, God sent His angel Gabriel. Gabriel arrived with a promise designed to restore hope for Daniel and for his people.
This is the same Gabriel that appeared to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.
Gabriel delivered a prophetic timetable by which Jesus Himself would foresee the timing of His death on the cross. Gabriel explained that Jesus would be “cut off,” taking the full penalty, not just for Israel’s sins, but the sins of all humanity. As if to put an exclamation point on this promise, Gabriel arrived with this message at the traditional time that a lamb would have been slain as the evening sacrifice in Jerusalem’s temple–the temple that now lay in ruins–as a symbol of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.
Gabriel’s announcement was a proclamation of the end of sin’s reign, and the coming of the Prince of Peace, whose reign would be everlasting.
When you pray to God in a spirit of humility, recognizing how far away you are from Him, expect God to draw near to you. We are recipients of the ultimate miracle, the miracle of hope–the guarantee that sin will perish, overwhelmed by the everlasting righteousness of Jesus.
3. The Miracle of Help
As Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine, He relied on prayer to preserve His life as much as He relied on air to breathe.
Jesus prayed many prayers, and taught His followers to pray. But of the prayers recorded in the Bible, His most extraordinary prayers occurred in the days leading up to His trial and crucifixion.
As the time approached for Jesus to give His life as a ransom for humanity, He took on Himself a weight which He could not bear under His own strength.
Before arriving in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and his closest friends had shared in a remarkable meal. Jesus had humbled Himself and washed their sweaty, dirt-caked feet. He had given the Passover meal a new meaning, as He spoke of the bread as His body, the wine as His blood. He had prayed for their unity, that as He and His Father were one, that they might be one with them.
But then, Jesus felt Himself being torn away from His friends, and His Father. As He took upon Himself the guilt of humanity’s sins, Jesus was tempted to fear eternal separation from His Father. He felt grief that we will never feel. His grief was so great that as He prayed Jesus couldn’t hold Himself up. He laid with His face to the ground of Gethsemane’s garden, with blood, like sweat, dripping from His forehead.
If you’ve read the words from the final chapters of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, you know these words:
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 (ESV)
In desperate times, when we face obstacles that seem insurmountable, when we’re up against a wall with nowhere to turn, we can turn to God and surrender to His will.
God’s plan for you and me is for nothing less than our own good. There’s no need to fear, even in the face of death.
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:13 ESV)
As Jesus breathed the last word of His prayer, an angel appeared to strengthen Him. In anticipation of our prayers, God sends His angels to help us, the give us strength when we need it the most. This is the miracle of the humble prayer for help.
In your times of trouble, expect God to send you relief. The help God gave to Jesus is help that’s available to us.
For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. (Psalms 91:11 ESV)
How have you experienced these miracles of prayer in your life? What miracles are you still praying for? Please comment below.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.