Does God Really Need Our Prayers?
In 1 Kings 18, we find the story of God needing and using a person to accomplish His will through prayer. It is the account of Elijah praying for rain after three years of drought. James 5:17-18 also mentions this occasion, and we know from his account that not only did Elijah’s prayers bring rain, but they also stopped the rain three years earlier. We know we’re in trouble when the prophets are praying for drought!
In Verse one of 1 Kings 18, after three years of this judgment, God spoke to Elijah and said, “Go, show yourself to King Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” Then at the end of this chapter, after several other events have occurred, Elijah prays seven times and finally, the rain comes.
According to the statement in verse one, whose idea was it to send rain? Whose will? Whose initiation? Answer: God’s, not Elijah’s.
Then why, if it was God’s will, His idea, and His timing, did it take a human’s prayers to “birth” the rain? (Elijah was in the posture of a woman in that culture giving birth, symbolizing the concept of travailing prayer.)
Why did Elijah have to ask seven times? Seven is the biblical number of completion, and I’m sure God was teaching us that we must pray until the task is accomplished. But why would this or any other prayer endeavor require perseverance, when it was God’s will, idea, and timing?
And finally, did Elijah’s prayers really produce the rain, or was it simply coincidental that he happened to be praying when God sent it?
James clarifies the answer to this last question. Yes, “the effectual fervent prayer” of this man stopped and brought the rain:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:17-18 NASB)
The only logical answer to the question of why Elijah needed to pray is simply that God has chosen to work through people. Even when it is the Lord Himself initiating something, earnestly desiring to do it, He still needs us to ask. Andrew Murray succinctly speaks of our need to ask: “God’s giving is inseparably connected with our asking . . . Only by intercession can that power be brought down from heaven which will enable the Church to conquer the world.” 1
As to Elijah’s need for perseverance, for now, suffice it to say that I believe our prayers do more than just petition the Father. I’ve become convinced that in some situations they actually release cumulative amounts of God’s power until enough has been released to accomplish His will.
Another example that supports our premise of the absolute need for prayer is found in the life of Daniel. In 606 BC Israel had been taken captive by another nation because of its sin. Years later in Daniel 9, we’re told that while reading the prophet Jeremiah, Daniel discovered it was time for Israel’s captivity to end. Jeremiah had not only prophesied the captivity of which Daniel was a part, but he also prophesied the duration: 70 years.
At this point, Daniel did something very different from what most of us would do. When we receive a promise of revival, deliverance, healing, restoration, etc., we tend to passively wait for its fulfillment - but not Daniel. He knew better. Somehow he must have known that God needed his involvement because he said, “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
The Angel Gabriel was dispatched immediately after Daniel started praying. However, it took him 21 days to penetrate the warfare in the heavens with the message to inform Daniel that “your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words” (Daniel 10:12). I can’t help wondering how many promises from God have gone unfilled because He can’t find the human involvement He needs. Paul E. Billheimer says:
Daniel evidently realized that intercession had a part to play in bringing the prophecy to pass. God had made the prophecy. When it was time for its fulfillment He did not fulfill it arbitrarily outside of His program of prayer. He sought for a man upon whose heart He could lay a burden of intercession. . . As always, God made the decision in heaven. A man (a person) was called upon to enforce that decision on earth through intercession and faith.2
Let’s rise to the occasion and embrace the incredible invitation to be co-laborers with God, to be carriers of His awesome Holy Spirit and ambassadors for His great kingdom. Let’s represent Him!
Awaken us to our destiny, Lord!
Pray with me:
Father, it is truly a pleasure to partner with You in your earthly endeavors. We also realize it is a great responsibility. Help us to grow stronger in faith and conviction that our prayers really matter. They make a difference. You need them to bring forth Your purposes on the earth. We are your hands, feet, and mouth here on this planet.
We realize You created humans because You wanted a family. And You wanted that family to partner with You, to dream with You. You gave us the authority of Christ to enable us to accomplish this partnership. So we ask You for increased revelation of this reality and of how to accomplish it more effectively.
Today, we pray for spiritual rain. We ask that the spiritual drought caused by the worship of idols, the immorality and perversion caused by submitting to the spirit of Jezebel, and other evil strongholds in our nation be demolished. In the name of Jesus, we pull them down. We release Your Kingdom’s will and purpose to come. We ask You for the cleansing blood of Jesus to deliver this nation. And please send a great revival bringing millions of people into the kingdom family. We know You hear and answer us as we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen
We declare that God is faithful to restore America through our prayers, just as He did Israel through Daniel’s prayers.
Portions of today’s post were taken from my book, Intercessory Prayer.
1 Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1981), pp 22-23.
2 Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, p 107.