From "Prayer that Hits the Target"
Donna, a mother of three, was also caring for foster children when I first met her in 1977. Her husband had left years before, yet she raised the children and extended love to other kids as well. Teenagers can be challenging in the best of times, and broken homes often make things worse. Donna shed many desperate tears as she cried to God for the children. Greg, her youngest son, was fourteen when he drifted away from the faith of his mother. His hardened heart was not interested in church or Jesus. Eventually he left home and continued to live apart from God. Donna’s supplication seemed to yield no results. But twenty years later we led Greg through the sinner’s prayer. Donna will always be a hero to me. God noticed her anguish of soul, and her supplication was rewarded.
Paul wrote, "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." (Ephesians 6:18). Throwing a petition heavenward while driving to work or giving thanks at the meal table is valuable. Many casual prayers have resulted in miraculous answers. But "all kinds of prayer" includes far more. Some battles require intense intercession and supplication.
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The word "supplication" means, "a humble bending." It is prayer that involves our emotions, humble attitudes, and our bodies. In desperation, we bow, kneel, and lay prostrate before the Lord. The Bible gives many examples of supplication: Hannah crying to God for a son; Jacob wrestling with the angel before facing his estranged brother; Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before His death; Jonah in the belly of the fish.
But God does not always give us what we supplicate for. Because he was an immoral man, Esau was refused God’s blessing even though he sought it with tears. (See Hebrews 12:15-17). Paul’s thorn in the flesh remained though he supplicated the Lord three times. Instead, God gave him grace. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Jesus, with loud crying and tears, supplicated to be released from death on the cross, but rather His Father enabled Him to press on and die for the sins of the world. (See Hebrews 5:7-8).
Supplication is called for when we are in trouble, when we respond to a prophetic revelation, or when we have an intense hunger for more of God. In each case, it grows out of overwhelming need. Supplication is a sustained, desperate cry to God for a miracle in a time of great need. "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 4:29).
God often allows trouble in order to bring us to an important purpose for our lives. At such times, prayers filled with pain compel us to yield everything to Him. Supplication brings vulnerability and abandonment, and brings us to full resolve. Perhaps we would not be able to step into God’s plan if our comfort zones were left untouched. So we cry to God in desperation, and He, like a skillful boxer, waits for us to come close, and takes our best punch. As we engage Him, He often grants our desire. But when He has us in a vulnerable position, He dodges our punch and counterpunches with His will and purpose.
When God wanted to prepare Samuel to be His prophet, He began a generation earlier. His mother Hannah had no children, and the disgrace of her barrenness was unbearable. In distress she supplicated, complained, and cried. "In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow saying, ‘O Lord Almighty, if You will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.’" (1 Samuel 1:10-11). In fact, she became so taken up with her supplication that Eli the priest thought she was drunk! (See verses 12-14).
Hannah punched in desperation, and God counterpunched by bringing her to a higher level of commitment, causing her to release her son for training in God’s service.
The Man Who Wouldn’t Let Go
God wants us to engage Him intensely concerning our birthright. Sin, half-hearted commitment, or living in the comfortable "middle of the road" can keep us from God’s plan. He wants His high calling for us to be branded on our hearts so we won’t abandon it in battle. Jacob was put in turmoil in order for his character to be changed. God was preparing him to be the father of His nation. This was his high calling, and through troubles, God drew the best out in Jacob. In the night, Jacob wrestled the "Angel of the Lord." In supplicating prayer he cried out and would not let God go unless He blessed him. "Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and overcome.’" (Genesis 32:28). Jacob had a character change and later remarked, "I saw God face-to- face, and yet my life was spared." (See verse 30).
God, like an earthly dad, enjoys wrestling with His children. When my children were younger, I enjoyed wrestling them. Besides having fun I trained them in self-defense, helping them foster endurance and strength. When play-wrestling, a good dad wants to exert enough force to make it difficult for his child. But he hopes the child will fight back hard. Often he lets him win. God did that with Jacob, and He does the same thing with us. He presses us into desperation so we will go after Him; then, during the exercise of supplication, He draws the best out of us. In His great love, God thus changes us to be more like Him.
Jonah is a classic, if not comical, example of need and supplication working together to bring about God’s purpose—though I’m sure his situation wasn’t funny to him. In disobedience he ran from God’s call on his life and ended up being thrown overboard in a storm and swallowed by a great fish that God had appointed for His purposes with Jonah. God was masterminding Jonah’s trouble. (Jonah 1:4, 17).
In chapter two, Jonah cried his prayer of supplication from the belly of the fish. Here was a man in distress. Let’s look at five steps in his life, which led to great maturity out of this crisis and supplication.
"I have been banished from Your sight, yet I will look again towards Your holy temple." (Jonah 2:4). Jonah was in rebellion, but God got his attention. In the belly of a fish, about to die, his focus changed. Through busyness and pride we can become independent, not trusting the Lord or acknowledging Him in our affairs. We go our own way. But times of need and supplication change that. As our circumstances humble us, we look to the Lord, seek Him, and stop relying on ourselves.
"In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave, I called for help, and You listened to my cry." (Jonah 2:2). Like Jonah, our circumstances cause us to come before Him with tears of desperation. He has been expecting this; in fact, He has engineered it. Everything becomes serious, and we seek Him with our whole heart. We punch at God with all our strength and receive God’s counterpunch—a major character and direction change.
"What I have vowed, I will make good." (Jonah 2:9). At last, Jonah becomes willing to do whatever God wants. The darkness, smell, pressure, and dissolving gastric juices of the fish’s belly have brought Jonah to the edge of death. Some of us have felt like that. Will we give up in rebellion and bitterness, or yield in humility and obedience? A right response will change our character to be much more godly. This change often leads to the start of a new ministry or function in God’s great plan for our lives just as it did with Jonah.
The fourth step towards maturity is gaining the faith to be obedient. "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh." (Jonah 3:1-3). Jonah had experienced a visual demonstration of God’s power. The Lord had commanded storms and sea monsters and had also saved him from the jaws of death. Jonah’s faith had grown; he realized God was in charge. No longer afraid for his life or reputation, he had faith to co-operate with God’s plan for his life and the fate of nations.
Jonah became teachable so he could serve on God’s team. The Lord said to Jonah, after a real-life parable with a vine, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (Jonah 4:10-11).
Jonah was not happy with God’s methods of dealing with the people of Nineveh as he felt they deserved God’s judgment. But now after God’s words to him, he engages the Lord frequently and listens. God teaches and trains Jonah to see things from His perspective.
Supplication ensures that God will change and use us. Our troubles and desires for more of God lead us to supplicate. And as we seek the Lord intensely, we will see miracles, experience maturity, and find His purposes.
Connecting heaven's power with earth's challenges is the reason for "Prayer that Hits the Target." The church is called to prayer. We must learn to stand in the gap, where the purpose of God is released. This book will show you God's conditions for answered prayer, and teach you how to fulfill them. Get ready to be stirred and commissioned, as you take your place on the wall. It is time to shoot the arrow, hit the target, and release the power and blessings of God.