By Joseph Ametepe
- Prayer is a wonderful privilege God has given to those who are savingly related to Him. The Creator of the universe delights to hear the heart cry of His believing children. His genuine interest in our prayers to Him has been emphasized in the Scriptures. God's ears are attentive to the prayers of the righteous (Ps. 34:15; 145:19; 1 Pet. 3:12). In the Psalms, God is described as "O You who hear prayer" (Ps. 65:2). This is awesome! While we have the blessed privilege of praying to the one true God, each hungry and thirsty believer realizes that prayer is as vast and deep as God is. As such, prayer involves a lifetime of devoted learning. This is one of the lessons God has been teaching me as I draw closer to Him in worship, prayer and the study of His Word.
- In the last four years, God has been instructing me about an important aspect of prayer, namely "the power of crying out to God in prayer." As you will soon discover, this is a Scripture-proven way of seeking God to display His power and glory in circumstances and situations of life that are helpless and hopeless. I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit's work of opening the eyes of my heart to this truth in God's Word. It has been enriching my prayer life in a new and fresh way. Recently, I was in a desperate and distressing situation with very little time to make a major decision. The Holy Spirit helped me to apply the lessons I have been learning in the Scriptures about the power of crying out to God in prayer. I cried out to God earnestly, looking to Him as my only help and hope. Even though, I waited to the very last minute of the deadline given to me, God came through for me. He granted me favor and displayed His power on my behalf, strengthening my faith in Him as well as encouraging the faith of other believers whose lives He has given me the privilege to touch. Moreover, God built a fresh testimony in my life about the power of His Word, which is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).
- It is my prayer that as you carefully read and reflect on the teaching in this prayer article, the Holy Spirit will also open the eyes of your heart to His truth and enable you to experience a fresh wind of God's work in your prayer life.
Definition of Prayer:
- Prayer is a privileged spiritual communion which takes place in the context of relationship between the true and living God and the believer in Jesus Christ. It is inspired and directed by the Person of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer. In this privileged communion, the believer expresses not only his hunger and thirst to know God more intimately and be changed into the image of Christ, but also his adoration, praise and worship to God, thankfully acknowledging His goodness, humbly and honestly confessing his sins and failures to Him, listening attentively to His voice in His written Word and the impression of His Spirit, and asking Him according to His promises in His Word to meet the needs in his own life and in the lives of fellow believers in the Church and others outside of the Church, as it is fit to bring glory and praise to His name and for the advancement of His kingdom. - Joseph Ametepe
Definition of Crying Out to God in Prayer:
- In order to have a biblical understanding of the principle of “Crying out to God in Prayer,”it is important to define what it means. Our focus in establishing the definition of this concept of prayer will be centered on the expression “crying out.”
- An important Hebrew word translated “cry out” is “tsa’aq.” It means to cry out or call out for help unto God under great distress. It also means to cry out in desperation to Yahweh while facing a difficult situation or a great need. The Hebrew synonym for “tsa'aq,” is “qara',” which is usually translated as “call.” In most contexts, it means to cry, utter a loud sound, cry unto God for help. It is a special appeal to God to display His power in order to honor His name. In other contexts, it means to read aloud. It also generally carries the meaning of calling aloud or crying out.
- “Shava',” meaning cry for help, is another Hebrew synonym. It is used in the Piel verb stem, which usually emphasizes the intensity of the action of the verb. So “shava'” and its noun form“shavah” denote an intense or a higher-pitched shout for help. It is used to describe the cry of anguish, the cry of the oppressed, the cry of those who are approaching the breaking point. Another important Hebrew word translated in our English Bibles as “cry,” “cry out,” or “call,” is “za' aq.” This rich Hebrew word also means to call to one's aid, to cry or cry out in need unto God. It is an utterance of alarm, anxiety or distress heard by God. It is also a cry of intercession on behalf of others in desperate need of help and deliverance from God. It has the basic sense of a cry for help out of a situation of distress. It's noun form is “zea'qah,” in the context of prayer, means a cry for help in the face of distress.
- The Greek word for “cry out” is “krazo.” It means to call out, shout, scream, shriek, as when one utters loud cries, call out loudly, or call out to God in a loud voice, seeking His personal intervention. The word is used of the death-cry of Jesus on the cross and of the cry of a woman in childbirth. It is also used of the passionate and loud calling out of certain angels who are sent to declare an urgent message of God.
- From the use of the “tsa’aq,” “qara',” “shava,'” “shavah,” “za' aq,”“zea'qah,” and “krazo” in the Old and New Testament, especially in the contexts of prayer, we can define “Crying Out to God in Prayer,” as follows: Crying out to God in prayer is a sincere, passionate, intense, fervent and urgent audible crying out of the heart and soul of the believer (who is approaching the breaking point) in Jesus Christ to God for His intervention in one’s life and circumstance or that of others, with full realization that God Almighty alone, and no one else, can act on one’s behalf to bring help, deliverance and victory into an otherwise helpless and hopeless, desperate and distressing situation. It is a humble heartfelt speaking out aloud of our prayers to God with faith and fervency of spirit out of a saving and love relationship with Him as our only hope of help, not merely a mechanical formula to adopt in prayer. It is a special vocal appeal to God to display His power in one's life or others' lives and circumstances in order to bring glory to His name!
- “Crying out to God in prayer,” like other elements of prayer, such as thanksgiving, praise, adoration, fasting, and supplication, is a Scripture-proven way of praying that reaches the heart of God and moves Him to respond personally and powerfully, and sometimes promptly. This is what I want you to discover for yourself, the discovery of which will revolutionize the way you pray to God and bring new life and passion into your prayers. Please I will encourage you to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who carefully examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul taught them was true. So I encourage you to diligently examine the Scriptures to discover what God's Word teaches about the power of crying out to Him in prayer.
- Before we examine the Scriptures to learn the Bible's teaching about this important aspect of prayer, I want you to take note of this. It is important to understand that the biblical concept of “Crying out to God in prayer”does not mean that God never hears silent prayers of the heart. That is not what I am teaching. Scripture makes it very clear that God also hears the silent prayers of the heart. The servant of Abraham who was sent to seek a wife for Isaac, prayed silently in his heart and was heard (see Genesis 24:1-48; take note of verse 45). In her great distress, Hannah also prayed silently in her heart, moving only her lips and God mightily responded to her genuine inaudible prayers (see 1 Samuel 1:13-18; take careful note of verse 13). It seemed Nehemiah must have prayed silently in his heart before King Artaxerxes and was heard by God (see Nehemiah 2:1-7; observe verse 4 in particular). God knows and hears the faintest whisper for help arising from the deepest places of our hearts without a single word being spoken out aloud. But the Bible also reveals again and again, that when God's people, in their time of need, cry out or call out to Him with their voices for His help, trusting Him alone as their source of help and hope, God personally, powerfully, and on some occasions, promptly responds to them. It is this principle and pattern of prayer which is the focus this article.
The Bible's Teaching about Crying Out to God in Prayer:
The Bible's teaching about “Crying out to God in prayer,” is both clear and convincing. Over and over again, it shows that “Crying out to God in prayer,” is an approved and acceptable way in which to approach the throne of God in believing and fervent prayer that moves the heart of God Almighty to respond and so bring glory to His name, which is above all names. I have decided to follow a simple pattern to bring out the Bible's powerful message about “Crying out to God in prayer.” Since my desire is for you to see the principles and patterns established in the Scripture about “Crying out to God in prayer,” I have selected to divide and discuss the Bible's teaching on this subject under several subtitles beginning with the letter “P.” We will look at what the Bible teaches about this concept in the Pentateuch, in the Period of the Judges, in the Prophets, in the Period of the Kings, in the Psalms, the Promises of God regarding crying out to Him. We will also examine the perplexing Problem of crying out to God and yet not receiving an answer from Him. This will be followed by the discussion of the Practice of crying out to God in the New Testament. Finally, we will look at this practice in the life of the Person of Christ Himself. Let's begin.
- Pentateuch(Exodus 14:10, 13-14; 15:22-25; 17:4-7; Num. 12:1-15; Deut. 26:7).
Crying out to God in Prayer featured consistently in the Pentateuch, that is, the first five books of the Old Testament. The Pentateuch is also called "the Torah" by the Jews. I would like us at to look at some of the examples preserved in the Pentateuch for our instruction.
God had just delivered His chosen people Israel from Egyptian bondage lasting over four hundred years. God's goal was to bring His people to a place of blessing, the Promised Land. Although Pharaoh of Egypt was completely humbled in resisting God's command to let the sons of Israel go, yet he mustered his army of charioteers and horsemen to go after Israel in order to bring them back to captivity. With great fury and pride, Pharaoh's powerful army pursued the Hebrews. Soon they caught up with them in an impossible situation. Israel was completely hemmed in by the desert and the Red Sea. Humanly speaking, there was no easy way of escape for Israel. The Egyptian army was far superior in might and power than Israel's feeble and ill-equipped army. Consequently, the sight of the powerful Egyptian army caused great fear and panic among the Hebrews. They knew that apart from God's miraculous intervention, there would be no "Promised Land" for them. They were in a hopeless and helpless situation. Although, they were obeying God's command to leave Egypt, they now found themselves in a desperate and distressing circumstance. If they were not captured and brought back into bondage in Egypt, they were going to die at the hands of the ruthless Egyptian army. Israel, obeying God's instructions through Moses on the journey to the Promised Land found themselves between a rock and a hard place. They must reach out to God for His direct and powerful intervention or else life was over for them as soon as Pharaoh's army descended on them with fury and vengeance. The sons of Israel, reached out to God for help. The Bible describes this reaching out to God for help as “Crying out to Yahweh.”
"As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD" Exodus 14:10 (NASB).
"Tsa'aq" is the Hebrew verb used here for "cried out." Immediately after crying out to Yahweh, the sons of Israel criticized Moses for bringing them out Egypt to die. In complaining against Moses they even asked Moses to leave them alone to serve the Egyptians because that was far better than dying in the desert (Exodus 14:11-12). But God had other plans for Israel (Psalm 106:7-10 elaborated on this). He had heard their cry to Him. His first response to the terrified children of Israel was to give them a word of hope and a promise of deliverance.
"But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. "The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent"Exodus 14:13-14 (NASB).
This passage has become so precious to me, not only because of learning the power of crying out to God in prayer, but also in recognizing the great mercy God demonstrated to the His people at the Red Sea. They cried out to Him for help. But before He would respond, they were complaining against His chosen leader. Nevertheless, God did not treat Israel as their sins really deserved. He responded to them and brought deliverance for them in such an impossible situation.
While restraining the army of Pharaoh by the angel of God and the pillar of cloud, God divided the Rea Sea in response to the crying out of the sons of Israel to Him. Israel walked through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left and came to safety. When Egypt was finally released to pursue them, God fulfilled His word of gaining glory of Pharaoh's army. They all perished in the sea (see Exodus 14:15-28). Seeing the display of God's supernatural power to bring deliverance to them in helpless and hopeless situation, Israel could not help, but praised God (see Exodus 14:29-15:1-21). This first example of seeing the practice of crying out to God at work, is powerful and encouraging. It reminds us that no matter how helpless and desperate our circumstances are in life, when we learn what it means to cry out to God in prayer, believing God to be our only source of help and hope, we can also experience a "Red-Sea Deliverance" from God, thus bringing glory and praise to Him as was the case with the children of Israel.
Not long after this powerful deliverance, Moses led Israel from the Rea Sea into the Desert of Shur. The sons of Israel traveled for three days without finding water. When they came to Marah they could not drink the water because it was bitter. As is usually the case, when things are not going well for God's people, God's chosen servant-leader over them becomes the target of criticism and complaint. So it was with Moses. The sons of Israel grumbled against him (see Exodus 15:23-24). Moses knew very well that engaging in a 'grumbling contest' with the sons of Israel was not going to bring a resolution to their desperate predicament. Since the people were very angry and impatient he could not reason with them, let alone receive their sympathy. He was in the same boat with them. But they didn't care. They had no concern for Moses' welfare. Moses must cry out to God for help who alone had the perfect solution for this desperate circumstance. This is exactly what Moses did as preserved in Exodus 15:25:
"Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them" Exodus 15:25 (NASB).
God already had a perfect answer for the problem of the bitter waters. Not only that, He was ready to reveal His solution to the problem. All that was needed was for someone to cry out to God with faith and fervency of spirit, believing that God, and God alone was able to intervene and turn the impossibility into a possibility.
Have you learned to cry out to God with sincerity and intensity of heart believing that He alone and no one else is able to turn the impossibility of your situation into possibility, thus bringing glory to Himself? Moses had learned that and practiced that without being disappointed. He cried out to God in prayer on behalf of the sons of Israel and experienced God's powerful intervention for His people. The same God who responded powerfully to the cry of Moses is willing to response to our intense, sincere, passionate, urgent, believing audible cry to Him to intervene in our desperate circumstances.
As a leader, Moses faced numerous difficult situations which caused him to cry out in desperation to Yahweh for direction. One of such situations is recorded in Exodus 17. One would think that after the incident at Marah where God displayed His power in turning the bitter waters into safe and sweet drinkable water, Israel's trust in God would be unwavering. God had met their needs in a miraculous way. You would expect them to draw on that past experience when facing a new challenge in the present. Unfortunately they did not. And sadly, that is the case with most of us. We are slow in learning lessons of trust. As such, God has to repeat them in our lives. The test of thirst in the wilderness had to be repeated because Israel had not fully learned to trust God. Israel had now come to Rephidim and camped there. Since God was leading them, it was not a mistake that they camped at a place where there was no water. The children of Israel should therefore not be alarmed or agitated. They should be saying, "Oh our God, we remember Your great work of providing drinkable water for us from an undrinkable source. We believe You are more than able to handle the present problem of lack of water in our camp. We are looking to You to meet this need in our lives for You are the One who has led us by the pillar cloud to this place. Our eyes are upon You. Act for the sake of Your great name!" Unfortunately, the sons of Israel did not respond this way. Rather, they quarreled with Moses and grumbled against Moses, and accused him of bringing them up from Egypt to kill them and their children and their livestock with thirst (see Exodus 17:2-3). "Moses, all along, your plan is to bring us to a place of no water in the desert to destroy our lives. Moses, you are a destroyer, not a deliverer." That's the bottom line of their grumbling. Israel did not look to God to help them, rather, they lashed out at God's messenger for his "wicked scheme" of planning to take their lives in the wilderness.
The words of grumbling and accusation literally cut like a knife through Moses' heart. Moses was stabbed. He was deeply wounded. His wound was as a deep as that of murderer's knife. With his heart bleeding, Moses turned to Yahweh once again. He cried out to Him in desperation for direction. This is the Bible's record of Moses' passionate, heartfelt, sincere crying out to God and its powerful result:
So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me." Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us, or not?" Exodus 17:4-7 (NASB).
Again, Moses' fervent and faith-filled crying out to God opened the door for him as well as the critical and complaining children of Israel to experience God's intervention. God gave Moses a clear direction for the resolution of the situation. He followed it and Israel's thirst was quenched again.
Perhaps, you are a leader in the ministry! Like Moses, you have been stabbed several times by the very people you are ministering to. Now your heart is bleeding. The temptation is to get even with those who have stabbed you with their unkind and harsh words. You are desperate for God's direction. Let me encourage you to follow the example of Moses. He went through what you are now going through. He learned how to cry out to God in those desperate and distressful times. He experienced God's personal intervention. The Bible teaches that "whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). So let the example of Moses encourage you to persevere in crying out to God. He will give you a clear direction to move you forward, as well as the people He's given you the privilege to lead.
With the incident of Massah and Meribah behind Israel, Moses, under God's direction through the visible cloud of pillar above the tabernacle (Numbers 9:15-23), led the sons of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land. Moses would endure further attacks of criticism from the very people he was serving and leading (see Numbers 11). As if that was not enough, Moses' own brother Aaron and sister Miriam would now speak against Moses for marrying a Cushite. Aaron and Miriam, being jealous of Moses complained in the hearing of God. Their chief complaint was, "Has the LORD spoken through Moses? Hasn't He also spoken through them?" (Numbers 12:2). God would not tolerate grumbling against His anointed and chosen servant. Coming down in a pillar of cloud, God summoned Aaron and Miriam and confronted them for speaking against His servant Moses, with whom He spoke face to face. God's anger burned against the complaining duo. Complaining, like other sins have serious consequences. God's burning anger affected Miriam the most, she became leprous, white as snow. Shocked and stunned that his sister had leprosy, Aaron confessed their sin and foolishness and pleaded with Moses for help. Although Miriam had complained against Moses and was being rightfully disciplined by God, Moses fervently sought God on her behalf. "Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "O God, heal her, I pray!" Numbers 12:13 (NASB).
After seven days of being shut up outside the camp, Miriam was received again, fully healed of her leprosy, proving once again the power of crying out to God in prayer. The situation was hopeless for Miriam. And yet through Moses' sincere, fervent, passionate and intense crying out to God, believing He had a perfect solution for the problem, Miriam was brought out of that hopeless situation.
Just before the new generation of Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses, the man of God, who had led them for forty years, reminded them of God's works and ways. In doing so, Moses rehearsed the history of the nation. Particularly, he wanted them to remember how God brought the nation out of Egyptian bondage and what they were to do upon entering the Promised Land. They were to take some of the first fruits of the produce of the land in a basket and go to the place God would choose as a dwelling for His name. Having gone there, they were to declare to the Lord these words:
'My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation. 'And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us. 'Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey' Deuteronomy 26:5-9 (NASB).
Please notice carefully the pattern established in these verses! "We cried to the LORD... and the LORD heard our voice... and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand..." Again, the Bible is showing us that God powerfully responds to the crying out of His people. What a powerful way for a nation's history to be recounted, stressing the power of crying out to God in prayer!
It is clear from the biblical record in the Pentateuch, that crying out to God in prayer is a Scripture-proven and acceptable way of praying to experience God's powerful intervention, help, deliverance and victory.
Have you learned what it means to cry out to God in prayer? If you haven't, let these examples and the ones to follow encourage you to learn this Scripture-sanctioned method of praying in order to experience freshness and new power in your prayer life. I believe God will take your prayer life to a new and exciting level.
Please take time to read, reflect and review the following passages in the Pentateuch (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-8; 8:8-13; 22:22-24). You will further discover that, there is a consistent pattern of crying out to God in prayer and His corresponding powerful response to bring deliverance, help and victory into an otherwise helpless and hopeless situation.
- Periodof the Judges (Judges 3:7-11; 3:12-15; 4:1-7; 6:1, 6-10; 10:9-16; cf. Neh. 9:26-28).
In the period of the Judges, the Bible, once again clearly shows that crying out to God in prayer was an approved and acceptable way of seeking God with intensity and commitment to act on behalf of the sons of Israel. Israel found themselves repeatedly in oppression to foreign rulers and kings because of their disobedience. A pattern was established in this period. When God's people in distress, gave voice to their praying by crying out aloud to Him in prayer, God responded powerfully by bringing His deliverance, help and victory into their otherwise helpless and desperate circumstance.
Please carefully take note of the pattern revealed in the following passage in Judges.
"The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. Then the land had rest forty years"Judges 3:7-11 (NASB).
"Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. And he gathered to himself the sons of Ammon and Amalek; and he went and defeated Israel, and they possessed the city of the palm trees. The sons of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. But when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. And the sons of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab" Judges 3:12-15 (NASB).
"Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. The sons of Israel cried to the LORD; for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years. Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, "Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded, 'Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun. 'I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon, and I will give him into your hand'" Judges 4:1-7 (NASB).
"Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years... So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD. Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD on account of Midian, that the LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. 'I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, "I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me" Judges 6:1, 6-10 (NASB).
"The sons of Ammon crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was greatly distressed. Then the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals." The LORD said to the sons of Israel, "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines? "Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands. "Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. "Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress." The sons of Israel said to the LORD, "We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day." So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer" Judges 10:9-16 (NASB).
Whenever the sons of Israel sincerely and fervently cried out to God in prayer as their only hope for help and deliverance from their oppressive and distressful circumstance, God responded powerfully to their sincere and fervent cries by sending deliverers to deliver His people from their bondage. However, there were times God reprimanded His people for their disobedience after their cry to Him as seen in Judges 6:6-10 and Judges 10:9-16. But reprimanding them was not where His response ended. Moved by compassion for His people's misery, God acted on their behalf and brought help and deliverance, proving once again that in His infinite grace and compassion, He answers the cries of His people and meet their needs, thus honoring His name.
If there was one main lesson the sons of Israel had learned during the period of the Judges, it is the power of crying out to God in prayer. They had experienced this Scripture-sanctioned way of reaching the heart of God and receiving His powerful intervention repeatedly on their behalf. They discovered that their heartfelt cry to God triggered His personal and powerful active involvement in their helpless and hopeless circumstances. Oh that God would help His people today to also learn to tap into the power of crying out to God as their only source of hope and help, doing so with intensity and passion of heart!
In 1 Chronicles 5:18-22, the Bible records another story of God's people crying out to Him in prayer during a crucial battle with their enemies. This battle was a very serious one simply because the possession of the land was at stake. The time of this great conflict involving the two and half tribes living on the east side of the Jordan and their formidable Arabian tribal opponents is not given. All we know from verse 22 is that it had broken out before the two and half tribes were led captive by the Assyrians. While we may not know the exact time of this war, one truth prominently stands out: Crying out to God in our distressful and difficult circumstances with a deep and an abiding trust in Him alone to personally intervene and bring deliverance and victory is a proven way to reach the heart of the Almighty. Please discover this for yourself in the story below.
"The sons of Reuben and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, consisting of valiant men, men who bore shield and sword and shot with bow and were skillful in battle, were 44,760, who went to war. They made war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab. They were helped against them, and the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hand; for they cried out to God in the battle, and He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him. They took away their cattle: their 50,000 camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 donkeys; and 100,000 men. For many fell slain, because the war was of God. And they settled in their place until the exile" 1 Chronicles 5:18-22 (NASB).
Crying out to God in prayer is a proven and powerful way to experience God's deliverance in our helpless and hopeless circumstances. The question to us is: Has it been proven in your life? Have you experienced the powerful intervention of God by crying out to God in prayer and trusting in Him to make a way where there seems to be no way? Is there a battle in your life right now? Have you cried out to God in the battle with resolute trust in His ability to intervene and bring you His victory? God's victory will be yours when you draw near to Him and cry out to Him in believing and sincere prayer.
Recounting God's dealings with Israel to God in prayer after their return from exile, probably Ezra, the priest and scribe, leading the returnees in a time of confession and corporate prayer, summarized the period of the Judges as one of crying out to God and experiencing His personal and powerful deliverance. Please listen carefully to his inspired prayer and discover the pattern of crying out to God in prayer in a time of distress and experiencing His powerful intervention.
"But they became disobedient and rebelled against You, and cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who had admonished them so that they might return to You, and they committed great blasphemies. "Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, but when they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. "But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You; therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven, and many times You rescued them according to Your compassion" Nehemiah 9:26-28 (NASB).
From the biblical accounts in the period of the Judges, it is clear that crying out to God, that is, giving voice to our prayers with intensity, fervency and earnestness coupled with unwavering confidence in God's ability to respond in grace and power, has been an effective way of moving God's hand to act redemptively on behalf of His oppressed and distressed people, thus bringing honor to His name. The same God who established and preserved this pattern in His Word is waiting for us to apply its teachings to our lives and circumstances. Will you begin to apply them now? You will not regret. Not only will your prayer life experience a fresh wind, it will also experience fresh power.
III. Prophets (1 Sam. 7:8-13; 12:8-11; 1 Kings 17:19-23; 2 Kings 4:40-41; 20:7-11; Isaiah 19:20; Jonah 2:2, 7, 10).
Some of Israel's prophets who served Israel after Moses, also experienced the power of crying out to God in prayer and saw God's powerful deliverance. They saw His mighty works either in their personal lives or in the lives of God's people on behalf of whom they cried out.
The prophet Samuel was the last judge of Israel. He anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. After God rejected Saul for his repeated disobedience of His direct commands, Samuel was sent to anoint a young teenage shepherd, David, the eighth son of Jesse the Bethlehemite (see 1 Samuel 9-16). However, before these two anointings, the sons of Israel were blessed with the rich lesson of experiencing God's supernatural intervention on their behalf as a result of their sincere crying out to God in prayer. While still under the oppression of the Philistines, the prophet Samuel exhorted Israel to return to the Lord with all their hearts and rid themselves of the foreign gods they had been serving. Israel took Samuel's words to heart and put away their foreign gods and served Yahweh alone. Samuel assembled all Israel at Mizpah where they fasted and confessed their sins to God. Hearing that the Israelites had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines immediately came up to attack Israel. After all, they had earlier defeated Israel in back to back battles (see 1 Samuel 7:3-7). They were confident that they could extend their winning streak over Israel to three. Israel was literally paralyzed with fear at the news that the Philistines were coming to attack them again. This was bad news. In themselves, they did not have what it takes to defeat the Philistines. If God did not intervene for them in this battle, defeat, not delight would be their lot. Knowing that Samuel was in tune with God, they requested one thing of him.
"Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, "Do not cease to cry to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines." Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the LORD; and Samuel cried to the LORD for Israel and the LORD answered him. Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car" 1 Samuel 7:8-11 (NASB).
The sons of Israel understood the power of crying out to God in prayer. They asked Samuel not to stop crying out to God for them. And when Samuel, the prophet of God, cried out to God as Israel's only help of deliverance from the Philistines, God responded promptly and powerfully. Here again we discover that a sincere crying out aloud to God in prayer with intensity of spirit and in faith led to God's active intervention for Israel.
In his farewell speech to Israel, Samuel briefly rehearsed the history of Israel from the time Egypt to the present. Among others things, Samuel reminded his fellow-countrymen of the important truth of God's response to the cries of His people.
"When Jacob went into Egypt and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron who brought your fathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place. "But they forgot the LORD their God, so He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. "They cried out to the LORD and said, 'We have sinned because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.' "Then the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel, and delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around, so that you lived in security" 1 Samuel 12:8-11 (NASB).
The message is clear and loud. A sincere crying out aloud to God in prayer as our only source of help and deliverance from our desperate circumstances triggers God's personal and powerful intervention.
The prophet Elijah was greatly used of God in a time when Israel's spiritual decline was at an all time low. His name means "the Lord is my God." The Bible shows that Elijah lived up to His name. His life pleased God and brought blessings to those who loved the truth. Elijah served God during the reign of one of Israel's most wicked and godless king, Ahab (the Hebrew for "father is brother"). In his days, there was a severe drought. Food and water were scarce.
During the drought of three and a half years, predicted by Elijah, God sent him to a widow in Zarephath, which belonged to Sidon. From a handful of flour in a bowl and a little oil in a jar, God miraculously provided for the widow, her son and Elijah. In the course of time the widow's son died. The widow accused Elijah of coming to her to expose her sin and to kill her son. Elijah was not going to jump on the "accusation-wagon." He did not allow the woman's accusation to distract him from calling out to God in prayer on behalf of the widow's son. Through Elijah, the widow experienced the power of crying out to God. This is how the Bible describes it:
"He said to her, "Give me your son." Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. He called to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?" Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child's life return to him." The LORD heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, "See, your son is alive" 1 Kings 17:19-23 (NASB).
What brought about this miracle of resurrection? It was Elijah's calling out to God in prayer. The Hebrew word used for "call" is qara', - meaning here a special appeal to God to display His power in the situation. Having received her son alive, we are told: "Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth" 1 Kings 17:24 (NASB). She had met a true man of God who knew how to call out to God in prayer and experience His power. Are we also known as men or women of God who know how to call out to God in prayer in order to experience His saving and intervening power, thus bringing praise and honor to His name?
After this powerful experience, God presented another opportunity to Elijah to call out to Him in prayer and taste yet again, God's delivering power. God specifically commanded him to go and show himself to Ahab, the godless king of Israel. Ahab blamed the drought on Elijah. He wanted Elijah's head. He searched throughout kingdoms and nations to find Elisha, but God preserved His servant. Obeying the command of God, Elijah came face to face with Ahab. Ahab wasted no time in accusing Elijah. He was the troubler of Israel. Elijah rejected the accusation. He was not the problem, Ahab was. He and his family had forsaken Yahweh to follow the Baal. Speaking as a man on a mission, Elijah asked the king to assembly his many prophets, 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. They were to meet him at Mount Carmel for a spiritual contest. The prophets of Baal would sacrifice an ox and put no fire under it. Elisha would do the same. Having agreed to these terms, the Bible now gives us a vivid description of what followed.
"Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God." And all the people said, "That is a good idea." So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it." Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, "O Baal, answer us." But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened." So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention... At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. "Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, " The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God" 1 Kings 18:24-29, 36-39 (NASB).
This was a power encounter between Elijah, the prophet of God and the prophets of Baal. The latter cried out to their god, but had no response. Oh yes, they were passionate, earnest, fervent and exercised. But their god was a false god. Baal was believed to have controlled the thunder, lightning, and storms. The Scripture also shows that God controls these elements of nature (Psalms 18:14; 29:3-9; 104:3). In other words, this was a fair test to prove who was God. However, Baal failed the fair test, despite the ranting and raving of his prophets. Please note again that the word for "call," as used by Elijah is "qara'" - meaning here a special appeal to God to display His power in revealing Himself as the true God. In response to Elisha's call to God, He responded powerfully and personally revealed Himself as the one true God. God was honored as the people declared Him and Him alone as God. This came about because of Elijah's calling out to God demonstrate His power in manifesting Himself as one and only true God.
The prophet Elisha, whose name means "my God saves," received a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. Elisha would also experienced first-hand the power of crying out to God in prayer. Elisha had just returned to Gilgal from one of his itinerant journeys as Israel's prophet. At this time, there was famine in the land. Even the sons of the prophet, whom Elisha instructed were affected by this famine. They needed nourishment. So Elisha commanded for a large pot of stew to be made. Apparently the sons of prophet were many. Someone went out into the field to gather herbs for the stew. Because of the famine, there was not much to be found except a wild vine from which was gathered wild gourds. These were sliced into the pot of stew (2 Kings 4:38-39). Soon the stew was done. It was then served to the men. Being famished, these men settled for what they thought would be a delicious and satisfying meal. They began to enjoy the their meal. Then something dramatic happened. This is how the Bible speaks of the drama at the dinner table.
"And as they were eating of the stew, they cried out and said, 'O man of God, there is a death in the pot.' And they were unable to eat. But he said, 'Now bring the meal.' He threw it into the pot and said, 'Pour it out for the people that they may eat.' Then there was no harm in the pot" 2 Kings 4:40-41 (NASB).
The Hebrew word used for "cried out" in this discomforting and distressful situation is "tsa'aq." As stated earlier in the definition, it means calling out for help under great distress or crying out toYahweh in desperation. In this particular case, Elisha was used of God to bring His help to the sons of the prophets. This once again illustrates the Scripture-proven practice of crying out to God in our distress and experiencing the display of His power.
The Bible reports of two other instances where Elisha was used of God to bring God's deliverance to people who cried out in their distressing circumstances. A woman had recently lost her husband. In her great sorrow, the credit collection company hotly pursued her to pay what she and her husband owed. The collection agency had neither patience nor mercy. They had come to take the woman's two sons into slavery. She was helpless. She had reached her breaking point. She desperately needed God's intervention in her draining and despairing circumstance. She cried out and was not disappointed. Through Elisha's words, God miraculously multiplied her only resource, a jar of oil, which filled several borrowed empty vessels. The full vessels of oil were sold to pay the debt. She and her two sons lived on the rest (see 2 Kings 4:1-7). In the other instance, a man had borrowed an axe for a housing expansion project. Apparently the sons of the prophets, who were being trained under Elisha's tutelage, came to the realization that their living space was now too small for them. They needed to make more room for themselves. So they decided to go to the Jordan to cut beams for the expansion project. They asked Elisha's permission for the project. He approved of it. However, one of them, personally requested Elisha to go with them to the Jordan. Elisha willingly went with them. As the heavy duty work of beam cutting got under way, the unthinkable happened to one of the workers. His axe head fell into the water. To make things worse, the axe was borrowed. Perhaps, he had given the owner his word. As soon as he was done with the project, he would bring it back. But here he was holding only the handle of the axe. In desperation in this helpless situation, the man cried out. Again, God brought His powerful intervention through the hand of Elisha. He cut off a stick and threw it at the spot where the axe head fell. Lo and behold, the axe head defied the laws of gravity and floated. At the command of Elisha, the man reached out and took the axe head and was greatly relieved (see 2 Kings 6:1-7).
There is no doubt that Isaiah was one of Israel's most celebrated prophets. He had one of the most glorious visions of the holiness of God. This vision literally transformed him and left an indelible mark on his life and ministry. He had the privilege of ministering in the reign of several kings of Judah. His prophetic ministry to King Hezekiah of Judah, one of the godly kings of Judah is well documented. Through Isaiah, God gave several encouraging words to Hezekiah in a time when Judah was besieged and attacked by the Assyrian army led by Sennacherib. Also, Isaiah was not afraid to bring a word of rebuke from God to King Hezekiah when he needed a rebuke from God. He was a true friend to Hezekiah, bringing him both words of encouragement and reproof. He did not tickle the ears of Hezekiah. He presented the truth to him in love.
One of the most memorable moments in their relationship came when Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death (2 Kings 20:1). This was a very difficult time for Hezekiah. He had sought God with all his heart and faithfully relied on Him. While Hezekiah was pondering his life before God, Isaiah came to the king with words that deepened his sorrow. Isaiah, told Hezekiah that he was to put his house in order because he was soon to die (2 Kings 20:1). Those were tough words to hear on a sick bed. Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly (2 Kings 20:2-3). God heard the prayer of Hezekiah and sent Isaiah back to the king, this time with words of hope and healing. Through Isaiah, God promised to add fifteen years to Hezekiah's life and defend Jerusalem from the hand of the king of Assyria (2 Kings 20:4-6). Trusting God's word to him, Hezekiah asked Isaiah a sign from God that he would be healed. The details of the story are vividly presented in 2 Kings 20:7-11.
"Then Isaiah said, "Take a cake of figs." And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?" Isaiah said, "This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?" So Hezekiah answered, "It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps." Isaiah the prophet cried to the LORD, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz" 2 Kings 20:7-11 (NASB).
Please notice what brought about the turning back of the shadows ten steps! It was Isaiah's crying out to God in prayer to do the impossible. Isaiah knew that the going back of the shadows alone would be a sure sign to Hezekiah that he had been healed. Knowing this, Isaiah approached the throne of God with resolute trust. He was convinced that God alone could do this miraculous work in order to strengthen the faith of Hezekiah and promote the honor of His name. Displaying resolute faith in God and His ability to do the impossible, Isaiah cried out to God in prayer and experienced His powerful response on Hezekiah's behalf. Perhaps God is waiting for us to learn how to cry out to Him in prayer with determined faith in order to act powerfully on behalf of others. But have we learned what it means to cry out to God in prayer? Oh may God teach and train us to cry out to Him from the numerous examples He has preserved in His Word for us!
Apart from carrying messages to kings, Isaiah had also been given the daunting responsibility of pronouncing God's righteous judgments on several nations, Israel included. But he also had the privilege of bringing hope to the nations according to God's sovereign purpose. The ancient nation of Egypt was the subject of God's judgment and hope in Isaiah 19. The first seventeen verses of Isaiah 19 speak of God's judgment on Egypt. This judgment had already been fulfilled. However, verses 19-21 reveal the blessings God has in store for Egypt in the future, specifically in the Millennial kingdom.
"In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD near its border. It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. Thus the LORD will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the LORD and perform it" Isaiah 19:19-21 (NASB).
Please notice carefully what triggers God's active involvement and intervention on behalf of Egypt to deliver them from their oppression! It is their humble crying out aloud to God in prayer. It is their sincere calling out to God. It is giving their prayer a voice. It is their fervent heartfelt cry to the Lord in a loud voice. This is to teach us again that the concept of crying out to God in prayer and experiencing His personal and powerful deliverance is a frequent pattern in Scripture. This example and others we've already looked at, show how often crying out to God, calling out to God, a fervent heartfelt cry to God, a sincere speaking out aloud of our prayer to God becomes the very turning point in experiencing God's supernatural intervention.
Jonah, "the runaway prophet," or "the prodigal prophet," personally experienced the power of crying out aloud to God in prayer like no other prophet in Israel's history. Jonah was specifically instructed by God to carry His message to the wicked people of Nineveh. Jonah whose name in Hebrew means "dove," headed westward on a ship to Tarshish instead of eastward to Nineveh. His game-plan was to run from the presence of the Lord. He was determined not to carry God's message of salvation to people who were enemies of Israel and who were exceedingly wicked. But Jonah quickly learned that running away from God was an impossible adventure. God sent a violent storm that threatened to break up the ship. After confessing to the sailors on board that he was running away for the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land, Jonah told them to pick him up and throw him into the sea. He knew from the bottom of his heart that the storm came upon them because of his sin - running away from the presence of God. The sailors did their best to save Jonah's life. The harder they tried, the fiercer the storm grew. Eventually, they followed Jonah's advice and threw him into the raging sea (see Jonah 1). God was gracious to Jonah. He provided a great fish to swallow him. Jonah was inside the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. Jonah's situation was hopeless, helpless, desperate, distressful. It was miserable and messy. It was slimy and suffocating. Jonah found himself in a smelly underwater hotel. Jonah had no idea that he was going to end up in such a desperate and helpless situation, and indeed, a situation of his own making. But was there a way out for Jonah? There was! The way out was to cry out aloud to God in prayer in all humility and sincerity, believing God, and no one else, as his only source of help and deliverance from this impossible situation. From the belly of the big fish, Jonah gave voice to his prayer. This is how the Bible speaks of Jonah's calling and crying out to God in prayer:
"I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. Icried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice... "While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple" Jonah 2:2, 7 (NASB).
Earlier on the ship, Jonah had heard the sailors each crying out to his god but receiving no help from them (Jonah 1:5). However, Jonah's God is not like those false and lifeless gods. His God is alive. His God is true. His God responds to the genuine cry of those who have reached their breaking point. Therefore Jonah confidently cried out to Him. His urgent, passionate, fervent, humble and sincere calling out aloud, crying out aloud to God as his only hope of salvation in his hopeless and helpless situation, triggered God's personal and powerful intervention on his behalf. We are told at the end of chapter two of Jonah, "Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land" Jonah 2:10 (NASB).
What is your situation in life right now? Is it desperate? Is it helpless? Is it hopeless? Is it suffocating? Have you cried out aloud to God in prayer sincerely and fervently believing that He is willing and able to intervene on your behalf? Have you pleaded aloud in prayer to God in all humility and with a sense of urgency? Have you applied this Scripture-proven way of reaching out to God for His help and intervention? Jonah was in a desperate and hopeless situation of his own making. He blatantly disobeyed God's direct command to him. He willfully despised God's clear and specific word to him. He knowingly disregarded God. God had every reason to ignore him and still be righteous. But in His grace and kindness, He listened to the cry of Jonah and acted to bring deliverance for Jonah out of his miserable and messy situation. God has not changed. He is willing and waiting to respond to your heartfelt and humble crying out aloud to Him in prayer for help and deliverance.
- Periodof the Kings (2 Chronicles 13:13-15; 14:11-12; 18:28-31; 20:8-9; 32:20-22).
During the reign of the kings of Judah, crying out to God in prayer brought great deliverances to God's people and in the personal lives of some of the kings. King Abijah whose name means "The Lord is my Father," was the first of the kings of Judah to experience the power of crying out to God in a powerful way. Israel had been divided into two kingdoms, namely the northern (also called Israel) and southern (also called Judah) kingdoms, after the death of King Solomon. The division led to several civil wars between the two kingdoms. King Abijah feared and followed the Lord. But King Jeroboam, whose name means, "let the kinsman plead," the first king of the northern kingdom did not. Abijah was young and inexperienced, but he trusted in God, while Jeroboam was mature and experienced in warfare. You can see that in the story below.
"But Jeroboam had set an ambush to come from the rear, so that Israel was in front of Judah and the ambush was behind them. When Judah turned around, behold, they were attacked both front and rear; so they cried to the LORD, and the priests blew the trumpets. Then the men of Judah raised a war cry, and when the men of Judah raised the war cry, then it was that God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah" 2 Chronicles 13:13-15 (NASB).
God responded to the faith-filled, heartfelt, and sincere crying out of the Judeans to Him in battle. He delivered them and defeated Jeroboam and his army. In fact, the Bible goes on to say that the sons of Judah conquered because they trusted in the LORD, the God of their fathers (2 Chronicles 13:18). Folks, crying out to God in faith makes a difference in our lives and circumstances. It releases God's mighty power into our lives.
Another king who experienced the power of crying out to God in his life is King Asa. He became the king of Judah after the death of his father, King Abijah. He walked with God and did good and right in the sight of God. But walking with God does not mean we will never face trials and tough times in our lives. Asa prospered as a result of seeking God. But then came Zerah, the Ethiopian king and his army of a million men and 300 chariots against Asa's army of 580,000. Asa knew he had no chance of defeating such a powerful and well-equipped army. His only hope of surviving in this conflict was to call to his God. Asa knew that the battle belongs to the Lord. He also knew that when God fights for His people, it does not matter how formidable the opposition is, He will surely triumph. So Asa turned to God and earnestly sought His help. The Bible says,
"Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, "LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You." So the LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled" 2 Chronicles 14:11-12 (NASB).
Please notice again that calling out to God, believing that His help alone could make a difference in the situation, triggered His intervention. Judah defeated an army of superior strength and number.
King Jehoshaphat whose name means "Yahweh judges," is one of my favorite biblical characters. He was one of the kings of Judah who sought God with all his heart and found Him faithful. However, like most biblical heroes, Jehoshaphat made a bad decision of teaming up with Ahaz, the king of Israel to fight against the king of Aram (Syria). Ahaz did not seek God. He did not serve God. He did not strive after God. He did not love the Lord. But Jehoshaphat went along with his plan of waging war against the Arameans to reclaim the territories captured from Israel. While engaged in this battle, Jehoshaphat came under fire. Now, the Bible tells us what happened to him and how God's deliverance came into his life.
"So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up against Ramoth-gilead. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you put on your robes." So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle. Now the king of Aram had commanded the captains of his chariots, saying, "Do not fight with small or great, but with the king of Israel alone." So when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, "It is the king of Israel," and they turned aside to fight against him. ButJehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him, and God diverted them from him" 2 Chronicles 18:28-31 (NASB).
King Jehoshaphat had learned from the rich experience of his forefathers. He was in a near death situation. But his crying out to the Lord brought a turn around in his life and near death circumstance. He experienced God's instantaneous rescue simply because he cried out to Him with all his heart, sincerely believing that without God's saving help he would have been dead. After all, he brought himself into this situation. He made an alliance with a wicked king who was not walking with God. God could have abandoned him. God could have forsaken him in the mess he brought upon himself. But He didn't. His help was abundantly available to him. He experienced the promise of Psalm 46:1, which says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." After this deliverance, King Jehoshaphat was rebuked by God. He sent the prophet Jehu to him to confront him for helping the wicked and loving those who hate the Lord (see 2 Chronicles 19:1-4).
After this near death experience and God's deliverance and rebuke, Jehoshaphat faced another trial, this time for doing what is right. He instituted reforms in Judah and pointed the people of Judah to God (see 2 Chronicles 19:5-11). After all these righteous deeds, one would think that Jehoshaphat and Judah would be "trial-proofed." Unfortunately, that was not the case. Trouble came knocking on their door. Three nations, namely Moab, the sons of Ammon, and the Meunites came to make war against Jehoshaphat. One against three. There was nothing Jehoshaphat did to provoke these nations. The Moabites and the Ammonites were the descendants of Lot. The Meunites are identified as either Edomites or Arameans. Probably the former identification is the more acceptable of the two (see 2 Chronicles 20:23). In which case, three armies, whose countries surrounded Judah in the south (Edom or Esau), west (Moab) and northeast (Ammon), came marching down to Engedi. Since these nations were related to Judah, we can speculate that they had intentions of dethroning Jehoshaphat and taking over the land. Whether this was their motivation or not, one thing is clear. Jehoshaphat and all Judah were in great trouble. They were outnumbered. They were caught between a rock and a hard place. They were completely helmed in. In brief, they were in a very desperate situation. In fact, they were helpless. What should they do? Should they give in to the advancing huge army? Should they allow themselves to be run over? Who should they turn to for help? Would that person be able to deliver them from their powerful enemies? Well, having experienced the power of crying out to God in prayer, Jehoshaphat turned his attention to the Lord, to seek Him and His help and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. All Judah gathered together for the purpose of seeking God and His help. Jehoshaphat, their godly leader and king, led in prayer. He reminded God of His sovereign rule over the nations and His saving work on behalf of Israel. He also reminded God of the special promise He gave His people-that is, to cry out to Him in times of hardship and experience His help and victory. This is where we pick up part of his prayer.
"They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, 'Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us'" 2 Chronicles 20:8-9 (NASB).
Through this prayer, God aroused Himself and intervened on behalf of Judah. God Himself fought for Judah, as they praised Him. He caused the three armies to fight against each other and destroy each other. All Judah had to do was to collect and carry the spoils of their enemies. It took three days to collect the spoil (see 2 Chronicles 20:14-25).
King Hezekiah whose name means "the Lord is my strength," also experienced the power of crying out to God. Like Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah after his acts of faithfulness, was invaded by the powerful Assyrian army led by the proud and intimidating Sennacherib. The Assyrian army besieged fortified cities in Judah and sought to break into Jerusalem. After taking several practical steps, Hezekiah pointed the people to the Lord, reminding them that the one with them is greater than the one with the Assyrian army. He also assured them of God's presence with them and help. After Hezekiah's encouragement of Judah, Sennacherib, the intimidator, went to work. He spoke with great confidence about the great victories of the Assyrians in the past. He also sought to create doubt and distrust in the hearts and minds of the Judeans. It was an excellent speech geared towards creating fear in the hearts of the Judeans. Whatever little hope the people had in God, Sennacherib sought to crush. It was a day of distress for Judah. But the question is: Would they be delivered from it? The Bible shows again that crying out to God in prayer brought about about God's deliverance. We read:
"But King Hezekiah and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed about this and cried out to heaven. And the LORD sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned in shame to his own land. And when he had entered the temple of his god, some of his own children killed him there with the sword. So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side" 2 Chronicles 32:20-22 (NASB).
Again and again, we have seen that crying out to God in prayer during the period of the kings, triggered God's personal and powerful intervention in the distressing and difficult circumstances of His people. Crying out to God in prayer is a well-proven Scriptural method of praying to God to release His help into our personal lives and situations. Have you learned to reach out for God's help in this way?
- Psalms(Psalm 18:3-6; 22:4-5; 30:2; 34:6; 107:6, 12-13, 19, 27-28; 118:5 cf. 2 Samuel 22:7).
The Book of Psalms is loaded with examples of God's people crying out to God in prayer and experiencing His powerful deliverance in their helpless and hopeless circumstances. This is particularly true in the life of King David, the man after God's own heart. He really understood what it means to cry out to God with passion, fervency, faith, sincerity, urgency and expectation that, God and He alone, can turn an impossible situation into a possible one, thus bringing His deliverance and help. As such, David repeatedly is seen in the Psalms crying out to God in prayer, giving voice to his prayers with great intensity and fervency, which most of us lack in our prayers to God. Instead of explaining the selected passages, I have decided to let the Scriptures speak for themselves. Please read, reflect and review them to allow the truths presented in them renew your heart.
"I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears" Psalm 18:3-6 (NASB).
"In You our fathers trusted; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed" Psalm 22:4-5 (NASB).
"O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me"
Psalm 30:2 (NASB).
"This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles" Psalm 34:6 (NASB).
"Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses... Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; they stumbled and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses... Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses... They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses" Psalm 107:6, 12-13, 19, 27-28 (NASB).
"From my distress I called upon the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me in a large place" Psalm 118:5 (NASB).
The human authors of the last two psalms listed above are unknown. However, that does not take away from the lessons these psalms teach us. Psalm 107 is especially interesting. It is a psalm that has the nation of Israel in view, but it is applicable to believers today. We, like Israel, have been bought from the slave market of sin. We too, are the redeemed of the Lord. The psalm presents four very different situations in which God's people desperately needed His personal intervention. In each of the situations described, God's people were at their breaking point. They were at their wits' end. They were in great distress and despair. Please take note of the four different circumstances described. First, rescue is needed for those wandering in the wilderness (107:4-9). Second, release is needed for the imprisoned (107:10-16). Third, recovery is needed for the seriously afflicted (107:17-22). Fourth, relief is needed for the storm-tossed (107:23-32). In each of these situations, the psalmist followed a pattern in relating his inspired story. First, man's plight. Second, man's petition-that is, crying out to God in prayer. Third, God's personal and powerful deliverance. Fourth and finally, man's praise. Please, take time to read and reflect on this powerful psalm. This psalm teaches that, no matter your predicament in life, you can experience God's personal and powerful intervention, provided you cry out to Him sincerely, believing with all your heart that He can make a way for you where there seems to be no way. What triggered God's personal involvement in the plight of all the people described above, is a sincere crying out to Him. The God who acted in response to the cries of these distressed and afflicted people, is still willing to act in response to our cries to Him today. May nothing hinder us from humbly and honestly crying out to Him to intervene in our circumstances, so that we too may give Him the praise due His great and glorious name! As He intervenes in our situation, we too, will be given the opportunity to respond to the psalmist's call to give thanks to Him. "Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men" (Psalm 107:8,15, 21, 31).
Other Scriptures from the psalms that present the principle of crying out to God in prayer include; Psalms 3:4; 5:2; 9:12; 22:24; 27:7; 28:2; 31:22; 40:1-3; 51:2;72:12; 88:1-2, 9; 89:26; 99:6; 102:1-2; 106:44-46; 116:4, 17; 118:5; 119:145-147; 120:1;130:1-2; 138:3; 141:1; 142:1-2, 5-6. Check them out for yourself! I do not think I have listed all of them. You can add to the list.
- Promise(Psalm 34:15, 17; 50:15; 86:7; 91:15; Isaiah 30:19; 58:9-11; 65:24; Jeremiah 29:12; 33:3).
Crying out to God in Prayer was not the idea and invention of desperate men in desperate circumstances of life. It is rooted in the promises of God. God Himself has given promises to His people concerning crying out or calling aloud to Him in prayer. It was God's promise to God's people that motivated believers of old to cry out to Him in prayer, knowing that He would respond to their cry. These saints of old, knew that God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. They were convinced of the principle: "What God promises He also performs." Therefore, they took God at His word. They stood on the word of God. They held God to His promise. If we are to experience God's powerful intervention in our lives, we must also learn to take God at His word. We must trust Him. We must also trust in His promises to us. God has not changed. He is the same yesterday and today and forever. He delights in our wholehearted trust in His promises. It pleases Him. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). The important question for us is: Do we trust God and His promises wholeheartedly? Do we believe that He means what He says? Do we have resolute faith in His word to us? Are we known as people who stand on the promises of God that cannot fail?
As if to make His promise more sure so that His believing people may have strong encouragement and steadfast hope, God repeatedly stated His promise to His people to cry out to Him in His Word. Certainly, the repetition is to stress the importance of God's strong commitment to fulfilling His promise to us. Please, as you read these promises, allow the Holy Spirit to impress them deeply on your heart of heart. Let Him also help you in applying them in your life and circumstances.
"The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The righteous cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles" Psalm 34:15, 17 (NASB).
The Hebrew word translated "cry" in verse 15 is "shavah," while the Hebrew word for "cry" in verse 17 is "tsa'aq." As stated earlier, "tsa'aq" means to cry out or call out for help unto God under great distress. It also means to cry out in desperation to Yahweh while facing a difficult situation or a great need. Similarly, "shavah" is used to describe the cry of those who have reached their breaking point. The "righteous" is one who has a saving personal relationship with Jesus Christ and therefore is clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He is a true believer in Jesus Christ. We learn from this promise that the believer is not exempt from trouble in this life. However, God promises that when such a person cries out to Him in prayer, He can be certain that God will not only listen to him but also act on his behalf to bring His deliverance or victory. King David, through whom the Holy Spirit spoke this promise, personally experienced this promise in his own life. Again and again, David found himself surrounded by enemies. But he cried out again and again to the Lord his God. What was God's response? He heard David. He delivered David. David summarized this in Psalm 18, which is a Psalm he spoke to the Lord in the day He delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. "In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears" (Psalm 18:6).
"Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me" Psalm 50:15 (NASB).
"He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him" Psalm 91:15 (NASB).
The above two promises has to do with calling out to God in prayer in times of trouble. "Qara'" is the Hebrew verb translated "call" in both promises. As noted in the definition, "qara'" is a special appeal to God to display His power on one's behalf in order to honor His name. In both promises, God assures His believing child that His personal deliverance is sure. In other words, the believer who gives voice to his prayer by crying out or calling out to Him, resolutely trusting God to be his only help and hope, will certainly experience God's gracious intervention. God has committed Himself by His word to act on behalf of the one who calls upon Him even in those tough and troublesome times. In the former promise, God's personal deliverance or rescue results in the honor of Him. In the latter promise, in addition to the rescue, God adds that He will honor such a person who calls upon Him. Truly, God is good. God is gracious. God is generous. He bestows honor upon His believing child who has learned what it means to cry out to Him. Other promises given in the Psalms include Psalms 86:7; 145:18-19.
The Psalms are not the only place where we find God's promises for crying out or calling out to Him in prayer. The writing of the prophets, especially, those of Isaiah and Jeremiah also contain these promises.
"It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear" Isaiah 65:24 (NASB).
"Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you." Jeremiah 29:12 (NASB).
"Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know" Jeremiah 33:3 (NASB).
Again, "qara'" is the Hebrew verb translated "call." Please note something very important about these promises. Like the ones in the Psalms, these promises are unconditional promises. God has committed Himself to fulfilling these promises without any stipulated condition. When His believing children call out to Him, He will respond and act on their behalf. It is as simple as that. We don't have to do anything else. Of course, we must take care to understand the contexts in which these promises are given. Once we understand the context in which these promises are written, we can go boldly to the throne of grace, clothed in the righteousness of Christ and hold God to His Word, trustingly and confidently expecting Him to act on our behalf. How wonderful! How precious are the promises of God to His believing people!
The last promises I want us to look at are recorded in Isaiah 30:19 and 58:9-11.
"He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you" Isaiah 30:19 (NASB).
"Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. "And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail" Isaiah 58:9-11 (NASB).
"Qara'" is the Hebrew verb translated "call," while "shava'" is the Hebrew for "cry." Would you please notice that this promise is conditional. The context clearly shows that God expects certain conditions to be fulfilled by His children before they experience the fullness of this promise to them. They must stop accusing each other. They must stop slandering each other. They must care for the needy and the afflicted. When they are doing these things and cry out to God in prayer, they can be certain that God will personally and powerfully respond to them and act graciously on their behalf.
As if all these promises were not enough, God further promises in His Word to hear the cry of the afflicted, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (see Exodus 22:22f.; Psalm 9:12). The fact that God hears the cries of His people and delivers them from their distress distinguishes Him as the true and living God; for people cry to idols but they do not respond (see Psalm 107:6, 28; Isaiah 46:7).
Let me again say that the biblical concept of crying out to God in prayer is firmly rooted in the promises of God to His people. Believer, know that God has granted to all who are savingly related to Him, His precious and magnificent promises (2 Peter 1:4). It is up to us to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to burn them on our hearts that we may be motivated by them to cry out to God in prayer and experience His personal, powerful and prompt deliverance so that we may honor His name, which is above all names.
VII. Problem (1 Samuel 8:18; Job 19:7; 30:20; 35:12-13; Lam. 3:8; Psalm 18:41; 22:2; 88:13-18; Prov. 21:13; Habakkuk 1:2).
So far, I have attempted to present the overwhelming evidence that has been preserved in the Scriptures, powerfully demonstrating that God responds to believers who cry out to Him in prayer. We have seen that in the Pentateuch, in the time periods of the Judges and the Kings of Israel, in the Psalms, as well as in the lives of some of Israel's finest prophets. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the Bible also shows that it is possible to cry out to God in prayer, but obtain no answer from Him. This is a perplexing problem. It's puzzling to the soul that genuinely hungers and thirsts after God.
Instead of ignoring this problem, I think it is best to face it. I would hate to present a partial truth on this teaching. Presenting the whole counsel of God is my passion in my ministry of preaching and teaching the Word of God. Please listen! There are times you will cry out to God in prayer and receive no answer from Him except His silence. Personally, I have experienced that. Recently, I repeatedly cried out to God with all earnestness and passionate hunger for His gracious intervention in breaking the spell of sleeplessness that was permitted in my life for two weeks, but I had no relief. Night after night, I grew weaker and weaker physically because of severe sleep deprivation. I fervently cried out for God's powerful breakthrough, but sleep kept fleeing from my eyes. It was a dark night experience for my soul. Finally, unable to go on, I sought prayer from others in my local church on my behalf. God used their prayers on my behalf to break the spell of sleeplessness. Thanks be to God whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are not our thoughts!
Let's look at the biblical record of the problem of crying out to God in prayer but receiving no response from Him.
The prophet Samuel warned Israel that should they choose to do things their own way, and then cry out to God, they would receive no answer from Him. Israel rejected God as their King. They wanted to be like the nations surrounding them who had kings as their rulers. Israel wanted this, so they completely ignored Samuel's admonition. In response to their refusal to pay close attention to Samuel's wise counsel, God spoke these words to Israel through Samuel. "Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day" 1 Samuel 8:18 (NASB).
It is clear from this account, that sometimes the reason for God's lack of response to our cry to Him is refusal to do things His way. As long as we continue to stubbornly choose to lean on our own understanding, God will not response to our cries to Him, no matter how fervent, passionate and intense they are. This general principal truth is reinforced in Proverbs 21:13: "He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered" (NASB). To ignore the cry of the less fortunate is not taken lightly by God. That is, if we fail to show God's compassion to the poor, not sharing with them the blessings we've received from Him, means we will also receive God's silence. There will come a time when we ourselves cry in our need to God, but He will not listen and act on our behalf. The principle of reaping what you sow is behind this silence from God.
Job had his own dark night of the soul. Unknown to him, Satan was given permission to take away everything he had, his children, his business, his employers, and even his health. During such a dark and distressful time, Job intensely pursued God, sought Him and cried out to Him sincerely from the bottom of his heart. But the darkness grew darker and the distress deeper. He earnestly longed for God's intervention, but there was no immediate response from God but further provocation from his pitiful comforters. This is how Job described his dark night of the soul experience. "Behold, I cry, 'Violence!' but I get no answer; I shout for help, but there is no justice" Job 19:7 (NASB). Furthermore, he greatly lamented: "I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You turn Your attention against me" Job 30:20 (NASB). Why did God not respond to the heartfelt cry of Job in his time of distress and helplessness? The Bible does not give us an answer. What we do know is that Job was having a dark night experience of the soul, a period in which God in His sovereign wisdom chose to remain silent to his cry for help.
There are times God doesn't respond to our cries because they are empty. They are not real. They are not genuine. They are not sincere. They are from our lips but not really from our hearts. When that is the case, we should not expect God to respond to us. This seems to be what the Spirit revealed to Elihu, the young man who waited, watched and listened to Job and his three friends took turns at jabbing at each other. "There they cry out, but He does not answer because of the pride of evil men. Surely God will not listen to an empty cry, nor will the Almighty regard it" Job 35:12-13 (NASB).
Although David experienced God's powerful and prompt intervention again and again, as a result of passionately crying out to God in prayer, yet there were times in his life when he cried out to Him and had no response from Him. The Spirit led David to share one of these deeply troubling experiences of no response from God. "O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest" Psalm 22:2 (NASB). Why did God not respond to David's cry in this situation? Again, the Bible didn't give us an answer. It chose to remain silent.
Perhaps David himself was not given an answer to this question. But later in his life, David learned that those who were his enemies, those who unjustly rose up against him, would cry out to God but would not receive help from Him. Inspired by the Spirit, David said of his enemies: "They cried for help, but there was none to save, even to the LORD, but He did not answer them" Psalm 18:41 (NASB). David was God's anointed servant and king. To oppose God's anointed means opposing God Himself. Certainly, God will not honor anyone who resists His purpose and plan. This is why David was led to say that his enemies cried for help but God did not save or answer them. You cannot rebel against God's will and expect Him to respond to your cry for help.
The problem of crying out to God in prayer and not experiencing His divine intervention was faced by others besides Job, the children of Israel in days of the prophet Samuel, and David. The Bible shows that others from the levitical priesthood family also experienced it. To be specific, the sons of Korah. Psalm 88 opens up with a personal testimony of the psalmist crying out to God by day and in the night, with a sincere and earnest imploring of God to hear his cry. The psalmist had hit rock bottom. He had had enough trouble. He was at his wits' end. As far as he was concerned, life was over for him. He had reached the breaking point (see Psalm 88:1-5). With this background in mind, let's now read of the problem the psalmist brought to God.
"But I, O LORD, have cried out to You for help, and in the morning my prayer comes before You. O LORD, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me? I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on; I suffer Your terrors; I am overcome" Psalm 88:13-15 (NASB).
The psalmist had cried out to God day and night, but God hid His face from him. He was deeply perplexed. He was overcome in his situation. But God did not act on his behalf. He later spoke of being surrounded by God's terrors instead of God's timely deliverance which he was expecting (see Psalm 88:16-18). Why did God not release His saving help into this despairing and desperate situation of the psalmist? Again, the Bible does not say.
The prophet Habakkuk also struggled with the problem of crying out to God, yet getting no answer from Him. Habakkuk, whose name means "one who embraces," was deeply perplexed that God appeared to be indifferent to Judah's blatant disregard for God and His law. He wanted God to bring about a cleansing, chastening, and revival among His people in Judah. He earnestly sought God for this. The prophet desired for God to bring revival that would return God's people to righteousness. For this cause, Habakkuk expended much spiritual energy. But there was no revival. God's people continued in their sinful ways. For the moment, there was no response from God. Habakkuk was therefore perplexed. In his perplexity he asked God the frequently asked question (FAQ).
"How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, "Violence!" Yet You do not save" Habakkuk 1:2(NASB).
After an unspecified period of time, God broke His silence and responded to the prophet's perplexity and pleading. God revealed to the prophet that He was not winking at Judah's disobedience and disregard for Him and His law. Rather than the revival he was seeking for Judah, He was going to unleash His righteous judgment on Judah and Jerusalem (see Habakkuk 1:5-11).
In summary, the problem of crying out to God in prayer, yet not getting a response from Him is real. It is often perplexing, especially in cases where sin is not particularly mentioned, or where one is seeking God's cleansing among His people. However, we've seen that the root cause for the problem can be plainly discerned. For example, those who have no relationship with God cannot expect God to respond to their crying out to Him while walking in rebellion to Him. Also, there are times God chooses not to respond to the cries of people, simply because their cries to Him are empty cries. He will not be moved by an insincere cry. Also, God will not respond to our cries when we deliberately ignore the cries of the less fortunate-failing to show them God's compassion. When there is a plain reason for the silence, it is understandable. But when there is no identifiable reason, we experience the dark night of the soul. Job experienced this. David, as well, had his dark night of the soul. The sons of Korah had this deeply troubling experience as well. Perhaps, if you haven't experienced it yet, you may one day soon be there as well. The question is: how do we respond in our dark night of the soul? What do we do when we sincerely cry out to God and He remains silent? As stated in our definition, "Crying out to God in Prayer" is not a mere or magic formula to use to get God to act on our behalf. If you think this is simply a prayer formula, I want to warn you that you will be greatly disappointed. Keep in mind that we are praying to a God who is infinite and incomprehensible. There is no doubt that God has overwhelmingly established a pattern of responding to the cries of those who come to Him, sincerely believing that His personal intervention alone can lift them up from the pit of despair. But, we must admit that prayer is a mystery that we cannot fully comprehend. No one can plumb the unfathomable depths of prayer. But we can take comfort in the fact that those who had the dark night of the soul-crying out sincerely to God, yet not getting a respond from Him, did not give up on God. Through the Spirit, they persevered and were not put to shame. Although Job did not receive answers to his puzzling and perplexing question, yet he was doubly blessed in the end. Job did not throw in the towel. He did not quit on God. God revealed Himself to him and rewarded him. No matter how puzzling the dark night of your soul, take heart! God's light is awaiting to shine in your heart and lift you to new heights in your walk with Him. He uses the dark night of the soul to draw us closer to Him. He uses it to deepen our relationship with Him. He is a relational God. He wants our relationship with Him to be richer and deeper. He is not only interested in answering our prayers but more importantly, He is desirous of establishing a more intimate relationship with us. Perhaps this is why He sometimes chooses to remain silent to our sincere cries to Him.
VIII. Practice of Crying Out to God in the New Testament (Matt. 9:27-30; 14:28-31; 15:21-28; 20:29-34; Mk. 9:21-27; Romans 8:15).
Crying out to God in prayer is not only an Old Testament practice. It featured prominently in the New Testament era, clearly teaching us that it is a God-approved way of seeking Him today. Again and again, in the New Testament, people in desperate, hopeless, and helpless circumstances cried out to God in the Person of the Lord Jesus to intervene on their behalf and were not disappointed. The Lord Jesus responded to blind men who cried out to Him. He intervened on behalf of one of His disciples who cried out to Him to save him from drowning and death. He delivered a demon-possessed girl, whose mother cried out earnestly and fervently to Him to make a difference in the situation of her daughter. A father's crying out to Jesus on behalf of his son, who had been possessed by a demon for years, triggered the personal and powerful intervention of the Lord Jesus.
In each of these situations listed below the Greek verb for "cry out" is "krazo." As stated earlier, "krazo" means calling out to God in a loud voice seeking His divine intervention in one's life and circumstances or those of others'.
Would you please carefully read these stories and discover for yourself the precious lessons regarding the practice, principle and the power of crying out to God in prayer! The stories are self-explanatory. Please mark them and meditate on them and allow the Holy Spirit to make them alive in your heart.
"As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith." And their eyes were opened" Matthew 9:27-30 (NASB).
Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:28-31 (NASB).
"Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once" Matthew 15:21-28 (NASB).
"As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Lord, we want our eyes to be opened." Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him" Matthew 20:29-34 (NASB).
"They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief." When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up" Mark 9:21-27 (NASB).
Without doubt, crying out to God in prayer seeking His personal intervention was practiced in the New Testament. This practice teaches us an important principle. The stories presented here about the practice of crying out to God are to serve as examples for us. Examples that will encourage us also to cry out to God in prayer, no matter how desperate, hopeless, helpless our circumstances are. The Bible affirms this principle by saying: "For whatever was written in earlier times was for our instruction, so that through perseverance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). I do not know what your situation is. You may be feeling it's over for you. You may be saying, "There is no hope for me. There is no help that can turn things around in my life and circumstance. Things have gone from bad to worse for me. I have hit rock bottom with my situation. I am at my breaking point. I am at my wit's end." All I know is that Jesus Christ has not changed. He is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). You can also experience power of crying out to God in prayer. Sincere, heartfelt, fervent, crying out to Him with a firm belief that He alone, and no one else, can and is able to do a God-sized work to bring hope, help, and healing in your life and circumstance, has moved and still moves God to intervene in a personal and powerful way, thus bringing glory to His name.
The New Testament also teaches that the Holy Spirit dwelling in believers helps them to cry out to God. This is one of His many ministries in the life of believers. The Bible says, "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"" (Romans 8:15). This is a great encouragement to believers. We have God's Spirit within us to assist us in crying out to God as our Abba! Father! The same Spirit motivates us to cry out to God in prayer sincerely and earnestly seeking His personal and powerful intervention!
- Personof Christ (John 11:41-44; Matt. 27:46-54; cf. Mk. 15:34-39; Lk. 23:46-47; Hebrews 5:7).
The Scriptures clearly portray the Lord Jesus Christ as One whose life was characterized by fervent, earnest, effective and believing prayer. He prayed at His baptism (Luke 3:21-22). He prayed and fasted forty days and forty nights in the desert (Matthew 4:1-10). He rose early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35). He often slipped away from the pressing demands of the crowds to pray (Luke 5:15-16). He prayed all night before choosing His disciples (Luke 6:12-13). He was alone by Himself to pray to the Father, even after a hectic day of ministry (Matthew 14:23).It was while in prayer alone that Jesus questioned His disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" (Luke 9:18). He took three of His most intimate disciples to a high mountain to pray (Luke 9:28-36). His life of prayer led His disciples to ask, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). He prayed in the Upper Room after the Last Supper (John 17). He had a special place of prayer in Gethsemane, where He often retreated and prayed (Luke 22:39; John 18:2). He prayed fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:41-45). He prayed at the cross (Luke 23:34, 46). In every way, His life was a life of prayer. The inspired writer of Hebrews tells that Jesus is still praying. "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). This means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, the eternal High Priest, is and was a Man of prayer. Our Lord's life of prayer is indeed a powerful example for us to follow.
Please, here is what I want you to note. The Bible also clearly teaches that the Lord Jesus Himself personally practiced crying out to God in prayer and experienced its power. The Bible's first record of our Lord's crying out to God is found in John 11. Jesus loved Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus. At some point, prior to the cross, we are told that Lazarus fell ill. The sisters sent word to Jesus from Bethany to Perea, simply stating that the one whom He loved was sick. When Jesus heard the news He chose not to respond immediately. Two days passed before He responded. After this, Jesus told His disciples to accompany Him to Judea again. The disciples tried to talk Him out of it, citing the intentions of the Jews to stone Him on His previous trip there. Jesus however insisted He must go. He told them His reason for going. He was going to awake Lazarus from his sleep. The disciples taught Jesus was speaking of literal sleep, so He clearly explained to them that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had died and was buried four days before Jesus and His disciples came to Bethany. The tenderness of our Lord was revealed at the tomb of Lazarus. He wept there. Some of the Jews who came to the tomb questioned if Jesus could not have kept Lazarus from dying. Deeply moved, Jesus ordered the stone to be removed from the tomb. Martha strongly objected to this move, citing the odor of the decomposing body of her brother. But Jesus prevailed. He reminded Martha that if she believed, she would see the glory of God. It is at this point that our Lord Himself demonstrated the practice of crying out to God in prayer and its powerful results. Please carefully take not of what the Bible says.
"So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. "I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go" John 11:41-44 (NASB).
It appears the Lord Jesus had earlier prayed silently in His heart. But now He cried out aloud in prayer. He cried out on behalf of Lazarus and God acted promptly and powerfully. Lazarus came from the dead. Lazarus was among the few people who experienced a coming back to life after death. This miraculous resurrection of Lazarus was initiated by our Lord's crying out on his behalf.
The next recorded instance of our Lord's crying out to God in prayer was at the cross. His work for the redemption of sinners was about to be perfectly completed. It was a once for all sacrifice of Himself. A sacrifice whose benefits will be for all time. At this point, the Lord Jesus brought His life of prayer on earth to end on a powerful note-crying out to God. While John alone recorded His crying out to God on behalf of Lazarus, Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded His crying out to God in prayer on His own behalf.
"About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, "This man is calling for Elijah." Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, "Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" Matthew 27:46-57 (NASB).
Jesus had come to sacrifice Himself for our sins. He did exactly that. He finished His redemptive work crying out to God. The immediate and eternal results brought about by this sacrifice are awesome. These include: The old system of offering sacrifices year by year was done away with. Christ's sacrifice was perfect and final. No other sacrifice is needed to reconcile sinners to a holy, loving and righteous God. Our sins are forgiven based on His once for all sacrifice. Through Jesus we can approach God directly. We no longer need a human priest or a saint as an intermediary. Jesus alone is our true mediator between God and us. We will share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was none other who was sacrificed for our sins, but the very Son of God, holy, innocent, unblemished, spotless, separated from sinners and exalted in the heavens. Yes, at the crying out of Jesus to God, these benefits and more are ours. Those who heard Him cried out saw the miracles of the splitting of the curtain, the shaking of the earth and the saints' resurrection. What shaking! What a sight! What a sacrifice! What a Savior!
Finally, the inspired writer of Hebrews summarized our Lord's prayer life in these words:
"In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety" Hebrews 5:7(NASB).
The expression "loud crying" literally means "strong crying." The term "crying" comes from "krauges," which is used of fervent prayer. In other words, our Lord's life of prayer was passionate, earnest, intense, strong, and characterized by much crying out to God. Since His life of prayer is an example for us, this means that crying out to God in prayer is consistent with God's will. It is His desire for us. It is God's delight to see His believing children cry out to Him in their prayers. Christ practiced it. Through the Spirit's help, we who believe in Him, can also practice it. Christ experienced powerful results in His practice of crying out to God in prayer. Through the activity of the indwelling Spirit, who assists us to cry out to God in prayer, we can also experience the blessings of God's personal and powerful intervention in our own behalf and in behalf of others for whom we cry out to God in prayer.
The concept of crying out to God in prayer is a sound biblical way of reaching out to God to release His great and amazing power into our lives and circumstances. It was practiced both in the Old and New Testaments. Crying out to God in prayer triggered His personal divine intervention in the lives of many whose circumstances were helpless and hopeless, desperate and despairing. More importantly, it was practiced by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I have attempted to present these biblical evidences to show that it is God's will for us to follow the practice and pattern of those who have gone before us, so that in practicing it, we might also experience the power of crying out to God in our prayers. May the Holy Spirit use this teaching to deepen our prayer life, especially in these desperate! "The people who know their God will display strength and take action" (Daniel 11:32b). May the Spirit of God help us take action regarding the truths He has taught us on the concept of crying out to God in these difficult times!