For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Overcoming the Obstacles of Prayer (1)
The first difficulty has to do with the people for whom we pray. If they are free to decide their destiny, and if they have decided to follow a destiny away from God, what is the point of praying, if God cannot alter it?
If we look at the scriptures, we will see God many times disposing of man's heart, with the freedom that only the Almighty God can have. Did God consult Pharaoh to see if he wanted to play the role of "tough guy" in front of Moses? Scripture simply says that God hardened his heart (Rom. 9:16-18). Did God ask Cyrus if he wanted to favor the Israelites to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem? Scripture says that God "awakened the spirit of Cyrus" to promote the cause of the Israelites (Ezra 1:1). Did God consult Nebuchadnezzar to see if he wanted to be turned into a beast? However, God did it (Dan. 4:31-37).
These three kings represent all human greatness and pride. However, God – who governs the universe – also ruled over their hearts. God's sovereignty was clearly expressed in these kings of the past. Will it be like this in the future, too? Revelation 17 tells us that ten kings will ravage Babylon, "for God has put in their hearts to accomplish his purpose" (v. 17, NIV). That has not happened yet: it is a prophecy, but we know that it will be fulfilled because God has said it, no matter the greatness or opposition that these kings can have against God.
In Revelation 3:7-8 it says: "These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut." The church in Philadelphia has received the grace of having God's favor to do his work, which no one can oppose.
When the Apostle Paul, in two passages of the epistle to the Romans, touches on the issue of freedom of man versus the sovereignty of God, he does not conclude his reasoning in a logical manner (with human logic, 3:3-9 and 9:11-21), but exalts God's sovereignty. The Apostle invites man to bow his head and simply accept God's designs.
If God is powerless in the face of the freedom of man, in the face of human hardness and pride, then what is the point of us knocking on his door asking for the salvation of rebellious men? God will not be able to work with them.
However, this is not the case. When God says, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; know and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7-8), he is tacitly affirming that he can do everything that we ask or seek of him, or that for which we call.
By prayer, we go to the Father and ask that he touch men’s hearts and convert them. May he take down the Nebuchadnezzars, the Pharaohs and the Cyrus of this day, and do His will with them. We will ask for those whom the Father has placed in our hearts, and we will insist until he grants us our prayers.