Because One Man Prayed

March 2, 2017

Whenever I think about a person who rolled up his sleeves and did the work of praying for his nation, I think about Daniel. In Daniel’s day, the nation of Israel was living under the rule of Babylon.

They’d been in captivity for 70 years because of their disobedience to God. Daniel’s nation had been torn apart and it needed to be healed. His people needed to get back to Jerusalem and back into the plan of God.

One day, Daniel was reading the book of Jeremiah and he came upon this verse:

For thus says the Lord, When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and keep My good promise to you, causing you to return to this place.

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will release you from captivity and gather you from all the nations and all the places to which I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.
(Jer. 29:10–14)

Do you know what Daniel did when he read that promise of the Lord? He tells us in Daniel 9, “I set my face to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes; and I prayed to the Lord my God…” (vv. 3–4).

Notice that Daniel didn’t gather up a band of people and go lobby against the government leaders that had taken Israel captive. He didn’t paint signs and picket the palace in Babylon. No, he prayed.

In the book of Ezra, we see how God answered the prayers of that one man:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia [almost seventy years after the first Jewish captives were taken to Babylon], that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might begin to be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and put it also in writing: Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem in Judah.

Whoever is among you of all His people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel, in Jerusalem; He is God. And in any place where a survivor [of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews] sojourns, let the men of that place assist him with silver and gold, with goods and beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.
(Ezra 1:1–4)

This was absolutely a miracle! King Cyrus wasn’t a godly man. He was like a Hitler, mean and hateful, and he had no love in his heart for the Jews. Yet because one man prayed, God was able to turn the heart of that king so completely that he not only allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the temple, he commanded his own people to finance their efforts.

This wasn’t a unique event, either. Again and again, we see incidents in the Bible where people prayed and God intervened not just in their individual lives, but also in their city or their nation.

God moves where people pray!

Read Acts 16 and you can see that principle in action. There we find Paul and Silas traveling around preaching the Gospel. When they sought the Lord about exactly where to go, He told them not to go to Asia or Bithynia, the places they had intended to visit. Instead, He gave Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”

In obedience to the vision, Paul and Silas traveled to Philippi, the chief city of the district of Macedonia. Verse 13 tells us what happened next: “And on the Sabbath day we went outside the [city’s] gate to the bank of the river where we supposed there was an [accustomed] place of prayer, and we sat down and addressed the women who had assembled there.”

Isn’t that interesting? Paul and Silas were led by the Holy Spirit right to the spot where people had been praying! Verse 16 actually calls it “the place of prayer.” If you keep reading, you’ll find that God literally shook that city before Paul and Silas left there.

I encourage you to pray for your nation, your leaders, and your government—regardless of how you feel about them.

If God can get somebody—anybody—to pray, he can invade a nation.

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