Hurricane Tomas made me stop and think about prayer. Many of you know that I have been involved in a number of ministries in Haiti for the past twenty years. Since January 12th of this year you have also become aware of the devastation and poverty in Haiti. Now we are almost ten months removed from that terrible day and yet tens of thousands of refugees are still living in tents, under tarps and in make-shift shelters. And hurricane Tomas is threatening to make landfall in Haiti later this week. Can you imagine living under a lean-to in the middle of a hurricane? That brings me to the issue of prayer.
Prayer is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. We believe that it is right to pray because the Bible teaches us to (Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Timothy 2:1, 8, James 5:17). It also teaches us that God listens to our prayers (1 Peter 3:12). But we struggle with whether prayer really accomplishes anything. Does it really work? Is it possible to change circumstances by praying? The ultimate question is: Can you change God’s mind through prayer? If we pray for God to protect the Haitian people who have already suffered so much and change the path of the hurricane, will He do it?
There is an interesting story about prayer in Daniel chapter nine. Daniel understood that the captivity of Israel was because of sin. This reality is reflected in his prayer; we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled (verse 5). Captivity was God’s response to the sin of the nation; it was God’s will. Yet Daniel prayed for God to remove His judgment and restore His blessing on Israel; O Lord, according to all your righteousness, I pray, let your anger and your fury be turned away from your city Jerusalem (verse 16). Then he concluded his prayer with this statement; we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies (verse 18). In that statement is a wonderful truth. We will never fully understand how prayer works, but we do know this – we can pray for God’ mercy.
And that is how I (along with thousands of Haitian and American Christians) am praying – for God in His mercy to turn Tomas and spare the Haitian people even greater suffering. Do they deserve God’s mercy? No – but then neither did Israel and neither to any of us. Yet God is a God of great mercy (Psalm 145:8).
That same mercy is available to you. When you face the problems of life, pray for mercy. When life gives you more than you can handle, pray for mercy. When you don’t know what to do, pray for mercy.
And as you pray this week, remember to pray for God’s mercy on the people of Haiti.
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