God's Lightning: A Seminar on Prayer
I am writing about prayer and God’s lightning power because I firmly believe that God moves in powerful ways to accomplish His will and purpose in this world when God’s people pray. Of course I also believe that God moves in our world according to His own purpose and plan at His own timing. He is not limited by our prayer or lack of prayer. He is not limited to our prayers, but is delighted when we cooperate with Him in praying according to His desires.
Prayer and lightning are sometimes connected in the drama of the Bible. Jesus compared His second coming to it in “. . . as the lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:27). Also in Matt. 28:2-4 we read that an angel of the Lord rolled back the stone which covered the cave sepulcher where Jesus’ body was buried. “His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were as white as snow” (v. 3). But in connection with prayer, take the example of Elijah the prophet. After he had declared that there would be no rain for three and a half years (James 5:17; I Kings 17:1, 18:16-46) he challenged the prophets of Baal to a “prayer competition” to show the people who the real God was – Yaweh or Baal -- and how prayer could bring lightning from heaven! The followers of Baal built their altar and cut up their sacrificial animal and placed it on the altar but put no fire under it. After praying for the lightning and dancing and cutting themselves all day without any response from Baal, Elijah built an altar of stones, cut up his sacrificial animal and placed it on the altar with no fire under it. Towards evening, the prophets of Baal gave up and Elijah then commanded that four large jars filled with water be emptied on his sacrifice three times (I Kings 18:33). Now it had not rained for three and a half years, so where could they find that much water? Actually, they were at Mt. Carmel which is a promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. We assume that some young men had to go down the hill to the sea and bring the water up the hillside and pour it on the sacrifice. When this was done so that the prophets of Baal were persuaded that there was no secret fire under Elijah’s sacrifice, he prayed a brief prayer (vs. 36-37) and “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil and also licked up the water that was in the trench” which had been dug all around the altar! It seems that this lightning bolt completely burned up all the solids and evaporated all the water! When the people saw this they cried out, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord -- He is God” (v. 39).
In response to prayer, sometimes God works immediately, like lightning. Many miracles are like that. At other times He works very slowly, for example when He changes people, although sometimes that can happen suddenly, too. Have you ever noticed, after a thunderstorm, the lightning releases ozone into the atmosphere? You can sometimes smell it. When that happens, it seems to me that the trees and flowers take on a sudden spurt of growth.
When I speak of the release of God's power, I have in mind the two words for power used in the New Testament. The first is “dunamis” which refers to the power inherent in the very nature of what is being described. This is the Greek word from which we get our English word “dynamite.” It speaks of explosive power and the ability to change things suddenly. The second word in Greek is “eksousia” which means the controlling power of authority. It is sometimes translated “right” or “privilege” as in John 1:12, “yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right (privilege, authority, power) to become children of God.” This refers to the power of position and the authority to manage. It is not like the explosive power of dynamite, but like the pushing power of growing things, like the roots of trees and the stems which produce fruit in all kinds of plants. Growing roots have been known to break the concrete foundations of buildings or of stone walls. It is the power of LIFE, and especially of the life of God Himself.
Prayer, I believe, releases both kinds of God’s power at His will and for His purposes. God’s inherent power is seen mostly in miracles. God’s authoritative power is seen most often in changed lives. As we walk with the Lord we experience both kinds of His power released in us and then through us to others. May He grant that all of us may become so full of Him that His power works through us to bless others.
I do not consider this to be a research project. There are no footnotes, just the meditations of a simple Christian missionary with observations from experiences in service for the King of Kings and LORD of Lords. There are many other fine books on prayer. I have read many of them for my own personal growth and benefit. I have attached a list of helpful books at the end of this small seminar for you to use for your own growth and profit. I hope that this brief seminar may become an added reference for your own spiritual growth.
For the first fifteen years (1960 to 1975) we enjoyed mostly peace and quiet times with occasional attempted uprisings which were quickly quelled; however, tension was growing under the surface (jamra taht irramaad – “hot coals under the ashes” in Arabic). In April of 1975 a busload of Palestinian (mostly Muslim) refugees was attacked by “Christian” militiamen in a “Christian” area of the city and 30 were killed. This triggered the civil war which lasted until 1990 and claimed about 120,000 lives. During the war the biggest danger was from random shelling and snipers. Beirut was divided into east (mostly “Christian”) and west (mostly Muslim) parts of the city. The incidents referred to in these seminar sessions happened during those years.
In order to gain the most benefit from this study of God’s Lightning, a Seminar on Prayer, it seems best that the reader should get a notebook, perhaps loose-leaf, in which to write notes and do the suggested exercises at the end of each session.
Before you begin the next session, please acquire the notebook and a pen or pencil and have a copy of your Bible nearby so that you can check the references and refer to other verses which the Lord may bring to your mind.
Please also pray daily that your understanding of prayer and its power will be expanded so they may enable your prayer life to become more effective for Jesus’ sake and for God’s glory.