Call to Prayer: The Posture of Persistent Hope
Posted on April 23, 2021 by VMMissions Staff
By Carol Tobin
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, through perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” —Romans 8:24-25 (NASB)
There are a lot of things that we haven’t seen in the past landmark year. My grandson has been praying daily for months for COVID-19 to “go away.” It seems to him that that particular prayer has not been answered. We feel restricted. We are waiting, prevented from doing so many “good works” that we associate with being God’s hands and feet in the world. In all of this, I sense that God’s invitation is to pick up the kingdom tool of prayer that is admittedly so utterly incompatible with the way of the world.The biblical picture that captures for me the position in which we find ourselves is this: Elijah has just been spectacularly vindicated in the showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. With great confidence and ears open to what comes next, Elijah boldly pronounces to King Ahab that yet another mighty event is imminent. After three years of drought, rain is coming. Soon. He climbs back up to the top of Mt. Carmel, and sits down under the blazing sun and cloudless sky to wait. The text in 1 Kings 18 says that he crouched down to the earth and put his face between his knees.
And right here is our prayer posture. After being animated by such certainty about the preeminence of God’s purpose and plan, he is now doing the hard work of holding on to what has been revealed to him, realizing that the last thing he needs is to gaze at that brassy blue sky! I picture him with grim determination keeping his heart’s eye fixed on God’s word to him, and continuing to reach out in hope for what is not yet seen.
In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson wrote, “The spiritual atmosphere in which we live erodes faith, dissipates hope and corrupts love.”
In the face of the louder voices and the evening news, our job is to vigorously hold on to the hope that God will fulfill his purposes, not by might, not by strength, but by his Spirit!
We are instructed to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6: 10 NASB). When we declare what is “not yet,” we hold on to our kingdom position. This is why it is always appropriate to pray for healing: it is the kingdom reality. If not manifested as soon as we might like, then most certainly, ultimately.
With Elijah as the model given, may we not forget the mind-boggling words in James 5:16 that our prayers are effective and powerful!
Elijah sends his servant time and time again to tell him if there is yet any sign of rain coming. It is recorded that the servant had six disappointing trips to scan the horizon. Six: the sum of the imperfection of humans and human history.
But the seventh time—the number that carries an inference of God completing his work—the servant sees a tiny cloud “as small as a man’s hand” coming up from the sea. This small sign is all that Elijah needs as confirmation that his hopes are a matter of certainty. Indeed, the awaited rain comes.
May we, like Elijah, guard our God-given hope that he will indeed come and “rain righteousness upon us” (Hosea 10:12).