Finding Strength in Prayer

As we start our day with the Lord, our key verse for focus is Zechariah 4:6- Then he said to me, “This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

The context about Zerubbabel, the civic leader of Jerusalem, who had the responsibility to finish the work of rebuilding the temple. The work had stalled, and he needed encouragement to carry on the work. The chapter introduces a vision Zechariah, a prophet of Israel, had of the Israelites returning to Jerusalem after the exile. The vision was of a golden lamp stand, with flames ignited in each bowl, with two olive trees standing on either side of the lamp stand. According to Spurgeon, the lamp stand signifies the temple the people who were rebuilding, the trees a constant stream of pure olive oil in the bowls to keep the flame alight.

A colleague of ours shared about the work to rebuild the temple from a passage in Ezra – that though hindered by the opposition, with the promises of God and encouragement by spiritual leaders, the work on the Jerusalem temple carried on till completion as God turned the hearts of the Gentile kings toward himself and they acknowledged him. Here’s another facet of what I have been reflecting on as well:

In Zechariah 4:6, we see that Might focuses on collective strength, the resources of a group being pulled together. Power focuses on individual strength. Yet by these human efforts alone, we cannot accomplish what God desires us to do. We can’t fully rely on people or on our own; these are inconsistent and we do falter, many times.

However, the necessary resource for God’s work is the Holy Spirit himself. Just as God promised Zerubbabel a rich resource in the Holy Spirit to accomplish his work, he too will empower us when we seek him and wholly rely on him.

Over the past couple of months as I read God’s word, there are three things that God is teaching me:

  • Ezra 5:1-2, Nehemiah 4:13-23 – The work must carry on; our merciful God protects us against the opposition and frustrates their plans.
  • Acts 12-14 – We must stand firm in our conviction of faith; the Holy Spirit gives us strength, wisdom, courage and boldness in the face of opposition.
  • John 16:24, Philippians 4:6-7 – The assurance of answered prayer: When we say ‘Amen’, trust that God has already heard our prayer and hold fast to his promises as we carry on the mission; his peace to us is his first answer.

In these, I realise the greater importance of our posture in prayer. Scripture has it that we are to go to the Lord in humility in our prayers, in a reverent act of worship. In Acts 12, while the Christians pray in earnestness, they were of little faith, as shown in the response to the servant girl who told them Peter was knocking on their door after miraculously escaping Herod’s prison.

Also, in Acts 16, during the Apostle Paul’s second mission trip, he and Silas were falsely accused, flogged and imprisoned. Yet in prison, they prayed, sang hymns, thus ministering to fellow prisoners. In the end, they saved the jailer’s life when he was planning to commit suicide and even had the opportunity to introduce the jailer and his family to Jesus. Had Paul invoked his rights as a Roman citizen before they were put in prison, they would not have met their jailer.

I realise that at times I come to God with that ‘whatever-goes’ attitude, born out of a ‘dutiful’ sense. But the thing is this: how badly do we desire that God answers our prayer and how in line are you with his will? As the apostle Paul waited on the Holy Spirit until he received the Macedonian call in Acts 16, may the Lord teach us this posture of prayer in such times. Also, may the assurance of God’s word compel us to carry on carrying out the mission of testifying the gospel, especially now among our neighbours and family members.

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