Emmanuel Igein’s old man knelt down to pray for his family. Right in the middle of the prayer, the Lord called him home.
Don’t believe the lie: all men pray. There is no man on earth who does not pray; even atheists do. Put him in a particular space where he is confronted with his humanity and man will cry out for help in prayer. He might not know who is he is praying to, but he will ask for a deliverer. However, there is only one deliverer: God.
When the storm came upon the boat carrying Jonah to Tarshish, everybody started calling on their god. The shipmaster woke Jonah up. He said to him: “How can you be sleeping at a time like this? Call upon your god.” He did not to know who Jonah’s God was. It made no difference to him if Jonah was an idol-worshipper. Just call upon your god. Maybe your god will be the Lord.
Find an atheist who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and ask if you can pray for him. He is now more than likely to answer yes. When adversity comes, when we are at the limits of our endurance, we seek a higher power. When we are at a dead end, we are forced to acknowledge there is someone greater than we are. The psalmist says: “From the ends of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Man, at his most fundamental, is a worshipper. There is a longing of the heart and it is for God. There is a yearning at the depth of the soul for God. Whether we recognise it or not, this cry of the psalmist belongs to all men: “My soul thirsts for (God). My flesh longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.”
Jesus says: “Everyone who drinks of this (natural) water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 3:13-14).
It does not matter if we are kings or presidents or heavyweight boxing champions; in certain situations, we are confronted with our mortality. In certain difficulties, we are forced to recognise our inadequacy and helplessness. Man is so vulnerable, he can be killed by a mere mosquito. We all know this in our heart of hearts.
As a result, when we are confronted with our limitations, there is a silent cry for God. Nahum says: “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble.” (Nahum 1:7). I know I cannot handle things by myself. I know I cannot defend myself. I know there are so many things beyond my ability and science. I know I need God.
Even if God did not exist, we would still need him. That is the reason why some create him. When we don’t know him, we fabricate God and say he is an idol. We say he is the sun or the moon or the stars.
We just need a Saviour. We are desperate for a helper. We seek refuge from the storms of life; shelter from the rain; shade from the sun. When there is an accident, we need a doctor. When there is famine, we need food. When we are cold, we need a blanket. God is all these and more. He is our shelter; he is our doctor; he is our food and our drink; he is our refuge and strength. The canopy over our head.
A man wanted nothing to do with God. He disliked churches and Christians. He made sure his sons, Tom, Dick and Harry, would have nothing to do with believers. One day, surprisingly; a local minister was called to his house. A rattlesnake had bitten Tom. The doctor had done all he could, but to no avail. So the man; the atheist, called the minister as a last resort.
So the minister prayed: “Father, I thank you for sending a rattlesnake to bite Tom; for this is the first time his father has ever acknowledged that he needs you. I pray for two more rattlesnakes to bite Dick and Harry as well, so that they too may receive this blessing. And Lord, I pray for a very big rattlesnake to bite the old man himself, so that he too will know what it means to have you.
For this cause, “Man, who is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1). Man is blessed by trouble. Anything and everything that makes a man get down on his knees and call upon the name of the Lord is a blessing. Thus says the Lord: “Pray to me in time of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honour me.” (Psalm 50:15).
Hunger for God
Prayer is hunger for God. It is a yearning for fulfilment. Prayer is the soul reaching for solace. It is a cry for safety; a desire for embrace; a longing for rest. Prayer is the Prodigal Son hankering to return home. It is drowning man crying out for help. It is man at the end of his rope, longing for the peace of death.
Prayer is natural to limited man. When a man ceases to breathe, he dies physically. When he stops praying, he dies spiritually. In this world, there are many dead men walking.
One thing is certain: there is strength in prayer. James says: “The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn’t rain on the earth for three years and six months. He prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:16-18).
Prayer is inviting the intervention of the Almighty into our situations and circumstances. It is so powerful, it has divided the seas; moved mountains; stilled raging storms; shut up the mouths of lions; raised the dead back to life.
Prayer is one of the greatest privileges God has given to man. John says: “We are certain that God will hear our prayers when we ask for what pleases him. And if we know that God listens when we pray, we are sure that our prayers have already been answered.” (1 John 5:15).
It is time to pray; it always is. It is time to lay hold on God. It is time to prevail with the Almighty. Jesus says we must always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1). We need to pray so we do not fall into temptation. We need to pray to stand in the gap for others. We need to pray to enter into God’s rest.
Emmanuel Igein’s old man knelt down to pray for his family, as he did dutifully every morning. In the middle of the prayer, he suddenly stopped. It took a while for his loved ones to realise what happened. Right in the middle of the prayer, the Lord called him home. He went to be with the Lord.