We are seeing calamities on a scale never before witnessed: hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, national unrest. Fear and despair abound on every side and even the most skeptical commentators say we’re already seeing the beginning of World War III.
What can God’s people do to move his heart in these troubled times? Surely the church is not powerless. The prophet Joel said, “‘Now, therefore,’ says, the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart’ … Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Joel 2:12-13).
All the Old Testament prophets called God’s people to corporate prayer. Jesus himself declared, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called the house of prayer’” (Matthew 21:13). The fact is, world history has been shaped by the prayers of Christ’s church.
The Holy Spirit was first given in God’s house, at the Upper Room. There the disciples “continued with one accord in prayer” (Acts 1:14). We’re told that Peter was released from prison by an angel, while “many were gathered together praying” (12:12). Corporate prayer had been made continually for Peter’s release.
Clearly, God releases much power because of the prayers of his church. Thus, the call to such prayer cannot be underestimated. We know the church has been commissioned to win souls, to do charity, to serve as the gathering place for God’s Word to be preached. But first and foremost, the church is to be a house of prayer — this is its primary calling.
“If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).
But the power of prayer isn’t reserved for large gatherings alone; we can find it in the intimacy of our own homes. Jesus practiced and recommended closet prayer to his disciples. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6). The homes in Jesus’ culture had an inner room that served as sort of storage closet, a place where they could pray in secret, so this concept was easy for them to grasp.
Jesus set the example for private prayer: “In the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). “When He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray … He was alone there” (Matthew 14:23).
A lot of us have a mistaken idea of what “being in God’s presence” is. We tend to think of it as a feeling, an emotion or a supernatural moment. All of these can accompany God’s presence, but they don’t define it. God presence is simply himself, his being.
With the Holy Spirit residing in us, we always have God’s presence — and that’s an incredible thing. Paul says: “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
In Old Testament times, the Lord made his presence known by rending the heavens or manifesting himself through a pillar of fire or a cloud of smoke. When Jesus came, it changed how we experienced God’s presence. Through Christ, we actually got to see the presence of God. Jesus’ life revealed exactly what God is like — how utterly full of love, grace, mercy, power, truth, and righteousness he is. The Son of God came to earth as an exact representation of the heavenly Father’s nature.
Even more incredible is that through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, a transformation takes place when we accept Jesus: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
To have God’s nature in us means we don’t have to try to be holy; we are holy, by virtue of his presence in us. We don’t have to try to be acceptable, we are made acceptable by him. We don’t have to try to be good; we already are good by his divine nature, which resides in us through his Spirit.
Jesus bought you a life free of shame and fear. You can live with abandon without hindrance or condemnation. That’s why Paul exhorts, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Zechariah 4:6 says, “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.”
When we pray for the impossible, it means we recognize that nothing will be accomplished by our natural abilities or our own mechanisms — but by God’s Spirit. Miracles, for the Christian, should not be something we just accept but expect! Now, in saying that, it doesn’t mean that God throws his miracles around like items that can be found at the dollar store. God’s miracles are not for our personal enjoyment or luxury. Yes, he can bless us, but he’s not a cosmic genie who hands out cheap miracles for our own selfish benefit.
God works in the impossible to bring redemption and to bring glory to his name. God’s will is about accomplishing God’s work in our lives. That’s why some people are healed miraculously from disease and others are not. What will bring about God’s greater purpose and glory in our situation? We pray and believe the Lord for the impossible and watch him bring about that which the natural cannot do.
God declares through the promises of his Word that he is going to take you and make you into something much greater than you are. It’s the visible testimony God gives to his church that you and I are made into much more than we could ever hope to be in our own strength. We change by the Spirit of God, Paul says, from image to image and glory to glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).
The changed lives of people, redeemed by the power of the cross, are the greatest witness of the truth of the gospel to our fallen and needy world. The disciples got together and prayed in unison, “You are God.” And that’s where our prayer has to start — “You are God! You spoke, and the worlds were created. You spoke, and life came into being. You spoke, and animals were created. You looked at dust in the earth, and you spoke and breathed, and man became a living soul. You are God — nothing is impossible with you!”
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.
During times of calamity, we might wonder, “Where is the Lord’s eye focused in all this?” We can be sure that God is not focused on the wild plans of deranged leaders, no matter how powerful they are. “He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless … When He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble” (Isaiah 40:23-24).
Isaiah tells us, “No sooner are these ‘seeds’ planted and take root in the ground than God blows on them, and they wither. The wicked rulers of the earth are caught up in his whirlwind and swept away as chaff. He reduces them to nothing.” To prove this to us, Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Even in the midst of great world turmoil, God’s primary focus isn’t on the tyrants; his focus is on every circumstance, every detail, in his children’s lives. Christ says in the very next verse, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (10:29).
In Christ’s day, sparrows were the meat of the poor and sold two for a penny. On the streets, bird catchers could be seen carrying baskets full of snared sparrows. Yet, Jesus said, “Not one of these small creatures falls to the ground without your Father knowing it.” According to Bible commentator William Barclay, Jesus’ word “fall” in the above verse signifies more than the bird’s death. The Aramaic meaning is “to light upon the ground.” In other words, “fall” here indicates every little wounded hop a tiny bird makes.
Christ is telling us, in essence, “Your Father’s eye is on the sparrow, not just when it dies but even when it lights upon the ground. God sees its every little struggle, and he is concerned over every detail of its life.”
Jesus then says, “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (10:31). Simply put, the one who made and counted all the stars, who keeps the galaxies in their orbits, has his eye fixed on you. So find rest and assurance in him!
James said, “If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3:14).
As messengers of Christ’s gospel, we simply cannot hold onto jealousy or envy. James makes it clear that this will hinder us from having a testimony with spiritual authority because we are living a lie.
In plain terms, the sin of jealousy or envy is a bitter poison. King Saul provides the clearest example of this in all of scripture. In 1 Samuel 18, we find David returning from a battle in which he slaughtered the Philistines. As he and King Saul rode into Jerusalem, the women of Israel came out to celebrate David’s victories, dancing and singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).
Saul was wounded by this joyous celebration, thinking to himself, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” (18:8). Immediately, Saul was consumed by a spirit of jealousy. In the very next verse, we read the deadly effect it had on him. “Saul eyed [envied] David from that day forward” (18:9).
Saul seethed, pouting in self-pity. He probably thought, “I’ve worked so hard, giving up everything to serve these people, and now they turn on me. They’re singing the praises of my assistant minister while they ignore me.”
Tragically, after this, “Saul became David’s enemy continually” (18:29). The truth of this story is that, no matter how loudly the people cheered for David, God’s Spirit was still upon Saul and Israel still loved him. The Lord’s promise to build him an everlasting house was clearly still in place. Had Saul acknowledged his envy and drawn near to the Lord, God would have heaped honors on him; and David, his loyal captain, would have gladly secured the kingdom for Saul with his military skills. But Saul would not humble himself; and as a result, the Spirit of the Lord departed from him (see 18:12).
In these troubling days, our first priority should be to draw near to Jesus. Spend time in prayer, make him the most important work in your life, and he will show you his heart. By his Spirit, he will remove from you all that is unlike Christ, and he will pour out his spiritual anointing on you.