It gave me great pleasure recently to see a very beautiful and striking arrangement of flowers. My next reaction was to go over to them in order to sniff their fragrance -alas, to my disappointment, I discovered that their beauty was only external, for they were in fact, artificial, so one important factor was missing -the perfume. It occurred to me that these flowers had some similarities to the prayers of many so called Christians.
Yes it was futile to expect perfume from this beautiful bouquet, for like some pray-ers, they were only there to be seen of man. They were without life, so the most important thing was lacking, and prayer without the power of the Holy Spirit is lifeless and futile.
The fragrance was missing from those lovely but lifeless flowers, to some they were acceptable but to the expert they were not. When the fragrance of Christ is absent in our lives, we too are useless to Him, though to many we may look alright, doing all the right things, for man looketh on the outward appearance whilst God looketh on the heart. May we be filled with His fragrance, so that we can say with the psalmist David in Psalm 141 :2. "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense." "For we are unto God a sweet savour (or fragrance) of Christ" 11 Corinthians 2: 15. Do we present before the Lamb "odours, which are the prayers of saints" Revelation 5:8.
It occurs to me that one reason we have so little effective, impassioned prayer is that the prayers often have too little at stake. When the outcome of our prayers is of no great consequence, because we have invested so little of ourselves, our prayers become polite and dreary.
Strong desire is the wellspring of effective prayer. We see this principle Illustrated in many of the great prayers of the Bible:
Moses had thrown his lot in with a collection of former slaves. His future was bound with theirs. Their spiritual welfare was a matter of desperate concern to him. How else could he have prayed, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin -; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." Exodus 32:32.
Think of Elijah the "fervant effectual" prayer, see him down on the ground, praying on and on through six dismal reports of "no rain yet." What makes a man pray like that? Elijah had staked everything on God's word. He was prepared, even expecting, to die for the glory of God. That makes for earnest prayer.
The early Christians had committed themselves to witness to the resurrected Christ at any cost. The authorities were out to extinguish their movement. These disciples were looking death in the face and they knew it. What a prayer they prayed (Acts 4:24-30) The result: "When they had prayed the place was' shaken ... and they were filled with the Holy Ghost."
"Pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5: 17) The artificial blooms unlike the real thing, did not require frequent attention. Jesus clearly taught that even ordinary people can exercise extraordinary power through prayer. In prayer we are lifted above our human limitations into a sphere where God is at work through the Holy Spirit. Until the new birth, we are all earth bound, but with conversion we discover that God's presence has bridged this World and the external World.
Jesus reminded us that the events which happen here are mere reflections of what has been approved in heaven. In other words, God is not surprised by the newspaper headlines. Yet we must not passively observe what happens around us as being inevitable.
In Matthew 18:18, Jesus reminds us that we can have a lot to do with what transpires here. He seems to suggest that these things are determined by praying people on earth. "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Notice the divine order, the sequence of God's way of working. It actually begins on earth, while the power is all God's, yet the initiative for releasing it is in our hands.
The story of Israel's deliverance from Babylonian captivity illustrates the importance of human initiative. One day as Daniel was reading from the book of Jeremiah, he realized that the predicted 70 year captivity was about to be completed. Here was prophecy but no evidence of its fulfillment. Everything was at a standstill until Daniel took initiative in prayer, Then both prophecy and the release of Israel were accomplished.
Have you ever considered the great prophetic command, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14)? If the purpose of God is the preaching of the gospel in all the world, what is God waiting for? He is certainly not lacking in power to accomplish this. It has been said that "there is always more power in heaven than the extent of our asking."
If your prayer life is in the doldrums, without the fragrance of Christ, may I suggest that you turn to Him. William Carey said "Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God." Expectation -the root of real prayer.
God is looking for present-day Daniel's who will take the initiative and release God's mighty power.