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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8 am service, 2007-03-11

Text: Jeremiah 33:1-3

As long as we are in this life, we will always need to learn about prayer. There is no graduation from the school of prayer, for there are endless lessons for us to learn about it. And every one of them is worth our careful attention because prayer must be something very close to our hearts. It is the breath of our spiritual life. Just as we would die if we stop breathing, so our spiritual life will die if we stop praying, for prayer links us with the source of all spiritual life - God Himself. It is our communication line with God. 

The wonder of it all is that God is not difficult to reach. You don't need to use any special device like a computer terminal, mobile phone, Skype or a courier service to get in touch with Him. All you need is a heart that is willing to pray. There are no subscription fees, bandwidth limitations, no busy signal or security passwords. As a means of communication, prayer is unbeatable! It is practically the easiest of all. We can pray anywhere we want to - even from the belly of a fish, and at anytime that we want to. 

But it is precisely because prayer is made so easily, that it tends to become something that we take for granted. I think that many of us make more phone calls, send more email or SMS messages in a day than prayers! How easily we tend to neglect prayer, especially when we get ourselves busy with work and other responsibilities and with facing the various challenges that each hectic day brings into our lives. It is because we all have this tendency to neglect prayer that we always need to be reminded about the importance of prayer and the priority that it should have in our lives!

One way of doing this is to consider God's Call to prayer as found in Jeremiah 33:3 "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." This is one of the most wonderful promises on prayer given in the whole Bible. It has helped and comforted countless saints in every age in moments when they experience great sorrow and struggles in life. 

For instance, it has enabled many to cope with the loss of a loved one. In just this past 2 weeks there have been six deaths affecting Lifers. Some were due to old age while others were due to cancer. Besides those who have lost their loved ones, there may be others in our midst are going through of trials of a different kind: Retrenchment, a strained marriage or family relationships, chronic illnesses or an uncertain future. The tremors that shook our island lst Tuesday from the earthquake in Sumatra are a sober reminder to us that life is filled with unexpected events, and some of them can be very distressing. However in the midst of our dark distress, God calls us to pray, saying, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."

I. The Distressing Circumstances of the Call (v.1)

This call was first made to Jeremiah, a prophet who lived at a time in history when things were really bad: The nation of Israel had gone apostate and was reaping the judgement of God for her many sins. Despite all his efforts to warn the people about the coming Babylonian Captivity and how they should prepare to face it, they refused to listen to him and hence they suffered in their Captivity. In the year 586 BC, when the Babylonians arrived and laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was arrested and placed in a prison court. There he remained until the Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians. 

According to v.1 of our text it was at that bleak moment while Jeremiah was confined within that prison that the comforting call of God came to him - "Moreover the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison." There is one important lesson that we can learn from this: While solid walls, locks and bars and other barriers may be able to shut us off completely from the world, none of them can ever shut God out from us. Nothing can ever prevent our souls from coming to His throne of grace!

Dearly beloved, if your present good circumstances should change one day and you find that you are isolated, alone, immobilised or imprisoned, and there is absolutely no one you can turn to for help, please remember this truth: God is right there with you to hear your prayer. Psalm 145:18 tells us: "The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth." Now, the Lord who heard Jeremiah calling unto Him from inside a prison in Jerusalem is the same Lord who 200 years earlier had heard Jonah calling unto Him from inside the belly of a great fish (Jonah 2:10). 

And even if both Jeremiah and Jonah had lived and suffered from their distress at exactly the same time and had called unto Him right at the same moment, God would have given His undivided attention to both their prayers at the same time! This is a really marvelous truth. Do you know that God gives full personal attention to you when you pray, as if you are the only one in the whole world who is praying to Him? To me it is really amazing that the Lord can listen to the prayers of hundreds and thousands of saints that are being made from all over the world, and all at the same time, and yet He can give each child of His as much personal attention as if he were the only one who is praying! 

This shows us that the greatest confidence that we can have when making our prayers comes from what we know about the One we are praying to. The more we know about God, the stronger will be our confidence to call unto Him. And this brings us to the next point of our message, which is:

II. The Divine Grounds of the Call (v.2)

In v.2 we see that God gave Jeremiah the best possible grounds for confidence just before giving him the call to pray. It reads, "Thus saith the LORD the maker thereof, the LORD that formed it, to establish it; the LORD is His name." In order to pray with confidence we need grounds that are strong enough to bear the full weight of our faith. And in this verse we can see two kinds of grounds that we ought to stand on when we pray - The first grounds is what God does. He is the One who has made and formed all things. This means that He has all the power at His disposal to make things right again, in answer to our prayers. This must have had special meaning to the Jeremiah and other godly Jews whose homeland was about to be destroyed by the armies of Babylon leaving them to be removed from it into Captivity. The truth that God is the One who had made them into a nation also means that He is able to bring them back from Captivity and restore their homeland to them. The rest of chapter 33 relates this.

Moreover, verse 2 also tells us that God is the One who establishes the world. The word "establish" in this verse bears the idea of being firmly and securely fixed. Nothing can stand in the way of God's purposes. As Revelation 3:7 says, the Lord is "He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth."This truth implies that whatever the Lord has done will stand and no one is able to change it or hinder it. Now, consider what great comfort this should give to us when we pray - we know that we are calling unto Him who can do all things, and there is nothing that is too difficult for Him!

While we have just seen that the first grounds for our prayer is what God does, we will now see that the second grounds is who God is. And that is found in His name: the LORD, which is mentioned 3 times in this verse. All that God is, is embodied in that name: the LORD. This is actually derived from the way that God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush -"I AM THAT I AM." (Exodus 3:14). It consists of 4 Hebrew letters, YHWH, which has been pronounced as Yehovah or Yahweh. It emphasizes that God is the eternal self-existent One. It also implies that He is the covenant-keeping God who will be true to His promise to bless and save His people. This divine name of God was revealed to Moses just before God delivered Israel from their slavery to the Egyptians. And here, in our text of Scripture we now see God revealing His name anew to Jeremiah in anticipation of His great deliverance of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity!

Therefore when we pray we are not merely calling unto any god, but unto the covenant-keeping God, the LORD, the eternal self-existent One. We call in prayer unto the one living and true God before whom we stand in a covenant relationship through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a name that speaks to us of His love and grace in delivering us out of our bondage and our captivity to sin. Now this makes a whole world of difference to our prayers. Without the divine grounds of who God is and what He does, our prayers would only be empty misdirected words that can avail nothing. 

But when we call unto God on the basis of who He is and what He does according to His own self-revelation, we can have perfect confidence that our prayers will definitely accomplish very much! This leads us now to the third point on our message which is:

III. The Definite Character of the Call (v.3)

In v.3 God says, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." This verse is God's call to prayer and it consists of 3 parts. The first part of the call is a command to pray. "Call unto Me" The Lord does not merely invite His people to pray to Him as if it were just another available option to help them when necessary. He actually commands His people to pray! It is not like what you would do when you give someone your contact namecard and tell him, "If you ever need my help, you can call me." God's call for us to call unto Him comes as a definite command to pray, and this command is echoed in many other passages of Scripture (e.g. Luke 18:1; 21:36; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). 

Dearly beloved this means that we ought to obey the command by praying regularly - not just as a habitual routine that we do 3 to 5 times a day - but as meaningful, constant communication with God from our hearts. Calling unto God is really what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. A love relationship can only be built up and sustained with communication. Therefore it is impossible to have a close walk with God without regular praying. 

Now we come to the second part of God's call to prayer, which is a definite assurance of answered prayer. God says, "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee" Christ gives us the same assurance in Matthew 7:7-8 when He said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." In fact, God has already prepared His answer to your prayer, and He is just waiting for you to call unto Him before He sends the answer. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus told His disciples, "for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." We are told in Daniel chapter 9 that Daniel had not even finished praying when an angel suddenly arrived with the answer from God! This is what the angel said to him: "At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved." (Daniel 9:23) 

Perhaps you may want to know - If God already knows exactly what we have need of and He has already prepared all the answers to our prayers, why does He not give them to us without our praying? Why do we have to call unto Him first before He will answer us? The answer is that this calling unto Him deepens our relationship with Him and draws us closer to Him. God's love for us causes Him to find great delight in our prayers. He wants us to bring our needs to Him personally and express our trust and confidence in Him. And God delights so much to hear us calling unto Him in prayer, that He encourages us with His promise to show us great and mighty things if we will only pray.

This brings us to the third and final part of God's call to prayer in Jeremiah 33;3 that we want to consider this morning. The Lord said, "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." This assures us that our prayers will not be made in vain. Praying is never a waste of time, as it yields the best results. As James 5:16 tells us "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Let us consider some great and mighty things that have been wrought through prayer: 

Abraham's prayer delivered Lot and his family from being destroyed in Sodom (Genesis 18:23-32). The prayer of his son Isaac enabled Rebecca, his barren wife of twenty years, to be blessed not just with one child but two - Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:21). Joshua's prayer caused the sun and moon to stand still (Joshua 10:12,13). V.14 tells us about the wonder of this short prayer: "And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel."

 Hannah was distraught by her barren condition, but her silent but tearful prayer at the Tabernacle brought her a son who became one of Israel's greatest prophets (1 Samuel 1:10,11). Samuel himself was a man of prayer. It is recorded in 1 Samuel 12:17-19 that one day while he rebuked the people for their many sins and asking for a king, he prayed for the Lord to send thunder and rain upon them, and when the Lord answered his prayer by making it rain and thunder in the usually dry harvest season, "all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel." (v.18).

These few examples that we have seen are from the Bible. But even today, the Lord is still showing great and mighty things to those who call unto Him in prayer. At our weekly church prayer meeting we have heard many amazing testimonies of how God answers prayer. In our church website we have a section of 22 articles entitled"Testimonies of Saints." There you can read of some marvelous ways in which the prayers of our church members have been answered (see http://www.lifebpc.com/testimony/testimony.htm). I would like to conclude this message by reading to you one of them which was submitted about 2  years ago by a deacon in our church:

"Yesterday was supposed to be a routine follow-up medical appointment at the Changi General Hospital for my father's heart condition after his successful angioplasty operation last year. I thank God for keeping him in good health all this while after the operation. However, being 84 years old, he has been increasingly forgetful and had problems identifying roads and places especially at night. As I was away on a business trip to Hong Kong and unsure of my return date, I'd asked my third sister to accompany him for the appointment. Being fiercely independent, he insisted on going alone and earlier than the scheduled time. On his own, he took the taxi to the hospital and back. However, after alighting from the taxi, he lost his way and could not find his way home.

When my youngest sister returned home from work at 7pm, he still had not returned home. That set alarm bells ringing. According to the hospital, he probably left around 4.00pm. At 8.30pm, my eldest sister was anxious for my father's safety and called me shortly after I walked into the Chinese Service Hall for the Tuesday night prayer meeting. I confess I was really worried because it has been more than 4 hours after his appointment, and if he was really lost, which is a very likely possibility given his poor night vision, he would have been really tired and weak. My sister made a police report. 

Meanwhile, various fearful thoughts raced through my mind. Given his medical ailments, it would be extremely dangerous for him to be walking the streets, crossing busy roads at evening peak hours, etc. He could have fainted while walking. It was also getting late and increasingly difficult for us to locate a missing elderly person. 

But as I was already in Church for the Tuesday night prayer hour, I shared this urgent prayer request with all our prayer warriors, including pastors & elders, pleading for my father's safety, and praying earnestly that the Lord may help us find him soon. I dare not think of the possibility of him wandering outside or sleeping in some strange place through the night, or worse.

I thank God for Pastor Seet and Elder Lim who prayed for me and him, which comforted my heart somewhat, giving me the peace and assurance that God had allowed this for a purpose, that His name may be glorified.Immediately after the prayer meeting, I met with my third sister, and together we rushed to search the grounds in the vicinity of Changi General Hospital. No sight of him. Meanwhile, my eldest sister and brother in law drove to Chinatown and Rochor area (former home) to look for him. My 5th sister & brother-in-law went around his home (Tampines) to search.

At 11.00 pm, I received a phone call from my 5th sister that she had found father wandering aimlessly just a couple of blocks away from home. What a great relief! "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Psalm 34:6. And I immediately praised God for that wonderful speedy answer to prayer- just one and a half hours after our brethren's prayers. 

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" - thank God for all brethren present at the prayer meeting who prayed for us. Every one of your prayer support was precious and meant so much to us. Especially your brotherly love shown through your prayers towards me and my father. It was so simple- a prayer - yet it's so hard to do, and so few could keep up the discipline week after week. 

I believe it is the Lord's timing. Because of your prayers, I could testify to my family members that God answers prayer; you were there praying for me and my father in Church. This incident happened for the glory of God.

Dearly beloved, what you have just heard is only one of many wonderful testimonies of how God answers prayer. All these bear witness to the truth of the words which God gave in Jeremiah 33:3 "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."" This verse is God's call to you. Will you now respond by calling unto Him?

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25