This was written September 18, 2009, when I lived at my mom's house and observed what I write about below.—Dan Augsburger
Just outside the window of my home, hanging above a window plant box, is a hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds are tiny birds that provide hours of free entertainment. Hovering, flying forwards or backwards, darting here and there, sometimes upside down (I’ve never seen this, but I am told they fly that way as well), there are many moments of “look at the hummingbirds!”
The other day as I was looking out the window I noticed the plants were being buffeted from side to side by winds. Looking up I was surprised to see that the source of wind was one of those tiny birds.
In spite of their tiny size, these tiny birds fly rapidly at speeds ranging from 25 to 40 mph (the latter number during courtship dives). To achieve these speeds they beat their wings forward and backward in a figure eight pattern, inverting for an upstroke for 25% of the lift, then inverting back to a downstroke for the remaining 75% of lifting power—an amazing feat which until recently was considered a physical impossibility. Their tiny wings do this inverting figure eight stroke anywhere from 80 and 200 times per second depending on the activity. The engine driving all of this activity is a tiny heart that beats about 250 times per minute most of the time, but 1,220 times per minute when migrating south over the Gulf of Mexico to wintering grounds in Mexico and Panama, a voyage of some twenty hours. The energy demands for all of this are great and requires a daily intake of their weight in nectar, which they accomplish by feeding five to ten times per hour. All of this is quite an accomplishment for a tiny thing that weighs a mere 2.8-6 g.
In doing all of this, I doubt the hummingbird is conscious of the miracle taking place. He or she is merely doing what it was created to do, and as a result enjoys blessings and health that would not be possible any other way.
As I watched the wind blowing from the hummingbird, I was reminded of the power we wield when we pray. The tiny hummingbird would not seem to be of sufficient size to blow more than a tiny wisp of air, yet there was a gale force of wind coming from the beating of its little wings, a gale force that was changing things all around.
When we go to God in prayer, we wield great forces that are beyond our strengths and abilities. I may not seem to have the resources or the strength to accomplish great things, nor may I see or understand how my tiny efforts can make any difference, yet through prayer God places the treasures and powers of heaven at my disposal. In the OT it was put this way: "Thus says the LORD, The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “ Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me. (Isa 45:11). Jesus said, “Ask and IT SHALL be given; seek and YOU SHALL find, and Knock and IT SHALL be opened unto you. For EVERYONE that asks receives, and he who seeks finds and to him who knocks the door will be opened” (Matt. 7:7,8), and in prayer I find these prayers ARE ANSWERED.
I personally know this to be true as do countless others. Here are some of their testimonies:
"None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience. It is a great matter when in extreme need to take hold on prayer. I know whenever I have prayed earnestly that I have been amply heard, and have obtained more than I prayed for. God indeed sometimes delayed, but at last He came." – Martin Luther
"It has often been said that prayer is the greatest force in the universe. This is no exaggeration. It will bear constant repetition. In this atomic age when forces are being released that stagger the thought and imagination of man, it is well to remember that prayer transcends all other forces." - F. J. Huegel
"Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails." - Watchman Nee
“The man who truly prays gets from God many things denied to the prayerless man.” E. M. Bounds
If these statements are true, why don’t we pray more? Among the reasons are (1) our having too much confidence in ourselves; (2) our being too timid in coming to God; (3) our asking for things that would not be good for us—which God mercifully ignores because He doesn’t want to hurt us; and (4) our living in such a way that prevents God from hearing us.
The writer of Hebrews is encouraging us to pray more when he admonishes us to “… Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:16).
He first encourages us to come. “It is part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow did we not thus ask.” Ellen White, Great Controversy p. 525. If we don’t come to God in prayer, how can we obtain what we need? James said, You don’t have because you don’t ask” (James 4:3). Matthew 7:11 says, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him"!
In our coming we are secondly encouraged to come boldly—words like audacious, tireless, courageous are dictionary synonyms of bold. So we are to come boldly, confident that we have a continuing invitation to come, confident that the invitation is there regardless of how worthy we feel, confident that our simplest words will be understood and get through. People often say, “I don’t know what to say?” There is no formula. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said that the simple short prayers are often the prayers that seem to get through best. Just boldly tell God what is on your heart. I know your words may seem insignificant, but just as the tiny hummingbird caused a great stir in the wind, so your prayers will cause a great and positive stir in your situation.
Then we are reminded that we are coming to a throne. And this throne isn’t just any throne, but the throne where the sovereign of the universe is seated. He who created and sustains the world is the one to whom we are coming. That He deigns to hear us at all is nothing short of amazing. That He responds and sends His angels at our request is even more amazing. As I watch the hummingbird constantly coming to the feeder out of its sense of need, I am reminded that I need to constantly come to God with everything that is going on in my life; that I need to continue coming throughout the day. And as we continue making our needs known, God will continue responding, in the best and most expeditious way that is for our good and best advances His kingdom.
He then asserts that we not only come to a throne, but a throne of GRACE! I did a mini study on the word grace recently and found that it speaks of favor. Thus in coming to this throne we are coming to a throne where we find favor, where we have the inside track. People in the Bible who obtained grace included Noah who was warned of the coming flood, Lot who was warned of Sodom’s coming destruction, Joseph who found grace with Pharaoh. Moses had favor with God. Ruth found grace with Boaz. Many of these people had reasons to believe they didn’t have standing with the person who favored them with grace. But they did, and we also find favor when we approach God at His throne of grace! God, knowing about our tendency to feel unworthy, went over the top in telling us to come boldly.
Upon arriving at that throne we find two things: mercy and help.
I am grateful the writer points out mercy first since many of the things we pray about are things for which we need mercy. The truth is, many of the challenges we need God’s help with are challenges we brought on ourselves. I am grateful Ps 103:13,14 says “As a Father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. He knows our frames; He knows we are dust."
The second thing we find is help—real help—for whatever is going on in our lives. Are you struggling at your job? Bring that concern to God. Are you finding there is more month than there is money? Take that lack to God as well. Do you find your relationships are all tangled up, or perhaps finding that you are struggling over the lack of relationships? Then bring that to God as well. Are your studies overwhelming you? He can help with your studies too. Whatever is on your heart, take it to Him. You have approached a throne of favor where you not only find mercy, but also real help for your need. I know it is somewhat mind boggling, perhaps if you are a new believer, to think that God actually hears your simple prayers and responds in great ways. But it is true whether you understand it or not.
Perhaps you say, hold on, I do pray but I don’t always get what I requested? Perhaps you are thinking of how long you have been praying for certain things.
Here are couple of hints that we will take up another time: (1) it may be that you are praying for something that would not be good for you, or (2) there is something in your life that needs mending which is hindering the answer coming, or (3) you just don’t feel you are being heard.
On the first, pray, giving God permission to do whatever is necessary to bring the answer. If you give Him complete control of your situation, He will undoubtedly find a solution.
Regarding the second, be serious in seeking to know if there are things in your life that are keeping Him from hearing you. I can personally attest to the fact that most of my prayers were going unanswered until I took to heart some of the things the Bible taught on prayer which I had previously ignored.
With the last point, thank Him for hearing and answering your prayer each time you pray. It will make a wonderfully positive difference. This is more than an insignificant point. When we roll our burdens unto God, we need to leave them with Him, and come out of His presence with a light and cheerful heart. That is the way other great praying people did, and I think we need to do the same thing. George Muller, the great praying man of Bristol England said,
“We are to cast all of our care upon Him; and we have the reason: “For He careth for you.” Blessed position. How may I know whether I have cast my burden upon God? … We know we have rolled our burden upon God, if after praying, the heart is easy, the heart is light. If this is not the case, then we are still carrying the burden ourselves instead of casting it on God, and have need to go again to Him….” George Muller, Jehovah Magniﬁed, p. 159
If you are looking for a particular sequence, look to the Lord’s prayer (Matt 9:6-14) or some other prayer in Scripture. Some people like the “ACTS” sequence (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication). I sometimes like to pray through a Psalm or other chapter of the Bible. Remember, however, to keep it simple.
Any of these factors are important, but the most important one is coming boldly to God’s throne of grace. If the hummingbird felt unworthy to come or considered itself unable to come, to its source of food, it would soon die. In the same way, instead of analyzing prayer and trying to make sure you perfectly understand how to pray, or analyzing yourself to determine if you are worthy to pray, come boldly to His throne of favor, and you will undoubtedly find mercy and love and help in your time of need. And don't be too impatient while you are in the learning process with God. Sometimes His timing is different than your timing. Be patient; God knows what He is doing, and His way is best even if you don't realize it at the moment!—Dan Augsburger