"In ages past, when God's Work, or His people individually, have come to a crisis, and have called upon the Lord with prayer and fasting, deliverance has come. God never retreats ; His word to Israel is ever, 'Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.' Ex. 14: 15"
NOTHING could be more fitting than the call to prayer issued to all our people by the recent Council [in 1921]. How appropriate that the first Sabbath in the new year, as man marks time, should be devoted to fasting and prayer in the interest of God's work on the earth! We have reached a crisis in the message with which we are intrusted by the Lord. We are unable to respond to the ever-increasing calls from all parts of the world. Through lack of funds, laborers are held back. New mission stations cannot be opened, and many that are already opened are not manned and strengthened as they should be.
There must come a change. We cannot finish this message in this generation traveling at the pace we are going. Ere the work is done, higher goals will be set and greater plans laid than we have yet seen. It is for us to discover, on this day of fasting and prayer, whether the present difficulty of reaching our mission goal is because the goal is too high and somebody is pushing too hard, or whether we are individually failing to sacrifice for God as freely as we ought, looking as we do for the soon ending of all things earthly. We expect this time of prayer will have a deep meaning to our work; for prayer changes things.
It is encouraging to note how in ages past, when God's Work, or His people individually, have come to a crisis, and have called upon the Lord with prayer and fasting, deliverance has come. God never retreats ; His word to Israel is ever, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." Ex. 14: 15. Here is an encouraging promise :
"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 Chron. 7: 14.
When His people were coming out of Egypt in fulfilment of prophecy, in response to their earnest cry, God opened before them the Red Sea, and destroyed their enemies who pursued them.
When the Assyrian army had captured all the fenced cities of Judah, "destroying them utterly," Rabshakeh sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah telling him what he purposed concerning Jerusalem. God's people were facing a real crisis indeed.
"Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord." Isa. 37: 14, 15. The Lord heard this earnest cry, and sent deliverance:
"Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses." Verse 36.
When Zerah the Ethiopian came against Judah "with a host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots," we read:
"Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee. So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled." 2 Chron. 14: 11, 12.
Upon another occasion, when a great multitude came against God's people "from beyond the sea, on this side of Syria," we are told:
"Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord." 2 Chron. 20: 3, 4.
Through His prophet the Lord sent His people this cheering message:
"Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you." Verse 17.
And as they went forth to battle singing the praises of the Lord, a great victory was wrought.
In the days of Jeroboam, upon a certain occasion, "when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind." There seemed no escape; there was no help in man. But we read:
"They cried unto the Lord. . . . Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand." 2 Chron. 13: 14-16.
When, in the days of Ahab, because of the sins of God's people, the rain was stayed and the earth was parched, Elijah, a man of like passions with ourselves, "prayed earnestly, . . . and the heavens gave rain." James 5 : 17, 18.
After Pentecost the disciples went forth to their work to carry the gospel to all the world, and when faced by prison walls and the decree of death, we are told that they prayed, "and when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; . . . and they spake the word of God with boldness." Acts 4: 31.
Earthquake power was manifested; the earth shook. The disciples were filled with the Holy 'Spirit, and spoke the word with power. All this happened when they had prayed. And what God did then, He can do now. His power may not be manifested in the same way, but in response to the earnest praying of His people, the power of Jehovah will be revealed.
The godly Hannah prayed, and poured out her soul before the Lord, and the Lord gave her the petitions of her heart. 1 Sam. 1 : 15.
Of Jabez we read:
"Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, O that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested." 1 Chron. 4: 10.
Prayer delivered the Hebrew worthies from the fiery furnace. Prayer delivered Daniel from the lions. In response to the earnest prayers of the church, the Lord sent His angel and delivered Peter from the Roman prison. At midnight in a Roman dungeon, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and there was a mighty earthquake, and all the prison doors were opened, and His servants were set free. Acts 16 : 25-28. Prayer moves the hand of the omnipotent God in the defense of His people, and great things are wrought for their deliverance.
These examples, and many more that might be cited, should encourage us to make this day of prayer one of earnest intercession, a drawing nearer to God. New victories should be seen in our lives. A firmer devotion and a deeper sacrifice should take possession of us as a result of this time of personal examination and prayer.
Taken from the Review and Herald, December 15, 1921