Thoughts and prayers, once a common expression of sympathy, now vilified as “not enough.” And, in one sense, these words aren’t enough. However, it isn’t the words that have power, but the One who listens to and answers them.
The Second Book of Kings contains a startling passage that illustrates some of the hidden reality behind our prayers:
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city.
And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”
So, the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.”
So, He struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.
And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.
2 Kings 6:15-19 English Standard Version (ESV)
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Thursday evening, November 5, 1874, C. H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon titled: “Eyes Opened” (No. 3117) In it, he drew lessons for his congregation (and us) from the text in Second Kings.
Spurgeon’s first observation was: “The natural eyes are blind to heavenly things.”
Man boasts that he can see, but he cannot. He sees natural things and he often sees them very clearly.
…For natural things, the natural eyes are sufficient but, as the natural man understands not the things of the Spirit of God, seeing that they are spiritual and must be spiritually discerned, so the natural eyes discern not spiritual things.
…The natural man can go through the world and not see God at all. Yes, and he will even have the audacity to deny that God is there! And he may go further, still, and say that there is no God at all! David says that such a man is a fool, but the modern name for him is, “philosopher.”
…So blind is man that in addition to not seeing his God, he does not see the Law of God…The great reason why men do not comprehend the high spirituality of the Law, its exceeding breadth and wondrous severity, is because they are blind.
Being thus blind to God and to His Law, they are also blind to their own condition. He who has his eyes opened but for a moment will perceive that his soul is as full of sin… He sees that every action he performs is stained with sin and that he is so guilty before God that condemnation has already passed upon him—so guilty that he can never make any atonement for the past and that nothing he can do or suffer can ever save him!
He must feel, if once his eyes have been opened, that he is lost, ruined and undone by nature and by practice, too—and that only a supernatural act of Divine Grace can deliver him from the danger into which he has brought himself and the guilt into which he has plunged himself!
…In-as-much as men are not able to see their sin, and to see their danger, therefore they do not see the way of salvation. They…will not understand it unless their eyes are opened by a miracle which only the Holy Spirit can work. …[They are] not in a position to see the wondrous scheme by which [they are] delivered from that danger through the Grace of God, by the atoning Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the effectual working of the ever-blessed Spirit!
The next Truth of God is: “God alone can open men’s eyes.”
We may lead blind men to Jesus, but we cannot open their eyes. We can, in a measure, indicate to them what spiritual sight is and we may explain to them what their own sad condition is—but we cannot open their eyes! Neither can anyone, but God alone, open their eyes…
Why [is it] that God alone can open men’s eyes? It is because to open the eyes of blind souls is an act of creation. The faculty to see is gone from the fallen spirit—the eyes have perished—the optical nerve has died out through sin. God will not merely clean the dust out of old eyes or take cataracts away from them—but old things must pass away and all things must become new! He gives new eyes to those who have totally lost all power of sight. The act of creating a soul anew is as much a work of God’s Omnipotence as the making of a world!
…We must remember, too, that man is willfully blind. Our old proverb says, “There are none so deaf as those that won’t hear, and none so blind as those that won’t see.” It is not merely that man cannot come to Christ, but he will not come to Christ that he may have life! It is not merely that he cannot see the Truth of God, but that he loves darkness rather than light and does not want to see! You cannot convince a man who is resolved not to be convinced. If sinners were only willing to see, they would soon see, but their will itself is in bondage and utterly estranged from God. And, therefore, it is that only a Divine Power—the will of God—can overcome the desperately wicked will of man!
Thirdly, Spurgeon said, “Though we cannot open the eyes of the blind, we can pray for them that their eyes may be opened.”
This is what Elisha did for his servant. The young man could not see the horses and chariots of fire and Elisha could not make him see them, but he offered this prayer for him, “Lord, I pray You, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw.”
…While teachers or parents entertain the belief that there is some innate power in themselves with which they can do God’s work, they are not on the right track, for God will not work through those who believe in their own self-sufficiency.
But when you say, “I can no more save a soul than I can open the eyes of a man born blind, I am utterly helpless in this matter,” then it is that you begin to pray. And beginning to pray, you are taught how to act—and God uses you as His instrument and eyes are opened—yes, opened by you, instrumentally, but God has all the Glory!
Now, when should you specially pray for those who are blind? I think this narrative teaches us that we should do so whenever we see them in trouble. This young man said to Elisha, “Alas, my master!” So that was the time for Elisha to pray for him, “Lord, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see.”
…It is also a good time to pray for sinners when we hear them enquiring. This young man said to Elisha, “What shall we do?” Be always ready, when you hear them asking, “What shall we do?” or, “How shall we do?” to point them at once to Jesus and also to take their case to Jesus in prayer.
It is also a good time to pray for them when we ourselves have had a clear sight of the things of God. You ought, by the very clearness of the vision which you have enjoyed, to pity those who still sit in darkness, and to pray that they may be brought into the Light. Elisha had himself seen the horses and chariot of fire and, therefore, he prayed for his servant, “Lord, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see.”
When it is well with you, speak to Christ on behalf of poor sinners. When you have good times, yourselves, remember those who are starving away from the banquet—and pray the Master of the feast to give you the Grace to “compel them to come in.”
It is well to pray for sinners, too, when their blindness astonishes us. I know that, sometimes, you are quite amazed that people should be so ignorant about Divine things. It surprises you that intelligent people should have such mistaken notions concerning the very simplest Truths of God’s Word. Even if you are astonished, do not be vexed at them, but pray earnestly for them.
…Let us also remember, dear Friends, that when we received our spiritual eyesight, it was mainly because others had been praying for us. Most of us can probably trace our conversion to the intercession of a godly father, or mother, or teacher, or friend. Then let us repay those prayers which were offered for us, in years gone by, by pleading for others who still are blind—
“Pray that they who now are blind, Soon the way of Truth may find.”
…Make this the burden of your daily approach to God for anyone in whom you are specially [concerned], “O Lord, I pray You, open his eyes, that he may see!”
Fourthly, he said: “There is this blessed fact…that God does open men’s eyes.”
God can do it and, according to this [description], He has done it in an instant A moment before, this young man could see no horses or chariots of fire, but as soon as Elisha’s prayer was registered in Heaven, his servant could see what was before invisible to him! …The soul is dead, and it is made alive in a single moment!
…My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, pray fervently that the blind may have their eyes opened, seeing that God can do it, and can do it at once!
And Spurgeon’s last remark was: “even those persons who can see need more sight.”
We all need to see more in the Scriptures. Each of us needs to pray to the Lord, “Open You my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Law.”
…We also need to have our eyes opened as to the great Doctrines of the Gospel.
…We also need to have our eyes opened with regard to Providence.
…Oftentimes we need to have our eyes opened to see ourselves.
…We need to have our eyes opened with regard to temptation, for we may think that we are not being tempted at the very moment when we are in the greatest danger from temptation.
…We need to have our eyes opened as to what is most desirable, for we often aspire after the high places when the lowest are the best— and seek wealth when poverty would be the better soil for the growth of Grace—
…We need to have our eyes opened that we may see a great deal more of our Savior. The strangest thing of all is that though the Lord has opened our eyes and we have seen Jesus as our Savior, we know so little of Him after all.
In this day and age, when the love of many has grown cold, those in the churches even doubt the effectiveness of prayer.
However, the Book of Revelation says:
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
Revelation 8:3-5 (ESV)
Thus, in this passage, we have a picture of God’s powerful answers to the thoughts and prayers of those who have faith in Him.
Ligon Duncan: Why Should We Pray? YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on Apr 9, 2015