Jesus Believes in Prayer
Mark 13:14-18 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter.
Matthew 24:20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.
These are extraordinary scriptures. Jesus is quoting Daniel, who predicted the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem in 168BC by Antiochus Epiphanes, in anticipation of the complete destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70AD. His warnings to His people are dire, with portents of great suffering and tribulation.
In the middle of his admonitions stands the most amazing command: “Pray that it may not happen in winter….” It’s amazing for two reasons. One, in the midst of the greatest judgment to befall the Israelites, the Lord offers a lifeline. We so very casually use the phrase, “I pray that…” or “Please pray that…” that it becomes an expression of a wish or a thought rather than a declaration that we’ve prayed or that we’re presenting a specific request for prayer. When Jesus says, “Pray that…,” He is not suggesting that they toss the thought around their minds for a while. He is telling them to present the request before the Almighty, in His Name, for their own good.
Secondly, He grants the listeners the opportunity to change the future. For those who believe deeply in the sovereignty of God, this may come as a surprise that the Lord of All would tell His followers that their prayers can change the near future and move a date of fleeing the city from one timeframe to another. But doesn’t He tell us everywhere to pray, for many things? We know that we ought to pray, but rarely does a scripture tell us what to pray for so specifically, with such a focus on a single future event.
These two things tell us more about our God. One, how gracious He is in throwing out a lifeline even in the midst of judgment! May we see every lifeline He brings our way. Two, apparently God believes that prayers work, and can change things. Do we agree with Him?
Prayer: Lord, thank You for mercy in the midst of judgment. Give me eyes to see and a heart to appreciate Your lifelines. And help me to remember that You often tell us to pray, and You wouldn’t have told Your followers to pray unless You knew those prayers would be effective (James 5:16)