Prayer Changes Things
Genesis 32:24-31; Isaiah 38:1-8; 2 Chronicles 33:1-20.
I have been affected, beloved brethren, by the way in which prayer changes things. In these three scriptures, we see how these three persons, Jacob, Hezekiah, and Manasseh, had real transactions with God real transactions with God which changed things, not in any superficial way, but in a signal way.
We read of Jacob, first of all, that he remained alone. I think that's the first point to make in regard to our transactions with God. "Jacob remained alone". Our transaction with God is not through anyone else. It's not through persons whom we may look up to; it's not through our friends or our relatives; it's not through those whom we may have valued in the testimony, and rightly so; but it says "Jacob remained alone and a man wrestled with him until the rising of the dawn". During this night in which Jacob wrestled with this man, Jacob was not wrestling in any lackadaisical way. He was not wrestling as wrestlers in sports wrestle today. You might hear of a wrestling match, but it's just a big game, it's all for show in the world of sports today, but this was not. "A man wrestled with him until the rising of the dawn. And when he saw that he did not prevail against him ...". This man that wrestled with Jacob saw that he did not prevail against Jacob! How wonderful that Jacob prevailed! It says, "thou hast wrestled with God and with men and hast prevailed". What a change came about in Jacob's life as a result of this: "Thy name shall not henceforth be called Jacob, but Israel", which means wrestler or prince of God. Beloved brethren, I would just encourage us and desire to promote exercise that each of us might have an experience like this with God.
"I will not let thee go except thou bless me". Think of Jacob saying that to God! Jacob had an appreciation, he had an intense value, for the blessing. We know that from earlier in his history, when Esau despised the blessing. But Jacob valued the blessing. He was blessed by his father, Isaac, as we know. But here Jacob gets the blessing from God himself. "I will not let thee go except thou bless me". And his blessing was a change of name. "And he said to him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall not henceforth be called Jacob, but Israel".
His blessing was the change of his name from Jacob to Israel, to wrestler or prince of God. But then it says that "when he saw that he did not prevail against him, he touched the joint of his thigh; and the joint of Jacob's thigh was dislocated as he wrestled with him". Well, there would be the evidence in Jacob's walk from this point forward that he had had this transaction with God. It says, "he limped upon his hip": evidence, in Jacob's walk, of this transaction, this night of wrestling with God and prevailing with God! Let us each, dear brethren, have such a transaction with God!
In Isaiah 38, we read of a man, Hezekiah, who was sick unto death. His sickness was the immediate cause of his prayer. It says, "he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to Jehovah". Then it says that Hezekiah wept much. He spoke to God and said, "Remember, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight". It says "the fervent supplication of a righteous man has much power" (or "availeth much", as the Authorized Translation reads). James 5:16. Hezekiah is a righteous man. He is praying. It says he "wept much". Well, God takes account of such a man, as we can see from the word of Jehovah which came to Isaiah for Hezekiah, "Thus saith Jehovah, the God of David thy father: I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears". These two features in our transactions with God our prayer and our tears need to both be real.
"Behold I will add to thy days fifteen years". He gets his immediate prayer answered, as to his life being extended. But then he gets much more. "And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city. And this shall be the sign to thee from Jehovah", and so on. He gets all these additional answers or blessings from God in response to his prayer.
So let's look to God for answers in our prayers to Him. God delights to answer fervent prayers they avail much. Think of the "much" that all these "ands" would suggest. Not only the extension of Hezekiah's life, but also his deliverance, the city's deliverance, God's defense of the city, and the sign that goes with it, "I will bring again the shadow of the degrees which have gone down with the sun on the dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward". Well, God gives Hezekiah this prophetic word this is the sign God is going to give him. Then it says, "so the sun returned on the dial ten degrees, by which it had gone down". Exactly what the prophetic word had said, happened. How confirming this would be to Hezekiah of the truth of God's answer to him!
Then, immediately after this sign is fulfilled, we have "the writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness". What fullness comes into this writing! "The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I this day", Isaiah 38:19. That is, the service of God comes in! "The father to the children shall make known thy truth". We read at the end of Malachi of one who "shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers". Malachi 4:6. So it says, "the father to the children shall make known thy truth". In our day, that would be a person who is a shepherd and a teacher. "Jehovah was purposed to save me". That brings in the glad tidings. "And we will play upon my stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of Jehovah". "My stringed instruments"? Why, that's Hezekiah's psalm! That's the sweetness and the music that comes out of his own psalm, his own experience with God. "All the days of our life, in the house of Jehovah".
Well, I read about Manasseh, too, because he is one who prays. He is a very different person than the first two Jacob and Hezekiah who were both persons that were pleasing to God. Manasseh was a very evil king. It says in verse 2, "he did evil in the sight of Jehovah, like the abominations of the nations". And it says in verse 9, "Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations that Jehovah had destroyed from before the children of Israel". Think of the evil character of this king, Manasseh! We read about the details of it in this first paragraph. And then God speaks to Manasseh and to his people, but they did not hearken, and finally God deals with Manasseh, brings him into captivity. "He took Manasseh with fetters and bound him with chains of brass and carried him to Babylon". God used the king of Assyria captains of the hosts of the king of Assyria to bring Manasseh down, to bring him to himself. It says, when he was in affliction, he besought Jehovah his God . It says similarly, of the son in Luke 15, "he began to be in want", and "he longed to fill his belly with the husks which the swine were eating".
God used these circumstances to bring in humiliation, to bring in a turning to God with Manasseh. It says he "humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to him". This prayer is not just a casual prayer; it's noted both in verse 18: "the rest of the acts of Manasseh and his prayer to his God", and in verse 19: "And his prayer, and how God was intreated of him". What a change came about in Manasseh's life in this prayer to God from one who led God's people astray to do more evil than the nations to one of whom it says: "Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah, he was God"!
Well, that was a result of this transaction with God. And such a result is possible even for persons who have persecuted the assembly of God. It is possible even for persons who lead others astray, as we read of in second Timothy 3. It is possible for such persons as Peter speaks of in his second epistle chapter 2, some of the characters of persons there. In a day of grace, it is possible for these persons to be humbled for God to come in and humble them and to change their lives by a transaction with Himself.
So it says that he "humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to him. And he was intreated of him and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom". Now Manasseh is a recovered man, and he is going to rule rightly. Think of these features of recovery and building that we have in verses 14 to 17: He removed the strange gods, removed the idol out of the house of Jehovah, cast them out of the city, reinstated the altar of Jehovah, sacrificed on it peace offerings and thank offerings. Manasseh is a repentant man who has had a real transaction with God! He "commanded Judah to serve Jehovah the God of Israel".
Well, I just thought of these three men and how prayer changed their lives, and it had an effect on the testimony, too. Manasseh's prayer had such a wonderful effect on the testimony! It affected not only himself, but it affected Jerusalem; it affected the people whom he had led astray. There was a return to God as a result of Manasseh's prayer to his God.
May the Lord Jesus bless the word.
Warren, NJ, USA. June 8, 1993.
Prayer Changes Things