I admit… I am wary of any approach to prayer that hints of “God-manipulation!” But, on the other hand, I am convinced that God responds to an honest, sincere, appeal for “favor” on the part of His children! I’ve seen the positive results of such prayer too many times to dismiss its effectiveness!
When I served in a national leadership role for our denomination I had a director of one of its ministries who repeatedly taught me the value of such prayer. On multiple occasions, when facing a challenge where we needed a positive outcome, Dr. Jimmy Ames would say, “why don’t we pause and ask God to give us ‘favor?’” We had done all that we could… now we needed God’s help! We needed the Lord to work in the heart of someone else, beyond our control, so that the results would be positive and God-honoring. And it worked! God heard us and helped us… on multiple occasions!
I was reminded of this during my Bible reading this morning… Nehemiah, cup bearer for a pagan king – King Artaxerxes – had received a deeply troubling report of conditions in Jerusalem. God put it in his heart to do something about the sad state of affairs there. Nehemiah knew that he had no leverage with the king to demand the privilege of returning home to help his countrymen! He knew that apart from God “a leave of absence” was out of the question! He knew his resources were limited and God would have to supply! So he prayed… He prayed for “favor”!
Here is the account of Nehemiah’s brief prayer and it’s results from the Bible…
“And the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ Then the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’ SO I PRAYED TO THE GOD OF HEAVEN! And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.’ And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), ‘How long will you be gone, and when will you return?’ So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy. AND THE KING GRANTED ME WHAT I ASKED, FOR THE GOOD HAND OF MY GOD WAS UPON ME” (Nehemiah 2:2–8 ESV)
I don’t know who may need this bit of advice or word of encouragement today… But just let me say, it may be time to pray for “God’s favor!”