Day 176

The Power of Prayer

Wisdom Proverbs 15:21-30
New Testament Acts 16:16-40
Old Testament 1 Kings 14:21-16:7


A few years ago, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Pete Greig (founder of 24-7 Prayer) launched an initiative calling hundreds of thousands of Christians, of many churches and denominations to a great wave of prayer for the evangelisation of the nations during the week before Pentecost Sunday. The week culminated in beacon events in packed cathedrals and churches around the world over the Pentecost weekend. Justin Welby, asked people to pray for three things: ‘That all Christians find new life in Jesus Christ… That all those you meet… might see something of Jesus… For the church to overflow with the reality of the presence of Jesus.’

Pete Greig has described it as ‘a groundswell; a movement from the grassroots up’. He said he had been very moved to hear of one boy who’d prayed for five friends, three of whom had since become Christians!

Prayer is spiritual nutrition. Just as the body needs physical food, so the soul needs spiritual food. Prayer changes us. However, the Bible goes much further than this. Prayer is powerful. It is, as Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it, ‘the slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence.’ Prayer has the power to change circumstances, other people and even the course of history.


Proverbs 15:21-30

21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
   but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.

22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
   but with many advisers they succeed.

23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply —
   and how good is a timely word!

24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent
   to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.

25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud,
   but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.

26 The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked,
   but gracious words are pure in his sight.

27 The greedy bring ruin to their households,
   but the one who hates bribes will live.

28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
   but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
   but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
   and good news gives health to the bones.


Prayer changes circumstances

God ‘closely attends to the prayers of God-loyal people’ (v.29, MSG). Your prayers can make a difference to what happens. ‘The Lord is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous’ (v.29). According to the writer of Proverbs, righteousness means keeping ‘a straight course’ (v.21), listening to advice (v.22) and maintaining purity in our thoughts (v.26). It means responding to people with ‘prayerful answers’ (v.28, MSG). Through Jesus, all who believe ‘are righteous’ (Romans 3:22). Therefore, God hears your prayers.

Prayer and careful planning are not opposed to each other. As well as talking with God, it is wise to get advice from others: ‘Plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisors they succeed’ (v.22).

You will bring blessing wherever you go: ‘The light in the eyes [of him whose heart is joyful] rejoices the hearts of others, and good news nourishes the bones’ (v.30, AMP).


Lord, thank you for the many times you have heard and answered my prayers. Lord, today I pray…

New Testament

Acts 16:16-40

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved —you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.


Prayer changes people

What made the early church so powerful? Surely, part of the answer is the prayer lives of those first believers.

  1. Pray regularly
    It appears that prayer was a regular habit. ‘Once when we were going to the place of prayer…’ (v.16). This suggests they did not only pray on their own, they met together frequently to pray.

  2. Pray in the name of Jesus
    Christian prayer is powerful because we pray, not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus.

    Paul was followed around in the town of Philippi by a ‘psychic’, who was clearly under demonic influence as a result of her involvement in the occult (v.17). Finally, after several days of this, Paul could take her endless repetitions no longer. He turned around and said, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ (v.18). At that moment, the evil spirit came out.

    The name of Jesus is so powerful. The only way to deal with demonic power is through the name of Jesus. No demon is a match for Jesus. Jesus sets us free from demonic forces. He utterly transformed this young woman’s life. The demon ‘was gone, just like that’ (v.18, MSG).

  3. Pray in all circumstances
    The woman was a slave who made a lot of money for the people who owned her. Her owners were furious that she had lost her supernatural powers. They seized Paul and Silas, ‘roughed them up’, ‘arrested them’ (vv.19–20, MSG) and hauled them off to court. They whipped up the crowd against them.

    The crowd joined in the ‘attack’ (v.22). Life is not always going to be easy if we start making a difference. Some of our views may be very unpopular or even illegal. ‘Attacks’ are not necessarily a mark of failure; they may be a sign of success.

    The magistrates bowed to the pressure and ordered that they should be stripped, severely flogged and thrown into prison under heavy guard where they ‘clamped leg irons on them’ (v.24, MSG).

    The prison officer would have been used to people coming into prison angry, cursing and swearing. By contrast, he sees Paul and Silas praying, worshipping and singing hymns to God (v.25). There is great power in this combination of prayer and worship.

    An earthquake shook the prison and every door flew open. The prison officer in charge was about to take his own life as he thought all his prisoners had escaped and he feared the consequences. Paul, faced with freedom, chose instead to stay, and bring his jailor to Christ.

    When Paul assured him that all the prisoners were still there he asked, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ (v.30). This is what might be called ‘an evangelistic opportunity’! Paul explained what the prison officer had to do and thus he, and afterwards his whole family, believed in Jesus and were baptised.

    Immediately, his life began to change. He shows compassion. He washes the wounds of Paul and Silas (v.33). He feeds them (v.34). He and his whole family are ‘filled with joy’ (v.35). He is willing to be known publicly as a Christian. They became founding members of the church at Philippi.

    These events were so clearly supernatural that Paul saw the astonishing power of God behind the human agency of his words.

    This episode ends with the judges having to apologise personally to Paul and Silas as they had not realised they were Roman citizens and it was, therefore, illegal to treat them in the way they had been treated: ‘The judges panicked... apologised, personally escorted them from the jail... Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia’s house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way’ (vv.38–40, MSG).

    Prayer has the power not just to change our own lives but also circumstances, events and the lives of others.


Lord, help us to be more like the early church. Help us to meet together regularly to pray. Thank you for the power of the name of Jesus. Lord, may prayer and worship underpin everything we do.

Old Testament

1 Kings 14:21-16:7

Rehoboam King of Judah

21 Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite.

22 Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done. 23 They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 24 There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.

25 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. 26 He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. 27 So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. 28 Whenever the king went to the Lord’s temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom.

29 As for the other events of Rehoboam’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 30 There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. 31 And Rehoboam rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite. And Abijah his son succeeded him as king.

Abijah King of Judah

15 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijah became king of Judah, 2 and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom.

3 He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. 4 Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. 5 For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

6 There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam throughout Abijah’s lifetime. 7 As for the other events of Abijah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 8 And Abijah rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. And Asa his son succeeded him as king.

Asa King of Judah

9 In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, 10 and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom.

11 Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done. 12 He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. 13 He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 14 Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. 15 He brought into the temple of the Lord the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.

16 There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns. 17 Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah.

18 Asa then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. 19 “Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you a gift of silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.”

20 Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maakah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali. 21 When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and withdrew to Tirzah. 22 Then King Asa issued an order to all Judah—no one was exempt—and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using there. With them King Asa built up Geba in Benjamin, and also Mizpah.

23 As for all the other events of Asa’s reign, all his achievements, all he did and the cities he built, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? In his old age, however, his feet became diseased. 24 Then Asa rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the city of his father David. And Jehoshaphat his son succeeded him as king.

Nadab King of Israel

25 Nadab son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. 26 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of his father and committing the same sin his father had caused Israel to commit.

27 Baasha son of Ahijah from the tribe of Issachar plotted against him, and he struck him down at Gibbethon, a Philistine town, while Nadab and all Israel were besieging it. 28 Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of Asa king of Judah and succeeded him as king.

29 As soon as he began to reign, he killed Jeroboam’s whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of the Lord given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite. 30 This happened because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel.

31 As for the other events of Nadab’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 32 There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns.

Baasha King of Israel

33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha son of Ahijah became king of all Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. 34 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of Jeroboam and committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit.

16 Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu son of Hanani concerning Baasha: 2 “I lifted you up from the dust and appointed you ruler over my people Israel, but you followed the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to arouse my anger by their sins. 3 So I am about to wipe out Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat. 4 Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and birds will feed on those who die in the country.”

5 As for the other events of Baasha’s reign, what he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 6 Baasha rested with his ancestors and was buried in Tirzah. And Elah his son succeeded him as king.

7 Moreover, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Jehu son of Hanani to Baasha and his house, because of all the evil he had done in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger by the things he did, becoming like the house of Jeroboam—and also because he destroyed it.


Prayer changes history

Of course, prayer does not change the past, but it can change the future course of events.

The history of the people of God as set out in the book of Kings is rather mixed. We read constantly of how the people of God ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:22; 15:26,34; 16:7). They committed sins (for example, 14:22b; 15:26,30,34; 16:2). They had shrine-prostitutes (14:24a); they engaged in detestable practices (v.24b); there was continual warfare between Israel and Judah (v.30; 15:6,32). The kings were often not ‘fully devoted to the Lord’ (v.3).

There were notable exceptions such as Asa (15:9–24). He ‘conducted himself well before God, reviving the ways of his ancestor David. He cleaned house…’ (vv.11–12a, MSG).

In the middle of all this, there is a fascinating comment: ‘Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite’ (vv.4–6).

David was having an impact long after his death. God honoured his prayers for generations.

God had said to David, ‘Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever’ (2 Samuel 7:16). David had prayed, ‘And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, “The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!” And the house of your servant David will be established before you’ (vv.25–26).

The Lord heard David’s prayer. The impact of David’s prayer was to change the course of history. David had lived a righteous life (‘except in the case of Uriah the Hittite’). However, the New Testament tells us that every person that believes in Jesus is in a better position than David was. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, you are righteous before God. God hears the prayers of the righteous. So, because of Jesus, your prayers also can change the course of history.


Lord, would you turn our city and our country back to you. I pray that you will raise up leaders and politicians, fully devoted to you, who will get rid of evil and bring peace and justice to our world.

Pippa adds

Solomon may have been the wisest man in the whole world but it seems that he did not do a good job of parenting. He should have applied the proverb that he may well have written: ‘Train children in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not turn from it’ (Proverbs 22:6).

Verse of the Day

Acts 16:31

’Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household’.



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Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 12: 1866: The Ravens' Cry, delivered on Sunday evening, 14 January 1866 by C. H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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