God’s people need to learn from Amos and pray fervently and persistently in the most desperate, wicked times.
When Amos saw the first two visions of coming judgments (a locust invasion and a great fire), he beseeched God to withhold judgment, and the Lord repented (Am. 7:3, 6).
There can be no doubt that a chief lesson of this passage is that prayer changes things. Only the Lord knows how many things have been changed in this world, how many times judgment was withheld, because of believing prayer.
“We may debate endlessly how this incident reflects on the issues of predestination and human responsibility, but clearly we are left with the impression that the plague either came or was held back based on the prophet’s prayer” (David Guzik).
Amos’s prayer issued from a heart of concern. Amos could have said nothing, but he was moved with compassion for Israel; he was concerned about the matter. We will not pray effectually until we care about something. We must care about our own spiritual lives, our families, our churches, our nations, our unsaved neighbors, and when we care, we are moved to intercessory prayer, and God always answers.
Amos’s prayer was fervent. Observe the passion. “O Lord God ... I beseech thee...” He beseeched God. This is effectual fervent praying (Jas. 5:16).
Amos’s prayer consisted of reasoning with God. Prayer is talking with God, reasoning with God on the basis of His character and His promises. Amos called Israel “Jacob” to remind God of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Amos reminded God that Israel was small and helpless in the midst of her enemies. Amos reminded God that He was Israel’s only help. What wonderful reasoning with God.
Amos’s prayer was based on his right thinking and outlook. Unlike the average Israelite in that day, Amos knew that Israel was small and helpless without God’s protection and intervention. He knew that except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain (Ps. 127:1). He knew that Israel’s wealth and military strength could not protect her if God was against her. This wisdom comes only by God’s Word.
Amos’s prayer sought mercy. Amos was not asking for justice but for mercy. He didn’t say, “Lord, Israel is good.” Amos knew all about Israel’s “mighty sins” (Am. 5:12).
Amos’s prayer was based on his knowledge of God. Amos was asking God for mercy, because he knew that God is merciful. The better we know God, the more we know of His character through the study of Scripture, the more effectual our prayers.
Amos’s prayer was persistent. He didn’t stop praying after the first answer.
As a result, God was moved by Amos’s plea and withheld His hand. God did eventually judge Israel, but He withheld those particular judgments at that time in answer to prayer.
Amos’s prayer reminds us of Abraham’s intercessory prayer for Sodom (Ge. 18:23-32) and Moses’ intercessory prayer for Israel (Ex. 32:7-14).
This prayer situation is an example of how that prayer can bring some respite, some divine help, even when a nation is heading toward ultimate judgment. It is a perfect prayer for America today. If God’s people will pray effectually for the nation, there will probably not be a great Awakening after the fashion of the First and Second Awakenings, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pray and shouldn’t expect God to do something. God can bring much mercy to bear for the nation. He can give more wisdom to its leaders, more protection against its enemies, more unity to the people, calming the fierce divisive passions. He can withhold devastating “natural disasters.” I am convinced, for example, that prayer caused hurricane Irma to reduce dramatically in power in September 2017 before it hit the U.S. mainland. The destruction was great, but it was nothing compared to what it would have been had it hit the mainland with category 4 or 5 strength as had been forecast.
Note that Amos did not pray after the third vision. There comes a time when no prayers can avail against coming judgment. Compare Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11.
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