The Hebrew word for prophet is nabi, derived from a word which literally means “to bubble forth.” Hence, the Old Testament prophets were the spokesmen for God, and like a bubbling brook they gave the message which God put within them. This is further illustrated in Exodus 4:16 where God tells a hesitant Moses that Aaron “shall be your spokesman to the people… and you shall be to him as God.” Thus Aaron was Moses’ prophet; he announced to the multitudes the words that Moses gave him. This prophetic task of uttering God’s Word to the populace included varied messages:
1) Giving general sermons;
2) Foretelling future events;
3) Announcing God’s will on a particular question;
4) Encouraging the people to stand fast in the faith;
5) Issuing warnings;
6) Rebuking a king or nation for sin;
7) Proclaiming judgment or doom on nations, peoples, and kings.
The announcements of God’s rebuke and judgment were often received by the people with hatred which was directed toward God’s prophets; hence, many prophets experienced unhappy periods in their lives (Jeremiah 20:1, 2, 7, 8). The prophets lived in trying times. Added to this general difficulty, their individual unpopularity led them—rather, forced them—to become men of prayer. The outline studies that follow focus on their great prayers, which can teach us how to deal with our own days of trial. These prayers, uttered during various types of personal and national difficulties, are even more helpful to the believer of today, who is faced with an array of the old problems in new forms. Let us quietly listen to the prayers of God’s prophets as they burst forth from holy lips. Let us hear and share in their anguish and blessing.
32-1 The Prayer of the Penitent Prophet
This prayer marks Isaiah’s personal plea for God’s cleansing and also his entry into God’s service. The significance of the verse that begins this passage should be noted: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord” (v. 1). King Uzziah, otherwise a good king of Judah, willfully attempted to take over the priest’s office and burn incense in the temple. For this sin God plagued him with leprosy, which remained with him until he died (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). Uzziah’s leprosy was a vivid reminder to Isaiah of the absolute, holy standards of God, which not even a king could violate with impunity. Against this background we see:
1) Isaiah’s vision. Isaiah saw a glimmer of heaven as he entered the temple. In this glimpse of the heavenly throne, Isaiah heard and beheld:
a) the majesty of God, above all kings (v. 1);
b) the court of God, surrounded by winged seraphim (v. 2);
c) the acclamation of God’s holiness, given threefold, as in Revelation 4:8, implying God’s tri-unity, or the Trinity (v. 3).
2) Isaiah’s reaction. Isaiah’s response to this vision of God’s holiness is voiced in the prayer of the penitent prophet (v. 5). Here he exclaims:
a) his realization that he is a sinner—“Woe is me, for I am undone!”
b) his confession that he is unclean before God—“I am a man of unclean lips”;
c) his acknowledgment that his entire nation is a sinful people—“a people of unclean lips.”
3) Isaiah’s call. As a result of Isaiah’s confession came God’s cleansing and invitation to service. Note that since Isaiah confessed:
a) his sinfulness, God cleansed him (vv. 6, 7);
b) his sinful lips, God consecrated his lips to be used in the future to prophesy for Him (vv. 7-9);
c) the sinfulness of his nation, God called him to go to the people with the message of God’s salvation, which the majority of that generation would not receive (vv. 9-13).
Isaiah’s prayer of confession was also Peter’s prayer at seeing Christ’s holiness and majesty (Luke 5:8). It was Paul’s prayer, too (Acts 9:4-6). Someday, in the future, it will be Israel’s prayer (Zechariah 12:10). May we follow the prophets and apostles ourselves, in praying the prayer of the penitent prophet when we are confronted with God’s holiness. May we heed His call for servants to deliver His message of life.
32-2 Kingdom Prayer and Praise
Isaiah had just announced the Lord’s coming judgment on the nations—Assyria (Isaiah 10:12), Babylon (Isaiah 13:1, 17-19), Moab (Isaiah 15:1), Syria (Isaiah 17:1), Ethiopia (Isaiah 18:1, 5), Egypt (Isaiah 19:1, 2), and Tyre (Isaiah 23:1). Once these great messages of judgment had been uttered, the prophet delivered two great themes of heartfelt prayer and praise: awe at the sovereign power of God, who will judge wicked nations by His holiness; and praise to God, who will in the future establish His millennial kingdom on earth. Every child of God who is appalled at today’s calamities on our planet, and who contemplates the great prophecies of the future, must share Isaiah’s two reactions. This wonderful prayer expresses:
1) Awe at God’s bringing to pass those events which He prophesied long ago (v. 1);
2) Awe at God’s judgment of the cities of wicked nations (vv. 2, 3);
3) Praise for God’s defense of the helpless who placed their trust in His strength (vv. 4, 5);
4) Praise for the coming millennial kingdom on earth, including:
a) praise for God’s coming banquet, a time of unbounded spiritual rejoicing centering at (or near to) Jerusalem (v. 6; cf. Zechariah 14:16-21);
b) praise for God’s coming elimination of death, tears, and suffering, which still grip the nations of the world (vv. 7, 8; cf. Revelation 21:4);
c) praise for God’s future silencing of all reproaches from His earthly followers (v. 8; cf. Revelation 19:7-9);
d) praise for God’s certain fulfillment of His promised future kingdom of salvation, peace, and joy (v. 9; cf. Matthew 26:29).
Surely, we who know Christ join Isaiah in this kingdom prayer—“Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10); “come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
32-3 The Prayer of an Inadequate Man
God announced to Jeremiah that he was His chosen prophet to address nations, kings, and peoples (vv. 4, 5). From the chronological data of verses 2 and 3 we learn that the years of his prophecy were from 627 B.C. to 586 B.C., forty-two years of proclaiming dreadful judgment on a hardened people. However,
1) They would not listen to his call for repentance;
2) They disbelieved his warning that God was going to permit pagan Babylon to pull down the temple of Jehovah;
3) They hated him for even uttering God’s message of doom.
When he was called, Jeremiah perhaps already sensed the sinfulness of the age, and that his role would be to warn and to rebuke. The rulers of the nation and its cities were called “elders” (Ezra 10:14). He lived in an age when the elderly were respected and when young people kept silent in their presence. So Jeremiah, who must have been a young man at the time, might well be overwhelmed at the prospect of such a ministry. Plainly, Jeremiah sensed his own inadequacy as he faced the mission which God had called him to perform. Many times the believer shares with Jeremiah this sense of personal insufficiency. So we join him in voicing our own prayer of inadequacy.
In verse 6, Jeremiah’s prayer disclaims both:
1) His ability, “I cannot speak”;
2) His person, “I am a youth”;
God’s reply contains several lessons for us (vv. 7-10).
1) Don’t make excuses (when I, God, call you).
2) I shall go with you (I am wiser, stronger than they).
3) You shall be speaking My words (I always speak truth).
4) Do not fear them (I, God, can and will deliver you).
5) Your authority comes from Me (I rule over nations and kingdoms).
Whenever we feel inadequate to do God’s will, let us turn away from out doubts, and pray for God’s presence and strength to become our sufficiency.
32-4 The Prayer of a Puzzled Prophet
While Jeremiah was preaching in his home village of Anathoth (which lay a few miles north of Jerusalem), he was informed by certain men that if he continued to preach to them, rebuking them for their sin and warning them to repent lest God should bring the Babylonians down upon them, they would kill him (Jeremiah 11:21-23). Because of the blatant evil of this group, and their open defiance of God, Jeremiah, in frustration and anger, prayed to God and asked, “Why?” That is, “Why do You allow this bunch to get away with their sins and arrogance, although You are a righteous God and cannot remain silent in the face of wickedness?” In every generation God’s people have joined with Jeremiah in this prayer of puzzlement at the seeming immunity from judgment of evildoers, who flaunt their prosperity and taunt God’s poorer servants. This prayer and God’s answer help us to understand what has perplexed many throughout time.
1) Jeremiah’s prayer teaches us that:
a) the most devout servants of God still have questions (v. 1);
b) we must begin all such questions with the acknowledgment that God is just (v. 1);
c) even the prophets have observed that the wicked prosper (vv. 1, 2);
d) godly people may well feel frustrated over such apparent injustice (vv. 1, 2);
e) Godly people do long for righteousness to triumph and for evil men to be brought to judgment by a righteous God (. 3);
f) Unchecked evil doers cause everyone around them to suffer (v. 4).
2) God’s answer teaches us that:
a) We should be prepared to see even more frustrating circumstances in this world of sin (v. 5);
b) Sometimes our own friends or families do not share our revulsion at the open sinfulness of evildoers (v. 6);
c) Eventually God’s forbearance will come to an end, and He will bring the wicked to justice, whoever they may be. The sword of the Lord will arrive at God’s appointed hour (Jeremiah 12:12);
d) Yet, for those who repent and are punished there is forgiveness, mercy, and restoration by God’s own hand (Jeremiah 12:14-16).
An old popular saying sums it up well: “God’s wheel of justice may grind slowly, but it grinds exceedingly fine.” When frustrated by the momentary success of the wicked, remember this prayer of a puzzled prophet and God’s reply—then take heart. Also see Peter’s answer to this same question in 2 Peter 3:3, 4, 8-10.
The wicked enjoy the long-suffering of God (2 Peter 3:9). Unless they repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, they will come to the end of God’s long-suffering and will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
32-5 The Prayer of a Backslidden Prophet
The “fish” of Jonah was probably a whale, which should disturb no one’s faith. The original Hebrew (v. 1) dag gadol means “great fish,” or huge finned sea creature, including true fish (like the tiger shark), and mammals (whales).
Jonah fled from the Lord rather than going to preach in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh as he was called to do. Then, by God’s arrangement, he was swallowed by the “great fish.” Some have speculated that Jonah died but that God revived him. Others, citing an actual case in which a man was coughed up alive after being swallowed by a whale, believe that Jonah could have remained alive naturally. Whatever the details, we are dealing with God’s supernatural intervention on His prophet’s behalf. The entire event is certified by Christ Himself and offered as a sign of His own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 12:39, 40).
In his humanly hopeless position, brought about by his own rebellion, Jonah finally prayed the prayer of a backslidden prophet. We can learn much from it:
1) Often we do not cry to the Lord until we are in distress (vv. 1, 2).
2) God can hear us in our hour of need, when we are in the very depths of despair (v. 2).
3) It is right to acknowledge that our difficulty sometimes comes to us from God’s hand (v. 3; cf. Matthew 10:29).
4) When deliverance comes, we ought to give God the glory for our rescue (v. 6).
5) We should thank Him for delivering us (v. 9).
6) If we vow to correct our misdeeds, when delivered from the depths of our agony and need, we must keep our promise (v. 9).
7) We are obligated to acknowledge that salvation comes from the Lord (v. 9).
However low we may have sunk let us not be discouraged. Rather let us take heart that God answers the prayer of the truly penitent person. Let us sink no longer, but rise in prayer, allowing God’s power to buoy us up to renewed heights of fellowship with Him (Isaiah 40:29-31; cf. 1 John 1:9; cf. 1 Kings 21:27-29).
32-6 The Prayer of a Prophet at the Crossroads
(1 Kings 18:36, 37)
The eyes of an entire nation were fastened upon Elijah (vv. 17-40). Baal’s 450 prophets had failed to call down fire upon their altar, although they had prayed earnestly all day long. Elijah faced them defiantly. His very name, Elijah, meant “My God is Jehovah.” It had been according to Elijah’s word that no rain had fallen in the land for three years (1 Kings 17:1). Now he had spoken again, openly challenging the men of Baal to this contest of power. Baal had failed. It was his turn. Would Jehovah send fire from heaven?
Elijah now ordered four containers of water to be poured over the altar and into its trenches. As Elijah approached the water-soaked altar, the nation held its breath; even as he was at the crossroads of his ministry, so Israel too was at a crossroads, which would determine its destiny. Who was God—Baal or Jehovah? Would fire fall in answer to Elijah’s prayer?
Let us look back at this moment on Mount Carmel and consider Elijah’s prayer:
1) He looked to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), who answered the prayers of these patriarchs in their crises (v. 36).
2) He prayed that the knowledge of the true God might fill his nation (v. 36).
3) He asked for the vindication of his own words and deeds, that all might know that these were done at Jehovah’s bidding—the cessation of rain, his rebuke of the evil rulers Ahab and Jezebel, and all of the resulting national consternation (v. 36; cf. 1 Kings 17:1, 17,18).
4) He sought to bring back to the Lord the rebellious hearts of his nation (v. 37).
“Then the fire of the lord fell” (v. 38). God answered the prayer of His servant at the crossroads. God will also answer you at your crossroads.
32-7 A Prayer for Revival
Through the ages, God’s people have joined Habakkuk in prayer, asking God for revival, praying that He would cause His work to live again. God’s people—whether a congregation, church, mission, school, family, or even an individual—sometimes leave their “first love,” as did the church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:4). Difficulties arise, time passes, emphases change, key people move away, and almost unnoticed—the life and zeal for the Lord have vanished.
Habakkuk’s prayer for revival, containing at least eleven separate elements, is remarkable for its scope of thought and piety. We might well heed its example. It includes:
1) Taking God’s Word seriously (v. 2);
2) The direct request for revival: “Revive your work in the midst of the years!” (v. 2);
3) An appeal for mercy—not for what we think we deserve (v. 2);
4) An acknowledgment of the great power God has over His entire creation (vv. 3-7);
5) The acknowledgment that God, in righteous anger, punishes sinful men and nations (vv. 8-12);
6) Praise to God for saving His people (vv. 13-15);
7) An acceptance of God’s will for the future (v. 16);
8) An affirmation of faith in God, whatever events should come our way (vv. 17, 18);
9) An affirmation that God is our strength (v. 19);
10) An affirmation that God is the source of our walk: “He will make my feet like deer’s feet” (v. 19);
11) An affirmation that God is the source of our blessings (v. 19).
Habakkuk, some six centuries before Christ, prayed for revival. He desired to see God’s work live again. Revival today would reflect:
1) A renewed living faith;
2) A new commitment to God to be faithful in worship and church attendance;
3) A greater zeal and desire to study God’s Word and to pray;
4) A renewed effort to win souls and participate in missions;
5) A putting away of sins, including criticism, grumbling, and gossip;
6) A renewed joy in the Lord;
7) A greater spirit of love and forbearance among God’s people;
8) A greater impact of witness in the community and nation;
9) A rising love and praise to God for His abundant goodness;
10) A loyalty to sound doctrine (Revelation 2:14-16, 20).
Let us pray that we, too, may experience true revival and “walk on my high hills” again! (v. 19). It all must begin, however, with a prayer for revival.
Master Outline 32 – Prayers of the Prophets
 What is the Hebrew word for prophet and its meaning?
 What were the seven (7) various messages uttered by a prophet?
 Were the prophets messages always received with love? YES or NO. Explain.
 The prophet’s lack of popularity led them or forced them to be what?
 As the prophets of old, are we as believers willing to hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying?
 Isaiah’s prayer in Isaiah 6:5 was his personal plea for what?
 How did King Uzziah obtain leprosy?
 What lessons did Isaiah learn from Uzziah’s leprosy?
 What are three (3) major points of Isaiah’s vision?
 What was the three-fold response of Isaiah?
 What was the three-fold nature of Isaiah’s call?
 May we ________________________ His call for ________________________ to deliver
His _________________________ of life.
 Once Isaiah delivered his message of judgment, what two (2) great themes of heartfelt prayer and praise did he deliver?
 What four (4) areas of praise are included in this prayer?
 Surely we who know Christ join Isaiah in what Kingdom prayer?
 What type of people, spiritually, had Jeremiah been sent to?
 What three (3) traits characterized the recipients of Jeremiah’s message?
 What two (2) things did Jeremiah disclaim with his prayer?
 What five (5) lessons can we learn from God’s reply to Jeremiah’s prayer?
 What two (2) things should we do when we feel inadequate to do the task God sets before us?
 The men of Anathoth issued what warning against Jeremiah?
 What six (6) things does Jeremiah’s prayer teach us?
 What four (4) things do we learn from God’s answer to Jeremiah?
 The wicked enjoy the _______________________ of God. (2 Peter 3:9)
 What is the definition of the Hebrew word “DAGGADEL?”
 Who certified the event of Jonah?
 What seven (7) lessons can we learn from Jonah’s prayer?
 How many Baal prophets failed to call down fire?
 The word “ELIJAH” means what?
 What four (4) things do we see as we look back at Elijah’s prayer?
 Will God answer you at your crossroads?
 Name the eleven (11) elements of Habakkuk’s prayer.
 What ten (10) things will revival reflect?