A woman called a pastor to visit the house where her father was battling a terminal illness. He goes to the house not knowing whether the man is a Christian or not, but he notices as he talks to him the man must be a Christian. Interestingly, there is an oddly placed chair sitting close by. Convinced it has meaning, he asks, "What's the chair for?'' The man replied, "Well, I'll tell you, but don’t tell my daughter; she’ll think I'm crazy…I've always had trouble praying. I knew a man in my early years who said to me, 'All you need to do is put an empty chair in front of you. Envision God sitting in that chair and that you’re getting to talk to him.’ So, I put an empty chair in the middle of the room and started talking to God as if he were sitting there, and it got so good that now I talk to him for hours at a time…and, he talks to me! But, if I tell my daughter, she'll think this disease I’m battling is also taking my mind." Upon departure, the pastor thought about the profound wisdom in such a simple act. The story of the man’s approach to prayer stuck with him. But, some months later, the man died. When the Pastor called to check on the daughter, the conversation eventually led to the question, "How did he pass?" The daughter explained, "Well, the sickness just finally got him. When I arrived, he had already passed, but we found his body in the strangest position. I discovered a chair sitting in the middle of the floor. He had pushed himself out of bed, crawled across the room, and put his head in that chair…he died kneeling with his head laid in the chair…"1
In Scripture, we find a man named Samson. Perhaps, he was the strongest man who ever lived, but unlike the elderly man in our story, he didn’t have a chair. The Spirit of God would come upon his life, equipping him with supernatural power, but his life does not end well. I think it’s because he seems to have never valued prayer. In fact, Scripture only records Samson as praying two times in his entire life. Last week’s message focused on Samson’s First Prayer, while this pass records his second prayer:
Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance… for my two eyes!” -Judges 16:28 (NKJV)
If we can learn anything from Samson, it is that: prayer changes everything. And, if we want to live a meaningful life, we MUST be people who lead prayerful lives.
Cynthia Lewis offers this imagery of prayer, “If your day is hemmed in with prayer, it is less likely to come unraveled.”
E.M Bounds, a great author on the subject of prayer, says, “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world, the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil…”
Elisabeth Elliot shared, “Prayer lays hold of God's plan and becomes the link between His will and its accomplishment on earth.”
Charles Stanley, the well-recognized pastor from Atlanta and of an international radio ministry, states, “An unschooled man who knows how to (prayerfully) meditate upon the Lord has learned far more than the man with the highest education; who does not know how to meditate.”
God used him in powerful and mighty ways, but Samson failed to live a meaningful life despite being so strong because he did not prioritize prayer. Allow that to sink in.
So here is a lesson we can learn from Samson’s life: your gifts can take you where your character is not prepared to keep you. When you have a gift or some release of God’s power in your life, it’s easy to start thinking that everything is okay. But, we neglect one crucial fact, we must allow God to keep working on us, shaping and developing our character. This development happens through prayer.
Because of Samson’s prayerless life, we repeatedly see him in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people, even though he came from a prayerful family. His parents were faith-filled, and they had an intentional prayer life. Their prayer life was meaningful! Even Samson’s birth was a blessing from God due to his mother's prayers. As a result, his parents declared over their home that their child would be in a covenant with God upon his first breath. Samson was blessed because of his parent’s prayers!
Do you want to be a parent who prays powerful prayers over your family? Then, check out this post: Five Blessings to Ask God for That Will Change Your Life Forever.
But, unfortunately, although his parents prayed, blessed him, and entered into a covenant with God, Samson never developed his own personal relationship with God. Instead, he relied too much on his family’s faith and not on his own. Personally, he only uses prayer as a last resort – when he is already in undesirable situations and turmoil.
Each of us must have our own personal and intimate relationship with God. And, let me be clear, because this is important, just because your life looks good on the outside does not mean you are right with God.
You could simply be riding on the coattails of faith and prayers offered by someone who really cares about you (such as your parents) while the enemy lulls you to sleep and sets you up for destruction in the future. AND, unfortunately, this is what happens in Samson’s life! His demise reveals it is possible to overlook the fact that God’s power is starting to distance itself from our life, but we can avoid this disaster by asking God to ignite your prayer life and to strengthen you with His Spirit.
You need somewhere to lay your head, and as we will further evaluate on Thursday, it is not the lap – or chair – of Delilah.
I invite you to view this message in its entirety at this link: https://youtu.be/yQcFRq9R8Dk
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1 Story of the prayer and chair adapted from a sermon illustration by Ricky Nelms; originally delivered in his message, Hallowed Be Thy Name, 7/14/2010.