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Prayer Can Move the Heart of God

This morning, I’m sitting in South Lake Tahoe, CA, where I’m preparing to welcome nearly one hundred college students for a summer mission trip. For ten weeks, these students will be trained on how to be spiritual leaders on their campuses and in their communities after college. As I was praying for them, I was reminded in Jonah 3 just how important prayer is not only for our hearts but also to God.

“The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, ‘By decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.’ When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:6-10, ESV)

To me, this is one of the most incredible chapters in the entire Bible, and it says a lot about the power of prayer. It’s an instance where God was about to destroy an evil nation, but then he changed his mind when he saw their repentant hearts. The passage shows that prayer can move the heart of God.

Can you see the hyperbole in the passage above? The Ninevites were so repentant of their sin that not only did they fast, but they had their animals fast, and they put sackcloths on every animal. Can you picture every sheep, cow, and donkey in Nineveh wearing sackcloth as a sign of repentance to God? The author uses this language to demonstrate the lavish repentance that the Assyrians demonstrated. Their prayers weren’t superficial. They really got it! They desperately wanted God’s forgiveness.

Most scholars believe that the entire city of Nineveh came to know salvation that day. The proof that they were saved from their sins is found in Luke 11:32: “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

How often do you confess your sins to the Lord? Are there areas of your life that God wants you to surrender to him? One thing I’ve found life-giving is to come to God the first thing in the morning and confess sin that comes to mind. Often times I’ll have to surrender areas of my life to God other times throughout the day as well as the Holy Spirit convicts me.

Real peace, love and joy can only be found in a close, personal relationship with God, and being real with God by confessing our sin is the key to having that relationship. Fortunately for us, God is just waiting for us to return to him when we stray away, just like he was there for Nineveh. Nineveh got it, and we must make sure we get it, too!

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photo credit: homethods Praying on Mountain – Credit to https://homethods.com/ via photopin (license)


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About Chad Young

Chad Young works in full-time college ministry, serving as Cru Global’s national director over the southeast region, leading the ministries in FL, GA, AL, and MS. He has served on the staff of Cru for fifteen years. He is the author of Authenticity: Real Faith in a Phony, Superficial World (InterVarsity Press), a discipleship-training manual, and magazine articles for Worldwide Challenge and The Collegiate. He frequently speaks at retreats and conferences and regularly writes devotionals for his website, findingauthenticchristianity.com. Chad, with his wife Elizabeth, travels the country to speak at churches and train church leaders how to make Biblical disciples. Chad currently resides in Atlanta, GA, with his wife Elizabeth and their four young children, Wyatt, Clark, Evelyn, and Josilynn. His hobbies include cheering on his kids in sports, following college football, and laughing with family around the backyard fire pit.
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