I heard a sermon by the late James Boice some time ago on the book of Ephesians. Pointing to Ephesians 1:16, he explained that while God is sovereign and orders everything according to the counsel of His own will, He nevertheless accomplishes those purposes through the instrument of prayer.
God works through means, one being the God-honoring prayers of His people. How amazing! And how appropriate then that the Bible commands believers to pray; see: Luke 11:1-13; Luke 18:1-8; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
Writing in Knowing God, J.I. Packer adds: “People who know their God are before anything else people who pray,” and not only this, but “their zeal and energy for God’s glory come to expression…in their prayers.” Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:1-19 is used as an example to this point.
Packers explains that while “the prophet understood from the Scriptures that the foretold time of Israel’s Babylonian captivity was drawing to an end… he [also] realized that the nation’s sin was still such as to provoke God to judgment rather than mercy.” And so he puts on sackcloth and confesses the sins of his people (9:5-6, 9-11, 14 -16); pleas for salvation based solely on God’s righteousness (9:7, 14, 16); and begs for mercy for the sake of God’s own name (9:16-19).
This is a God-glorying, gospel exalting prayer that should serve as an example for us today. I was reminded this morning of my own failure in this area. For months, I have heard the reports of the deadly Ebola epidemic in parts of West African (my homeland). I have listened with a somber heart and whispered passing prayers but have not “put on sackcloth;” I have not mourned for the hundreds dying daily; I have not regarded their suffering as my own; I have not loved my neighbors in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as I ought (Luke 10:25-37).
As I write, some 3,400 persons have died from the outbreak – leaving families in dismay and children orphaned and stigmatized. Worse still, the virus continues to spread uncontained. The CDC estimates 1.4 million Ebola cases by the end of January! They see no end to the outbreak at present.
Where are the prayers of the saints? Where are the God-glorying, gospel exalting petitions to God that confess sins, pleas for salvation based solely on God’s righteousness, and begs for mercy for the sake of God’s own name?
I know that many are indeed praying. So with this post, I take up my own sackcloth and stand to knock on the door of the Judge of all the Earth. My plea is for the deliverance of my neighbors – not based on our goodness but – for the display of His own glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6). Might He be pleased to use these supplications as a means of His salvation in West Africa. May it be!
 Packer, J.I., Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 28.