Today I’d like to talk about God’s concern for those in captivity. On this show we mention and pray for people in many different kinds for dire circumstances. There are people suffering from sex slavery, racial slavery, religious slavery, political slavery (being those captured in war), and personal slavery or bondage to personal struggles such as addictions. All of these people need deliverance, and some are in a situation where the only deliverance can come through some miracle of God. So that begs the question, does God care?
To answer the question, Yes, God cares very much. How do we know this? The scripture offers us several examples that He not only cares, but He acts on His concern. Through these examples a clear pattern can be seen that starts with the power of Prayer. God hears us when we pray. Psalms 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.”
God has provided many examples of captives praying, and Him hearing their pleas. Exodus 3:7 and 9 states, “The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of the slave drivers, and I am concerned about their sufferings… And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.” The LORD heard their cries and responded. Listen to the entire passage with verses 8 and 10, “The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of the slave drivers, and I am concerned about their sufferings. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivities, and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” As Exodus 12 records, the LORD did bring them out of the land of bondage, and out of captivity, but it all started with prayer.
After the people were relased from the bondage of Egypt, they were later pursued by Pharaoh. The Sea on one side of them, death and captivity on the other. It was a terrifying circumstance. There was nothing left, but to call out to God for deliverance. Exodus 14:10-16 explains, “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD…Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” The LORD heard their cries, He responded, not only with words, but with action. We read that the sea split open, the Israelites were able to cross, but when the Egyptians tried, they were swallowed alive by the water. The LORD prevailed. The LORD answered, The LORD delivered, but it started with a prayer.
David was literally between a rock and a hard place. Saul was pursuing him in order to kill him. Psalms 142 is entitled the prayer of David when he was in the cave. The entire psalm is a pouring out to God, begging for his deliverance from captivity. Listen to the words expressed, and imagine David’s circumstances, “I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need, rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. “ It was an earnest prayer, and God heard it. 1 Samuel 23:14b tells us the reassuring act of God, “Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands of his pursuers.” Not only that, but God delivered the pursuers into the hands of the David. God has done and can do amazing things, but they start with prayers.
Esther is another example of the power of prayer. Genocide was about to take place in Persia. Haman, a noble in the court of King Xerxes, had planned to murder the Jewish population. Esther, the queen, who was an unknown Jew, was concerned for her people, and asked them to pray for deliverance and safety. “Go, gather together all of the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” The LORD spared the life of Esther, spared the life of the Jews, and even granted them the “right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies.” (Chapter 8 Verse 11). God heard and answered their prayers in abundance, but it started with prayer.
Daniel was a man of prayer. He lived his life in constant communication with God. Daniel 6:10 explains that, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Even the king, who had condemned Daniel to the lions' den knew of the power of Daniel’s prayers. Verse 16 says, “So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”…Later in Verse 20 the stone was rolled away, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you served continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions, They have not hurt me…” God, He hears our prayers, and he answers them.
Through these examples we know the power of personal prayer, but what of our prayers for the captives? Does God hear out pleas on behave of others in captivity. God’s Word has given us a powerful example of just that. Acts 12 tells of the time Peter had been arrested. He was in prison, with guards on either side of him, and chained. The situation seemed hopeless by any human standard, but according to verse 5, the church came together and prayed for Peter’s behalf, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” It continues to explain that the LORD sent an angel, and He answered their prayers by delivering Peter from his captivity.
Our prayers are heard by God, and they are powerful. That is why we come together as believers and pray for those in captivity. When we pray, we pray earnestly for their comfort, peace and deliverance. Please join us today, as we pray for those in captivity.
Blessed Father, from whom we find all courage and strength and who bestows the miracle of life upon us as we journey through this world and in this world, finding the challenges of this temporal plane are upon us, we come before You humble submission to Your word and Your will, seeking and imploring Your grace for the lives of Your people.
For the four South African hostages held in Baghdad do we pray. Be beside Andre Durant, John Enslin, Callie Scheepers, and Hardus Greef as they struggle against hurt and pain, taken hostage and finding themselves in the grimmest of estates. They struggle for freedom, for an abiding hope amidst their spirits and their souls, longing to return to the places and the people that they love that they might once more breathe the blessed air of liberty, their brutal, bitter captivity put to an end as they are left to live their lives in peace and comfort. Show them Your love and compassion that this dream may once more come to encompass their lives and by Your hand they shall be brought back to those whom they had never believed they would see again as the unrighteous acts of unrighteous men came to encompass their lives and anguish came to encompass their being.
Be beside those whom they love. Show Your love to their wives and their families and shine Your truth in their lives that they know that there is a God who contends with their cause and their plight. Let them have hope as You give them strength, casting Your Holy Spirit upon their lives that they will come to the deeper understanding that You will not fail them or those whom they want, they need to see again. Let them find the truth of Your righteousness as You give them love and show that the same God who has contended with the cause of all captives, even in the most ancient of days, now contends with their cause.
For the crew of the MS Filista do we pray, humbly beseeching You to let freedom once more come into the lives of the crew of this ship. The ransom has been paid and now we wait for them to be released. We pray that they are and that they return once more to their homes, far from the struggles and the pain that now encompass their lives. All that has been asked has been done, now we pray solely for their safe return.
We know not what Your plan is in letting that ransom be paid, but what we know is that You are a God of justice and righteousness. Let that justice then come to bear in the lives of those who take hostages and prisoners, captives and slaves, hijacking ships and ripping people away from their lives and those whom they love. Show them that their ways are not Your ways and that their greed and ambition shall never be rewarded as Your truth comes to bear throughout this world.
Then shall we see the glorious marvels of Your work, giving praise as we worship Your blessed name.
In the name of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You in the Kingdom, one God, world without End, Amen.