By Pastor I.O.Odewale

‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ – Jn.8:32.

Topic: Does prayer on the hill or on the plain make any difference?
Texts: 1 Kings 20:23-30; Jn.4:19-24.

There was war between Syria and Samaria in which the king of Syria gathered a large army through which he hoped to defeat the small army of Israel. But on the day of the battle his proud army was completely routed by Israel. The Syrians then said that the God of Israel was the God of the hills and not the God of the valleys and that was why they were defeated. Then they planned another attack in a valley thinking that they would defeat Israel this time around. But the Lord said to the king of Israel, ”Because the Syrians have said, ‘The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys, therefore, I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord’” (1 Kgs.20:28)  Israel again defeated them hands down.

The almighty God, who fills heaven and earth, cannot be limited. He is God omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The Syrians insulted God by limiting Him to the hills. Even today many of us limit God to the hills or to a particular local church when He says I am the God who fills heaven and earth (Jer.23:24). The whole earth belongs to Him and His presence is everywhere (Ps.24:1; 139:7-12).
The Patriarch Abraham knew this. In his journeys through the desert to the place where God was going to give him, at every place where God appeared to him or where he pitched his camp, he erected an altar to the Lord and worshipped Him there (Gen.12:6-8). He did not have to look for a mountain to meet with God and worship Him there.

Moses was called by God to meet Him on Mount Sinai where He gave Him the Ten Commandments but the Children of Israel were not allowed to come near the mountain so that they would not die (Ex.19:20, 23). Yet they saw the glory of God and had a mountain-top experience with Him (Ex.19:16-19). Thus, we can have a mountain-top experience with God any place we choose or consecrate to meet with the Lord.

We read that Jesus often went to a solitary place to commune with His Father in order to be alone with Him. The place He often chose for such communion was the desert or on a mountain or in a garden-park. When we realise that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, was often trailed by a great multitude who wanted to listen to His teaching or receive healing from Him and when we know that Jesus would not send away anyone who came to Him without attending to their problems, we can appreciate the pressure on Him and His time and why He often moved to lonely places to meet with His Father. These meetings often took place early in the morning before day-break or late in the evening after sun-set. These were the times when He could be free from pressure from the crowd.

Today, many churches organise camp-meetings, weekend retreats and ocean-liner cruises for prayer-meetings and evangelism. But added to these is the practice of organising special prayers on mountains and hills by certain Christian sects. These sects believe that certain prayers need to be said in these places before God could answer them. This belief has affected the prayer life of many Christians that they can no longer tarry in prayer by themselves or wait patiently for God to answer their prayers. This is a worrying trend that needs to be addressed through an in-depth teaching of the word of God. Jesus said, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’.
We need to understand that we have a God who answers prayer (Ps.65:2) and the scripture cannot be broken (Jn.10:35).

Jesus told us in His word, ‘For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, be removed and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says. Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them’ (Mk.11:22-24).
These statements raise two important issues. The first is that we can pray to God on our own without depending on anyone else to pray for us. Secondly, that we need faith to ask and receive from God.

The reasons we may not receive an answer to our prayers are mentioned in the bible:
1. If we have any doubt in our heart (Mk.11:23; Jas.1:6)
2. If there is sin in our heart (Ps.66:18)
3. If we don’t abide in Christ and His word does not abide in us (Jn.15:7)
4. If we do not ask according to His will (1 Jn.5:14-15)
5. If we don’t keep His commandments and do things that are pleasing in His sight (1 Jn.3:22).
Except for the above reasons, God is always ready to answer our prayers when we pray in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. However, we must know that God cannot be pressurised to answer our prayers by our whim or caprice (Isa.55:8-9). He does His own thing at His own time; when it will give us maximum satisfaction and when His name will be glorified.

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us to be importunate in prayer (Lk.11:9-10; 18:1-7). He told us: ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.’  We are not told how many times we should ask or knock, or how long we should seek before we find. Importunity in prayer is not a sin and neither is it a sign of faithlessness. Rather it is a sign of great faith in God and of absolute trust in His mercy and grace.

There is nothing wrong in choosing or consecrating a particular place as a place of prayer or a place of meeting with God. But what is unacceptable is to limit the power of God to answer prayer to a particular place. This is not scriptural.
God is not limited by space or distance. He will always hear the prayer of a contrite and broken heart wherever he calls upon His name.

We should not idolize a particular place as the only place where God will answer our prayers like the pagans who choose certain groves, shady trees, hills and mountains as the only places where they could meet or pray to their gods. These were ‘high places’ referred to in the bible which some reformers like Kings Hezekiah and Josiah ordered to be removed, and made the temple in Jerusalem the right place to worship Jehovah (2Kgs.18:4,22; 2Ch31:1; 2Ch.34:3). We should not encourage the return of the ‘high-places’ in our own time.

When the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well asked Him the right place to worship, whether on the mountain where they worshipped in Samaria or at the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus told her, ‘the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’ (Jn.4:22-24). Wherever the Lord puts His name is a hallowed ground. If those who choose to pray for people on mountains and hills are true worshippers who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, then, they constitute no danger to the body of Christ. But we have to be discerning in accepting any religious innovation.

The tradition of the early church as found in the Acts of the Apostles should be our model in this generation. The early Apostles promised to give themselves ‘continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word’ (Acts 6:4) but there is no mention that any of their prayer sessions took place on any ‘sacred hill or mountain’. The bible recorded: ‘So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house….praising God and having favour with all the people’ (Acts 2:46). ‘And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch’ (Acts 5:22). The apostles did their works mostly in the temple or in Jewish synagogues.

There is nothing special about praying on the mountains and hills. God will always answer your prayers if you have faith in Him. Have faith in God. Prophet Jeremiah wrote: ‘Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains; truly, in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel’ (Jer.3:23).

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