It's an undeniable fact that we are living in desperate times. Almost anywhere you look on the planet these days things are happening that are shaking people to their core. In response, many people are doing things that they might not normally do in order to survive. The old idiom,"desperate times call for desperate measures," certainly seems to apply to the time in which we are living.
Witness the unprecedented migration of immigrants streaming across borders and continents looking for safety from wars and persecution. Less well publicized, but very much related, is an increase in the numbers of people who are turning to prayer as a result of all that's happening in the world around them. Although actual statistics are few, intuitively it seems more people, even some who don't normally pray, are in fact praying, albeit hasty prayers of desperation.
When confronted with a sudden, overwhelming life situation, saints as well as sinners have resorted to prayer, if only as a last resort and only option. Ted Bundy, who was convicted of the serial murders of several women, spent his last night on Death Row weeping and praying. More recently, victims of the terror attacks that shook Pakistan, Brussels, Paris, Egypt and California were heard uttering cries for God's help as they lay wounded and dying. Prayer is not just for the religious. Turning to God, in desperate times when faced with imminent danger or certain death, is an instinctively human response.
God doesn't cover his ears or refuse to hear the prayers of those who only pray when they're in trouble. Quite the opposite. The bible tells us that God responds even more quickly to the desperate prayers of someone who's come to the end of his rope. To him or her, God says—
...And call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.—Psalm 50:15
The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.—Psalm 34:18 GNT
Think of those words as an invitation. Several scriptural passages speak of God's willingness to come to the aid of humankind. Proof of this can be seen in the lives of David, King Hezekiah and the thief. David prayed as he ran for his life from King Saul who was trying to kill him. After God rescued him, David wrote down these thoughts—
In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.—Psalm 18:6 KJV
King Hezekiah was dying from an incurable illness and prayed to God to spare his life. And God answered—
I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. See, I will add fifteen years to your life.—Isaiah 38:5
Both David and King Hezekiah were believers. Some have questioned whether God hears the prayers of an unbeliever. This next example should prove that he does. Known only as "the thief on the Cross," this man was one of two thieves crucified on the Cross with Christ. As he was dying, this sinner, recognized Christ's' deity, and called out to Jesus to spare his soul in the life to come. And Jesus granted his last request saying to him—
I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.—Luke 23:43
The desperate prayers in the bible serve as models for our prayers today. Christians, who truly serve God, can expect certain guarantees when they pray; however, this does not mean that access to prayer is exclusively theirs. To the contrary, prayer is available and accessible to anyone who desperately needs and wants God's help. This should encourage anybody who thinks he's not good enough, deserving enough or articulate enough to pray—to pray anyway. God is listening.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.—Psalm 91:15-16