God does what He promises. Seemingly big or seemingly small, they are all the same to Him.
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:1–2, emphasis added).
God had given the Israelites a promise regarding a remnant returning to the promised land (Jeremiah 29:10), and He fulfilled it through Cyrus, the ruler of the largest empire known to man until his time, just like He said He would.
Cyrus obeyed God. He allowed the captives to go back to the promised land, provided for the house of God to be built where it was supposed to be built, and returned the articles for the service of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple of the Lord God and placed in the temple of his god.
If God kept His promise to an entire nation, and He did, He can and will keep His promises to us.
But just what does everyone mean when someone says they have a promise from God? What counts as a promise? How do we receive a promise? How do we know it didn’t just come from our imaginations or intense longings for a promise? How do we know they came from God?
Some people have questioned me about promises from God, and I think many other people are wondering the same things, so I will try to answer these questions.
What is a Promise from God?
Although a promise from God can pertain to anything He wants, to someone who loves and prays for a prodigal, a promise is anything that reveals God’s plan for your prodigal’s life. Daniel 2:22 says, “He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.”
These promises usually take one of two forms:
- Straight from God’s Word.
- A personal promise just for you regarding your prodigal spoken into your spirit by the Holy Spirit.
Also, when the Holy Spirit tells us what to pray for our prodigals, it contains a promise. We’ve just been given insight into the heart and mind and plans of God for our prodigals. Those targets are areas in which He is ready to work in their lives. It is our job to receive that promise and pray it in.
How Do We Receive a Promise from God?
Jesus explained it. He said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). That describes it perfectly: the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, and He will tell us things to come. And, all of this is available now, because the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost and is still with us.
The way promises come most often is through a verse or passage of Scripture, and we know God’s Word is always true when taken within its context—the surrounding verses and the circumstances at the time the verse was written.
The most obvious way to receive a promise from God is to prayerfully stay in God’s Word. Read His Word every day, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you to the passage He knows you need to read for that day, to reveal anything you need to know from His Word, to reveal truth to you when the passage doesn’t make sense, to explain how passages pertain to your life or the life of your prodigal, or to show you why God included that passage in His Word.
Sometimes a verse will seem to leap off the page to grab our attention, but many times the Lord causes us to pay attention to a promise in His Word by inserting it into our lives numerous times in several ways from different sources in a short period of time. I call this, “coming across my desk.” Now, if it happens twice, I pay attention, but when the passage comes to me more than twice, I get excited, because I know I didn’t orchestrate it—only God could—and I know He wants me to pay attention and to know something good.
There are other times the Holy Spirit speaks straight to you, almost apart from the Word of God—I said almost, because a promise from God will never be truly separate from the Bible, since it will always agree with the Bible—something you never would have thought of on your own. In fact, it can truly take you by surprise. You may not even be on your knees when your personal promise comes, and that can seem even more convincing in the status as a true promise from God. I once received one such promise walking through my kitchen, and once while worshiping in church. Another time I was praying the daily prayer starter from Fighting for Your Prodigal through Prayer, and the Holy Ghost told me it is done! Done! He said the same thing for the next eleven days. Each day when I prayed that day’s prayer starter, the Spirt would say, “Done”—twelve days of prayers that the Spirit told me were already answered. I still don’t see it with my natural eyes, but I believe Him. I know those particular prayers have been answered in a real way, and I will see it physically.
As I mentioned before, another way to receive a promise from God is to ask the Holy Spirit what connections He wants built between heaven and your prodigal. There is a promise in His reply.
To hear promises, we practice listening to the Lord. We pray until we receive a promise, a very distinct promise onto which we can hold and trust when times are rocky. We literally pray until we receive our promise. When you know the promise is for you and that it came directly from God, you can rest, and you will know. He will make sure of it.
Tomorrow I will share a time when the Lord showed me a promise from a passage of Scripture not normally considered to contain promises, and we will look at how we can know a promise from God is not just our imagination.