46“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; 47and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; 48and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; 49then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. 50And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; 51for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.
1 Kings 8:46-51

This comes near the end of Solomon’s prayer during the dedication of the temple he built for the Lord. What struck me was Solomon’s prayer for the Israelites when they are taken captive. “Wow!” I thought. “He is praying into the Babylonian captivity almost 400 years before it happened.” OK. I confess. I didn’t really think that. I had to look up the number of years. But I was pretty sure it was a long time. And my thought was still “Wow!” Do you get what’s happening? Solomon is praying for the Israelites who will live almost 400 years in the future! (His future, of course.)

I am continually challenged that my prayer life is nothing compared to the prayers in the Bible. First, the things I pray for on a regular basis don’t begin to compare to the things the Apostle Paul prayed for. Well, they’re beginning to compare, but I’m in kindergarten (maybe first grade) when it comes to praying Paul’s prayers.

Then along comes Solomon. (Yes, we’re taking these out of order. Solomon really did come before Paul. It’s just that Paul’s prayers had more impact on me before Solomon’s.) Solomon doesn’t limit his prayers to the people standing before him during the temple dedication, or even to their children. He prays into the future, asking for God to forgive generations to come when they repent and turn to Him “with all their heart and soul.” Because I’ve read the rest of the book, I know that God answered that prayer. When the Israelites turned to God from Babylon, He caused their conquerors to show them mercy.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have children that I don’t think about (and pray for) generations to come. Phil and I chose not to have children – parenthood was never anything either of us ever looked forward to or dreamed about. Now, thirty years after the decisions to remain childless were made and well “beyond the manner of women” (as they say), perhaps the only thing I miss about not having children is praying over them and over their future – of placing my hands on their heads and speaking words of Life into their spirit as I bless them in the name of our gracious and precious Savior. I suspect, though, that even if I did have kids, my prayers wouldn’t extend to their children’s children’s children, much less six or seven generations into the future. When I pray for my community or our country, I pray for God to move now, not four hundred years from now.

We have such power to influence the course of history with our prayer life and few of us take advantage of that awesome opportunity. I have absolutely no doubt that God answers prayers in the immediate. I have absolutely no doubt that God answers prayers in the not-quite-immediate. He’s done that for me many, many, many times. Wouldn’t an eternal God also answer our prayers for generations to come? The evidence of Scripture is that He does.

Back to the issue of not having children – without children, it’s easy for me to wonder what my “legacy” will be. There will be no Sandy DNA impacting the world after I die. But there can be much Sandy Spiritual DNA impacting the world for many generations to come. And that’s something I can get pretty excited about. Especially since it doesn’t require changing dirty diapers for a couple of years and reminding someone to brush their teeth and wash their hands three times a day for a couple of decades.

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