“Bible prayers: when people began to call on the name of the Lord”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Ten years ago, back in February of 2013, a woman was praying in her kitchen in Seattle when, all of a sudden, she felt someone standing behind her who reached out and grabbed her hair. At first, she thought it was her husband playing a joke on her, so she just went right on praying. But when the hand wouldn’t let go, she turned around to find a strange man standing in her kitchen. Not knowing what else to do, she screamed, “Lord, help me!” which caused the man to fall over backwards and hit his head on her refrigerator door.
When he got back up again, he took a $20 bill that was lying on her table, then ran out the door, never to be seen or heard from again.
Or think of another woman, Cindy Hartman, a basketball coach at Greenbrier High School in central Arkansas, who suddenly encountered a pistol-toting burglar standing in her home. And just as soon as she saw him, he ripped the phone cord out of the wall, then ordered her to crawl inside a cramped bedroom closet.
So what did she do? She didn’t know what to do, except pray. So she dropped down onto her knees and prayed.
And as she did, she said, “Can I pray for you? Because I want you to know that God loves you and that I forgive you.”
So what did the burglar do? He looked down at the woman, thought for a moment, then he also knelt down beside her, said he was sorry, and asked to use a shirt to wipe off any fingerprints. Then he yelled to a woman waiting outside in a pickup truck: “This is a Christian home and a Christian family. We can’t do this to them!”
Then he took the bullets out of his gun and left the gun lying on the floor.
The amazing power of prayer!
Or how about this--”Dear God, so far today, I’ve done alright. I haven’t gossiped, and I haven’t lost my temper. I haven’t been grumpy, nasty, or selfish, and I’m really glad of that! But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot of help. Thank You!” Amen
If you think about it, the Bible is full of prayer! Abraham prayed for mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaac prayed for his wife Rachel. Jacob prayed for his brother Esau. A king named Hezekiah prayed for healing and for a longer life. And Stephen prayed for his enemies.
And here in the book of Genesis, we find the very first prayer of all.
Is it any surprise? It shouldn’t be. After all, the book of Genesis is a book that’s full of firsts. It’s here that we find the first man and the first woman, the first marriage, the first birth, the first family, the first sin, the first promise, the first worship, the first murder, and the first prayer.
I’ll begin reading at Genesis chapter 4, verse 25: “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.’ To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:25-26).
Let’s step back for a moment to see what’s going on.
As the book of Genesis opens, we read of all that God did in the beginning. In just six days, He created the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars, plants and animals, and fish of every kind. Then on the sixth day, He created man and woman, Adam and Eve, His best and finest work of all.
Then in chapter 3, just as soon as they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin ruined all that was once completely perfect and so very good.
But along with sin and its curse, came a promise. As it says in verse 15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).
And what follows next are the effects and consequences of sin. Not only did Cain kill his brother Abel, but Lamech, Cain’s great-great-great grandson, proudly said: “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23-24).
Then in the face of what must have been immeasurable pain and disappointment, grief and loss, Adam and Eve had the gift of another son. As the Bible said: “Eve bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him’” (Genesis 4:25).
It’s as if Eve said that, with this birth, the birth of Seth, there was a new hope, a new beginning, and a chance to start all over again. Maybe now, finally, life on earth could be good again.
And that’s when we find the words of verse 26: “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26).
Which is strange, if you think about it. I mean, didn’t they call on the name of the Lord before?
Before we try to answer that question, first, let me ask, what does it mean to “call upon the name of the Lord”?
Simply enough, it means to pray to Him, to praise Him, and to worship Him. Think, for example, of the words of Psalm 50: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:14-15).
Or the words of Psalm 91: “When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:15-16).
Or the words of I Corinthians chapter 1: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy saints, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--their Lord and ours” (I Corinthians 1:2).
When we call on the name of the Lord, as Luther wrote in the words of his Small Catechism, we pray to Him, we praise Him, and we give thanks.
So getting back to that first question, didn’t they “call upon the name of the Lord” before?
Apparently not! At least, not so much. Apparently there were many who lived without God in their hearts and on their minds. Instead, they lived their lives one day after another after another, caring little, if anything, for the God who created them and sustained them.
As one commentator wrote, “While the previous verses record the beginning of a degenerate people, people who ‘went away from the presence of the Lord’ (Genesis 4:16), this marks the beginning of the public, regular worship of God by the people of God.” And he wrote, “Within the degenerate society of Cain are a group of godly, faithful people, whose lives are characterized by the worship of the Lord.”
And why did they, all of a sudden, “call upon the name of the Lord”?
The answer’s found in the name of Seth’s son, Adam and Eve’s grandson. It’s the name “Enosh,” a name that meant, “weak, frail, fragile, miserable, mortal man.”
Because the people had become so weak, so frail, and so fragile, as the Bible says, they “began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
And isn’t that just the way it should be?!
Nearly forty years ago(!), back in July of 1987, author and speaker Ken Ham wrote: “Years ago, our society was based on Christian absolutes. People knew what was right and what was wrong. Behaviors such as sexual deviancy, easy divorce, public lawlessness, and abortion on demand were considered to be wrong. Varying punishments for offenders were meted out by society. Value judgments were basically built on biblical principles (for example, the Ten Commandments). Most people accepted or respected a belief in God.”
But not anymore! Today, what many really want is a tolerance of anything in society, except Christianity! So he wrote: “The real war being waged is a great spiritual war. And sadly, many Christians today fail to win the war because they fail to recognize the nature of the battle.”
So what do we need to do? In a world that’s full of Cain’s and Lamech’s and all who live apart from God, just like Adam and Eve, and Seth and Enosh, we need to call on the name of the Lord.
As another author wrote: “The essence of faith is calling out to a God you cannot see, hear, touch or feel. Still we trust that He has saved us, and that His Word is sure. Prayer is talking with God and listening to God. God’s people are a praying people.”
And what is His name? His name is El-Shaddai, God Almighty; El-Olam, the everlasting God; Yahweh-Rapha, the Lord who heals; Yahweh-Shalom, the Lord is peace; and Yahweh-Jireh, the Lord will provide.
And what does He do when we call on His name? As Paul once wrote to the Romans: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Just over a year ago, in June of 2022, contractors working on a church just northwest of Ft. Worth, Texas went out on a lunch break. When they returned, they found the building was engulfed in flames. And though firefighters did all they could to douse the blaze, the church--parts of which were more than a hundred years old--was completely destroyed.
The only things left behind were piles of debris and charred wreckage--and an unexpected miracle.
As smoke was still billowing up from the ruins, firefighters and onlookers were shocked to see something standing tall amongst the rubble--a cross. The church’s pastor, Sonny Smith, said, “I watched the roof go down, and as the smoke began to settle, the Cross stood in the smoke.”
And not just any cross--it was the church’s prayer cross. You see, whenever members’ prayers were answered, they placed those prayers at the foot of that cross.
Later, the pastor’s wife, Lanita Smith, said: “It gave us chills! We knew without a doubt that God is going to walk us through. In good times and the bad, He’s there!”
As John Newton once wrote in the words of his hymn: “Come, my soul, with ev’ry care, Jesus loves to answer prayer; He Himself has bid thee pray, therefore will not turn away.”
We thank You, dear Father, for the power, the privilege, and the opportunity for prayer. Help us to open our mouths and our hearts as we seek to give praise to Your name. This we ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen