Does prayer change things? This question has been debated among Christians for centuries. On the one hand, some Christians believe that God is absolutely open to hearing our prayers and being swayed by them. We can change his mind if we pray fervently enough. On the other hand, there are Christians who insist that God has decreed the end from the beginning and that our prayers have no effect in the outcome of events.

I do not wish to wade into this theological debate in this brief devotion. I do wish to point out that Scripture encourages us to bring our requests to God as one who loves to answer the prayers of his people. Amos 7 is a case in point.

This chapter marks the beginning of a new section in the prophecy. The first part of this chapter (vv. 1–9) records a series of visions prophesying Israel’s demise. Amos interceded following the first two visions and God heard his intercession both times, relenting of the punishment prophesied. In the third vision, God instructed Amos not to intercede any longer, for the judgement had been irrevocably decreed.

It cannot be missed that God heard Amos’s intercession. Twice, we read that “the LORD relented concerning” the promised punishment (vv. 3, 6). Prayer worked. We can debate all we want about whether or not God really changed his mind and how that relates to his sovereign decrees and foreknowledge but the text makes it plain: “The LORD relented.” Without getting into the debate over divine sovereignty and human responsibility, I want to briefly consider two lessons we can draw from Amos’s willingness to intercede for his people.

First, Amos’s intercession shows that he believed God answers prayer. God had warned of judgement, but Amos believed that God would hear him and (potentially) relent of the disaster he had promised. The Bible is filled with example of people who prayed and saw God’s answer in ways that altered events. However we think in theological terms, intercessors are people who believe that God delights to answer prayer and so who pray to him believingly.

God, in fact, made specific promises in this regard. In one of Scripture’s more famous verses, he said, “If my people who are called by my name  humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). There, he clearly promised that he would respond to the prayers of his people in a positive way. Faith believes God and therefore intercedes.

Second, Amos’s intercession shows that he cared deeply about the people for whom he prayed. If he did not care, he would not have been moved to prayer. As strong as he was in delivering God’s word of judgement, he was deeply burdened to see the people delivered. He did not want to see the people he loved fall under divine judgement. He realised the dire consequences, for example, of a locust plague on an agrarian people and prayed for God to relent. He understood the devastation that an out-of-control fire could wreak on a farming community and pleaded for grace. His prayer displayed his care.

Jeremiah displayed a similar burden for the people to whom he ministered (Jeremiah 8:21–9:1). Though he was sent to prophesy judgement, he wept at the thought of the very punishment that he promised. Jesus similarly wept at the thought of Jerusalem refusing the grace that he extended to it (Matthew 23:37). Our intercession should be driven by the deep care that we have for the people for whom we pray. Neglect to pray for people says something about our love for them. Commitment to pray for people says the opposite.

As you meditate on Amos 7:1–9 this morning, examine your own heart for intercession. What does your prayer say about your theology? What does it say about your love? Examine these things in light of Scripture and commit to intercede to God for the good of his people.