I want to start by apologising to my fellow Malaysians. I won’t be voting on May 9th. I will be on a flight to Vancouver where I have ministry commitments. These are commitments made long ago. I was hoping the elections would be this weekend but it was not to be. Those who know me will know how frustrated I am. I like to believe that people who love Malaysia are also people who keep their word. But God gave me another avenue to participate in the coming elections. He allowed me to join with my Malaysian brothers and sisters to intercede for the coming elections and for the nation. Last night, there was a combined prayer meeting for the coming General Elections held in Excel Point Community Church. (I am back in Penang for a few days to be with mum.) I can’t vote but I prayed and will continue to pray. Maybe the Lord is reminding an activist like me of the critical importance of prayer.

Followers of Jesus have been exhorted to and are praying for the coming general elections. But does prayer work? A friend said he was wondering about the efficacy of prayer especially for matters like elections. He had prayed fervently in previous elections but nothing seemed to change. Some may want to challenge that, believing change is happening, though maybe not on a scale or in the manner that some people expect. Still, the question is a valid one. Does anything happen when we pray, especially for things like elections? I find my answers in the book of Daniel, two passages in particular.

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill—while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. (Daniel 9: 20–23a NIV)

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.” (Daniel 10:12–14 NIV)

In both the above passages, we learn that when Daniel prayed, God heard him. In the first passage, Daniel received a response to his prayer straight away. In the second, he received a response to his prayer sometime later. The agent of God’s response was resisted by the Prince of the Persian kingdom for 21 days. I presume this was a battle in the heavenlies between spiritual combatants. And since I believe in the sovereignty of God, I believe that the Lord allowed the delay. But what we learn from the above two passages is this: When we pray, the Lord hears and responds. Sometimes we see the result of our prayers almost immediately. Sometimes when we pray, the answers come much later. So it seems like nothing happened. The truth is God hears our prayers but our Sovereign Lord answers in His time and in His way.

So yes, we should pray for the Lord to work in the coming elections—that we will have leaders of integrity who truly love the nation. And we can pray in full confidence that the Lord hears our prayers and will respond. But we also need a robust faith that trusts that He will know what to do and when.