Whenever I hear the term “divine intervention,” the image that usually comes to mind is the spectacular “signs and wonders.” That image stems from what I see on television such as the shows that televangelists put on to lure people into giving them money. In fact, as I was exploring the “divine intervention” question, I looked at different sites on the internet that discussed this topic. It’s a big business and sadly it is a lucrative business. There are classes one can take so that they can learn to heal the sick. There are also classes people can take so that they can learn to prophesy. Classes are offered so that we can learn to “tap into God’s power.” So what exactly is divine intervention? Simply put, it is when God intervenes in the affairs of our world and/or our lives. Whenever we pray to God, we are asking Him to divinely intervene.
A miracle is something that only God can perform. It is an event brought about by God and when accompanied with signs and wonders, the purpose is to “authenticate the divine commission of a religious teacher and the truth of his message” (Faucet’s Bible Dictionary) (2 Corinthians 12:12, John 2:18, Matthew 12:38). The purpose of signs and wonders is not to meet our needs though that is a by-product and a blessing of the miracle. When Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, made the blind to see, the purpose was to authenticate to the people that Jesus was who He said He was yet the people who were healed benefited immensely. It was a tremendous blessing to those that were healed.
Throughout the Bible, we find many reasons that God performed miracles (signs and wonders). A few of those reasons are:
1. Were evidences of a divine commission (Mark 16:20);
2. Jesus was expected to perform (John 7:31);
3. Proof that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 2:22); and
4. The Gospel is confirmed (Mark 16:20)
If we understand the purpose of God performing miracles (signs and wonders), Christians should not be asking God to perform these types of miracles as the purpose to authenticate the truth of a message or the messenger is not necessary or valid.
When we think of miracles, we may think miracles are spectacular events that defy natural laws such as raising the dead or healing the sick or parting the sea (Exodus 14:27). However, a miracle is “an event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or simple volition of God” (Baker’s Dictionary of the Bible). In other words, this is a divine intervention because God intervened and caused an event to happen. All prayer that God answers in the affirmative is a divine intervention by the very nature of God intervening. When God causes a change in circumstances, it is a miracle since it is an “event brought about the immediate agency or volition of God.” The fact that God intervenes and causes something to happen is the very definition of a miracle. Miracles with signs and wonders are should not be confused as one and the same. Miracles are not signs and wonders but signs and wonders are miracles.
When we pray, the Bible tells us that if we ask anything according to God’s will, He will hear us. (1 John 5:14). We are praying in Jesus’ name which means we are asking in Jesus’ name (John 14:13). These two principles are extremely important. Jesus is giving us the authority to petition in His name but we must do so according to God’s will. If our petition is not according to His will, He will not answer in the affirmative. We see an example of Paul asking (praying) three times for God to intervene and remove the “thorn from his flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). Paul’s prayer was not according to God’s will for He denied Paul his request. God told Paul that His grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Even Jesus prayed for His Father’s will and not His own (Matthew 26:39).
When we pray, we are asking for divine intervention for we are asking God to intercede. If our prayers are according to His will, He will answer in the affirmative. God does not always answer in the affirmative as we saw in Paul’s case. Paul was left to deal with that “thorn in his flesh” It was not God’s will to remove it.
This post is adapted from an answer written for GotQuestions.org