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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Earth-shaking Pray-ers

Treasured friend,


If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am several days delinquent in posting this devotional thought. It has been a harrowing 10 days in our household—a blur of ER cubicles, hospital wards, nurses, needles, tests, specialists, frightening words like diabetes and heart failure, and long words like cardioversion and tachycardia. At the moment, we are fully in the caregiving mode, but are seeing good results--from the meds, and more likely, from the prayers of our friends and family who once again are supporting us through these crisis moments.

Perhaps that’s one reason this Scripture passage in the book of Acts struck me in a new way this morning. It’s found in Acts 4. And I don’t think I ever read it quite this way before. The setting is that, in Jesus’ name, Peter and John have delivered God’s miraculous healing to a crippled beggar in the crowded streets of Jerusalem. Throngs of everyday people were in awe, and they praised God. But the religious elite felt their influence slipping away—and they were livid. They dragged the disciples in and rebuked them for preaching in the name of Jesus. (Yes, His name will always be an offense to the enemy—it was in New Testament times, and it is yet today.)

Peter and John responded with the classic line, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

That’s typically where I leave off the reading—and stand in wonder at the wisdom and courage God gives to His faithful followers in a time of great challenge. And it’s true, He does give it in abundance. But that’s not the end of the scene. Just a few moments later, when the rulers can’t decide on a course of action, they release Peter and John.

Where do these godly men turn in this moment? They go back to the gathered believers and report on this frightening turn of events. And that’s where the story picks up energy:

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:24-31 (NIV)

When they were challenged beyond their ability, when they were frightened and maybe even quaking a bit inside, Peter and John didn’t retreat to neutral corners. Not at all. They retreated home—home where the believers were gathered—for encouragement and strength. In the communion of fellow followers of Christ, they found their first and only true refuge.

And what did the believers do? Immediately, they turned to the Father in prayer. Together. With voices “raised.” This wasn’t a timid prayer. An if-You-wanted-to-You-might-want-to-get-involved-here approach to the Holy Throne.

When they heard all about the crisis in their brothers’ lives, they prayed with authority.

God, you have the power. God, you even prepared us with King David’s words about the plots of the rulers against God’s anointed written so many millennia ago. It’s happening here and now. So, we ask You to equip us—and our brothers in Christ. Encourage us. Let us speak boldly. Confirm our words with Your blessing, even Your miracles.
In the solace of the gathered faithful and in the beauty of corporate prayer, God’s Spirit moved with power and answered their prayer by granting all of them boldness of speech they’d never have been able to conjure up on their own.

Which brings me back to the events of the week in our household. When it became apparent we needed to rush Dad to ER, I zapped a really short, crisis email to a caregiver prayer circle to which I belong. I CC’d a few select colleagues. And an inexplicable peace came over me. Sure, I prayed. We three prayed in the car on the way to the hospital. But we needed more. We needed the prayers of the saints joined with us. One friend put us on her church’s prayer chain. Others sent emails throughout the day, just letting us know they were standing with us in prayer.

And God’s hand moved—by giving Dad favor with the triage team (where other times we’ve had to wait hours to be seen by ER doctors, this day we were ushered in and cared for in the blink of an eye), by assigning the right doctors, by giving wisdom to take the right tests and know what to do with the answers. We weren’t delivered from the crisis, but we were given courage, wisdom, boldness and God’s equipping presence through it. I’m quite certain this came as a result of the united prayers of the saints.

Look back at how Luke reports God's response to the united prayers in Acts: the Spirit actually came down and shook the room where the believers were united in intercessory prayer. And He is the same, today. He moves on the scene supernaturally, in response to the prayers of His righteous ones. We saw it firsthand this week.

Where does that leave us as caregivers—as those who may often feel like we’re all alone in the crisis du jour? I think it gives us a powerful reminder of how much we need fellow believers, praying believers, those whose hotline to heaven is open on both ends all day, every day. Let’s be that praying support group for each other—and let’s turn quickly and immediately to that support when we hit our next moment of challenge.

Blessings and prayers for you today, in your moments of special challenge,

Julie



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