READINGS: I KINGS 14, 15; ACTS 12
“Then the angel said to him, ‘put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,’ the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision…Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord dent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches’.”
Persecution inJerusalemhad risen to a fever pitch. Already, Herod had ordered the death of James with the edge of the sword. Now Peter has been incarcerated awaiting his own sure death at the hand of Herod.
I love verse five of the twelfth chapter of Acts. “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” I earnestly want to believe that the best answer for existing crises in any church is to know that the church is praying.
“A praying church pitted against a looming crisis.” The easy half of this couplet for me would be to launch into a discussion of prayer. We all pray. But, we don’t always see the miracle. This begs the question, are we seeing God accomplish what wants to accomplish among us?
This past week our prayers have been directed to the families who have been touched by the forest fires in Colorado as well as the continued drought here in southern Illinois. While we are praying, the fires continue to rage . And this week farmers will be cutting down their fields of corn as they continue to pray for rain before they also lose their bean crops.
Forty years of ministry has stood me beside many grieving people who prayed diligently for their loved one and yet often death occurred. Death came recently to a very special niece in the face of an urgently praying church. Personally, I believe that I am a live today, thanks to the miracle of praying people. My medical records would buttress that statement. At the same time, my interest in the miraculous far exceeds my experience with obvious miracles.
As I view the scriptures, it becomes apparent to me that Jesus’ purpose in performing miracles was to bring glory to God; a purpose that far exceeds merely making people feel better.
A most fascinating article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Christianity Today. Under the title, “Miracles inMozambique” is the story of Heidi Baker. The author writes, “There are credible reports that Heidi Baker heals the deaf and raises the dead. One thing is for sure: She loves the poor like no other in this forgotten corner of the planet.” This credible article reports that all of the deaf people that Heidi prays for are restored.
It has been my experience that most of the miracles I have read about, such as healing the blind and raising the dead, happen somewhere on the other side of the world.
So why does Heidi Baker see so much in the way of obvious miracles, and comparatively we see fewer. Could it be true that we in the Western world don’t need God as much as we think we do. The biopsy comes back negative and our first response is to find medical assistance. We are blessed, or cursed, to live in a relatively opulent society. The fires rage and firefighters are sent from all parts of the country. But crops? Some irrigate, but most will be collecting insurance taken out–just in case.
Peter’s release from prison was indeed a notable miracle. But even those who were praying were surprised at the miracle. Upon his release he returned to the church prayer meeting at Mary’s house. He knocked on the door. The young woman who answered recognized his voice and reported his arrival to the rest of the group. The response is a bit comforting and a bit humorous. “You’re out of your mind.” They couldn’t believe that God was answering their prayer.
This discussion turns my heart inward. Is my level of faith what it needs to be? I am caused to look at the plight of my own church. We clearly need God’s closeness as we move toward securing a new pastor. Our farmers need rain. People need healing. Marriages need restored. Prayers needs to be heard from our prayer room.
For when God’s people pray, the miraculous will happen.