From now until the end of the month we will be re-releasing highlights from our Wake-Up Call Acts journey together. Join us on December 1 when we begin our new series celebrating Advent—Protagonist by brothers Matt and Josh LeRoy.
PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 12:16–19a (NIV)
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him,
Today we continue our foray into the comprehensive yet confounding mysteries of prayer and intercession.
James dies by Herod’s sword. Peter is delivered by the saints’ prayers. Something tells me no matter how many times they celebrate Peter’s deliverance, they will have a very hard time getting over James’s death.
Three things we want to avoid when our prayers aren’t answered according to our expectations:
- We don’t blame God.
- We don’t blame the effectiveness of our prayers.
- We don’t blame the efficacy of the faith of those for whom we are praying.
So what do we do? We blame the battlefield. We blame the fog of war. We blame the chaotic, broken, fallen order of the corrupted creation. And we keep praying, pressing on with an ever-clarified understanding of our challenging reality on this side of the new creation. Here’s the bottom line for those who persist in prayer:
- We will win many battles.
- We will lose some very difficult battles and suffer devastating losses.
- We will most often be left to wonder why some of our prayers are answered according to our expectations and others are not.
I find it interesting how our apostolic storyteller, Dr. Luke, tells two Jesus stories in his Gospel account no other Gospel author includes. These two stories are respectively known as, “The Friend at Midnight,” and “The Widow and the Unjust Judge.” Both are stories of the need to persevere in prayer.
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. (Luke 11:5–8)
My take: A lot of times when you are praying into a desperate situation it is going to feel like no one is home and no one cares. That is not true. Your feelings will deceive you. Your faith must lead you. Desperation keeps asking. Determination keeps seeking. Dogged audacity keeps knocking. God has created a realm for divine-human collaboration. It is called, “Prayer and Faith.” On the one hand, prayer is so simple a child can grasp it. On the other hand, prayer is so complex and sophisticated a seasoned saint can’t fully comprehend it. Maybe this is why it takes two hands and why we often fold our two hands together when we pray.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” (Luke 18:1–5)
My take: Jesus draws stark contrast here as though to say, “God is nothing like that judge and you are nothing like that widow. God is the judge all right, but he’s your good Father. You are not a helpless widow but an empowered beloved son or daughter with full standing and profound authority. Still, in difficult seasons it will feel like God doesn’t care and you have no power. Don’t trust that feeling. Lean into faith. Wake up. Rise up. Kneel down. Never give up. Never give in. Never give way.”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6–8)
Did you catch the three-word call to action in these last verses?
. . . day and night
It’s one of the lesser-emphasized things I love about this story. All of it happened in the middle of the night. Peter was awakened from a deep sleep by the angel. But guess who wasn’t sleeping? The church. “Many people,” the Scripture tells us, had gathered at the home of Mary (mother of John) to set up shop as a house of prayer for Peter. As they incessantly knocked on the doors of Heaven the doors of the prison sprung open, and deep in the darkness of the midnight hour, guess who showed up knocking on their door?
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
Come, Holy Spirit, transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
How do these two Jesus stories from Dr. Luke—the friend at midnight and the widow and the unjust judge—encourage your heart, strengthen your mind, and embolden your faith when it comes to prayer, the battlefield, and the comprehensive, confounding mystery of it all? Journal that out today.
Today we will sing, “For All the Saints.” It is hymn 480 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt
P. S. Would You Share a Word Back?
Please take two minutes to give us some feedback on the recent Wake-Up Call series. I would greatly appreciate it. LINK HERE.