Monday, October 4, 2010

Prayer That Rescues

“On him we have set our hope that he will continue to rescue us
as you help us by your prayers.” 2 Cor. 1:10-11

Rescue: v. To save somebody or something from a dangerous or harmful situation; to prevent something from being discarded, rejected, or put out of operation.

Most of us don’t live everyday life thinking we are in need of rescue. We tend to reserve that word for firefighters who knock down the doors of a burning building to save someone on the second floor or for daring helicopter operators who pull stranded motorists from vehicles caught in a raging flood. The word “rescue” conjures up images of life and death situations. But, I submit to you that we are, in fact, in need of rescue more often than we think. Whether we recognize it or not, our joy, our peace, our effectiveness for Christ, and our very lives hang in the balance.

As Christians, we are engaged in a monstrous spiritual battle. As hard as we may try to maintain the illusion that we live in a “basically good” world, everywhere we look there is evidence that we live under the curse. On Thursday, the national news reported that a troubled college student committed suicide when two classmates secretly videoed him having a homosexual encounter and then posted it on the internet. I am grieved to the core of my being as I consider the many layers of pain in this story. It illustrates the worst of the devastation of the fall. Those kids--all of them--needed rescue.

We need not look to the news to be reminded of the spiritual battle all around us. In our own social circles, marriages are caving in, people are battling depression, adults are trying to heal from their dysfunctional childhoods and not mess up their own children in the process. In our homes, we may be fighting against discontent, strife, or disappointment. We may be grieving. If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that all of us, at one time or another, need rescue from something. In truth, our own resources fall far short of our need and the needs of those around us.

What will we do when our friends reach out to us in a time of desperation? What will we do when we have exhausted all of our strength and face an enormous challenge? What will we do when we need rescue? I hope we will learn to pray. I am perplexed as to why God has created prayer as a means to move his hand. After all, he is mighty and sovereign, the one who brought everything into existence with his very words. How could my words have the power to rescue someone from danger? I don’t know, but they do. James 5:16 says, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” (The Message) What a thought! My prayers are a powerful force to be reckoned with. I like that.

I’d have trouble believing this Scripture, but I’ve seen it in action. When we first lost Audrey, one of my friends prayed specifically for sleep. I don’t know why. She just said she felt called to pray for sleep. And, truthfully, with the exception of that first night, I have slept peacefully every night since. I actually had more of a sleeping problem before my daughter died than after. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so.

Another friend called and told me that she was praying for joy. She has continued to remind me at each of our meetings since (for three years now) that she is still praying for joy. I’m not always joyful, but I have had a lot of joy in the midst of some pretty terrible circumstances, and I think that is a miracle and a direct result of prayer.

And, ironically (but not accidentally), many people told us they were praying for our marriage following Audrey’s death. They all knew that the death of a child often ruined marriages. Pridefully, I thought we didn’t need that. I couldn’t see how our strong marriage and love for each other could possibly be threatened by Audrey’s death. But, what I didn’t know was that there were other issues lurking in the dark at the time. God was not surprised. He knew. And, he was already calling people to pray for our marriage. By the time the infidelity came out a year later, I believe we had been bathed in so much prayer, we could not be destroyed, even though, by the world’s standards, we should have been. We were literally rescued by prayer.

In her book, Get Out of That Pit, Beth Moore says, “We have a God-given invitation—if not responsibility—to join the process of someone’s divine deliverance from peril or pit.” Many of our friends and even strangers have responded in obedience to the call to pray, and we have been the beneficiaries. Because of these faithful people, when the pit beckoned us, we were not pulled in.

God gives us a great illustration of the direct correlation between prayer and rescue in Acts 12: “So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church. On the night before Herod was to bring him out for execution, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, while the sentries in front of the door guarded the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell. Striking Peter on the side, he woke him up and said, “Quick, get up!” Then the chains fell off his wrists.”(Acts 12:5-7)

Studying Peter’s miraculous, narrow escape from execution lends insight into how we are to respond to the needs all around us. Prayer was being made “earnestly” for Peter. This implies intensity and persistence. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray for “our” daily bread. He shows us to pray for our own needs and to intercede for others. The word “daily” implies that we cannot stop at one prayer! We must take our needs to God day after day until he answers! Like manna in the desert was good for one day, our prayers must be offered fresh to sustain us each day. The church (implying the body of believers, not just one person) prayed like this for Peter.

The prayers for Peter were timely. Peter was in grave danger. It was the night before Herod was to execute him. The church’s prayers literally rescued Peter from death! I also believe prayer can rescue people from being one of the living dead—Satan’s plan to render us impotent while we still exist, to stagnate us in our sin or our pain. We must be sensitive to God’s timing as we pray. Sometimes, we must drop to our knees immediately when we learn of a need. We never know why the Spirit is motivating us to pray. Time may be of the essence!

In Peter’s situation, the church prayed, but God did the rescuing! Don’t you just love that? You see, the church didn’t run down and try to break Peter out of jail. They didn’t petition Herod to let him go. They knew when they had reached the end of themselves and only God’s power was enough. When God himself intervened, Peter’s prison cell was flooded with light. Where there was night, hopelessness, and little time left before demise, the Lord brought light, hope, and life. When Peter’s chains fell off, it was a miracle. No human being could have caused that to occur. It was a supernatural act of a sovereign, almighty God, seemingly in direct response to the prayers of his people.

I love that Scripture teaches us that nearly 2000 years later, God still responds mightily to the earnest and timely prayers of his people. But, only He brings the light of life into our own dark places and still performs miracles when they are necessary. When we need rescue, we need none other than the one true God.

Do you need rescue today? Is there someone you know who does? Stand on the promises of Scripture, and participate in the divine miracle of deliverance through prayer. Pray earnestly, pray right away, and pray as often as you can! Then watch what the Almighty can do. I think you’ll be amazed.

And, my friends out there—you know who you are—be on the lookout for God’s rescue. I’m praying for it. I’m trusting Him for it. I’m counting on it!

1 comment:

Mimi said...

Big Big prayers...expecting to see God's Awesome Power!