The Prayer Perspective

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"Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." Acts 4:29

The first Christians faced great opposition, but they were able to persevere with courage born of prayer. Because prayer helped them see their circumstances from God's perspective. In Acts 4, the author Luke tells us that Peter and John were arrested and in jail. Following a fearful night in prison, the guards released the disciples with a warning: "Don't speak publicly about Jesus anymore." Peter and John's grateful friends gathered to pray. But what did they pray? No doubt some thanked God for sparing Peter and John, and for bringing them safely home. But in verses 24-28, Luke records surprising words that affirmed God's control over all earthly powers, including the religious leaders of Israel and even imperial Rome. "You're in charge, Lord, we trust you!"

The movie "Hoosiers" is the story of a 1950s small town Indiana high school basketball team. The team's seven players pull together, overcome adversity, and win the state championship against a Goliath opponent. Before a championship game in Indianapolis, the players and coaches walk into the cavernous field house arena. Reading intimidation and fear on his players' faces, the coach breaks out a tape measure. He tells the players to measure the hoop height, lane length, and so on. "I think you'll find, gentlemen," he says, "that it's the same dimensions of our gym back in Hickory." Like those players, difficult people or problems may seem insurmountable. The One who leads us sees things differently. Prayer connects us to His perspective.

God also nourishes our courage with the power of His presence. Peter and John's fellow disciples were relieved to have them back safe and sound. By then, some in the group may have wanted to play it safe. "We dodged that bullet," I imagine them saying. "Let's keep our heads down and avoid attracting attention." But the disciples prayed just the opposite. "Let us speak your word so boldly that they can't possibly miss us!" They weren't crazy; they just had the confidence and courage of a personal experience of God's presence. And God answered their prayer with a dramatic reminder of His power: "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 4:31)

Gathering and worship at the Lord's table also regularly connects us to the strength that renews and restores our courage. As our bodies need physical nourishment, our souls need spiritual food. And who better to remind us of that than Popeye the Sailorman? I love Popeye cartoons because he's always facing Brutus and Bluto, who are much bigger than he is. Remember what Popeye says? "The bigger they are the easier they fall." Everybody knows spinach is the secret of Popeye's strength. "I'm strong to the finish 'cause I eats me spinach." No matter what danger Popeye faces, just in the nick of time, a can of spinach appears; and he saves the day.

The body of Christ broken for us and the blood of Christ shed for us is our spinach. Like Popeye, we can be "strong to the finish when we eats our spinach," strong enough to face our obstacles and opposition with His perspective and the courage it gives us.
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