I wish I’d kept better records of the doctors I’ve seen and the number of tests run on my various physical symptoms. Until the Spring of 1996, I was as healthy as any young mom—a sniffle or flu bug once or twice a year. But when one particular virus lingered long enough to keep me (the associate pastor’s wife) from narrating the Easter Cantata…well, you know I had to be REALLY sick. A month later, when I was still running a low-grade fever, doctors did some blood work. All normal. I should have been happy, right? Praise God, right? Of course, we were happy I didn’t have anything serious, but I was tired of being sick and tired. When more months passed, and my physical symptoms grew in number and in oddity, more tests were performed. Again, all normal. Praise God, right? Grrrrrr. Fine! I was determined to praise God that nothing serious was wrong, but I had to work at it because I still dealt with very real pain and very real questions. I learned a lot about blue-collar praise—working hard to find reasons to praise an all-powerful God. A few years later, when doctors diagnosed three chronic illnesses, a few more adjustments were necessary—physical, emotional, and spiritual. If I was called to live with pain during my life on earth, I needed some promises to hold onto for the journey. This is where white-knuckle prayers became my heartcry. Ministry was not over; it was over as I once knew it. Some days, holding on by my fingertips alone, I reminded God that, “He who began a good work in me would be faithful to complete it.” His Word never lies, and it’s the best foundation for white-knuckle prayers…
Acts 4:23-24 – “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 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.’” (emphasis added)
I sort of expected Peter and John, the pillars of the new church, to return to the people, report that they’d silenced the Sanhedrin with their Holy Ghost-inspired words, and lift their cumulative voices in PRAISE. Instead, they went back and reported what the Sanhedrin said (threats and warnings) and joined their voices in PRAYER. However, before they got into the meat of their prayer, they did a bit of “blue-collar” praise. Do you recognize it? God as Creator. It’s the perfect, never-fail praise. Anytime we’re too worked up by current circumstances to see beyond them, the BIGNESS of God’s creation always puts life in perspective!
Acts 4:25-30 – “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.” (emphasis added)
As soon as Peter and John finished their report, the whole group went to prayer. No strategic planning. No task force assigned. Simply prayer focused on applying God’s Word to their current circumstance using a few important safeguards. First, they prayed as a group, aloud, and for the two elements they had just witnessed Peter and John use for God’s glory. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they understood a passage from their Scriptures (our Old Testament) as it was fulfilled through Christ (our New Testament) in a way that it affected their specific life situation. God’s Word and His Holy Spirit have the same power to speak to His people today. Our white-knuckle prayers hold-on-tight to those Scripture promises that we know in our “knowers” pertain to our particular circumstance (like “…He who began a good work in you…” (Phil. 1:6) that I prayed after my chronic diagnoses). It doesn’t matter that the words we hold onto were written by King David 3,000 years ago or Luke 2,000 years ago—because they are life and health and peace for us today.
Acts 4:31 – “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.” (emphasis added)
God responds to prayer!! I know folks say we can’t expect to FEEL God all the time, but I’m here to tell you—we gotta feel God sometimes! I’m a firm believer that if you get stubborn with the Lord, He’ll bless you with His manifest presence. Now, you have to be ready for whatever He gives you (Jacob got a wrenched hip and a lifelong limp! Gen. 32), but I’m convinced that when we spend consistent, meaningful time in the presence of God—we will feel His presence and learn to hear His voice. And notice that the believers’ prayer for boldness was answered…meaning they must have gone right back out in the streets and started talking again—against the Sanhedrin’s warnings. That blue-collar praise and white-knuckle prayer turned into red-hot faith! Oh, that it would be so with believers today!
- Lord, give me the tenacity to praise You when I’d rather cry, and teach me new words and reasons for praise. Help me hold onto Your promises when I feel all is lost, and show me passages in Your Word that apply to my personal circumstances. Above all, Heavenly Father, I want You to shake me up! I want to know the personal presence of my personal God, and I ask that You help me to grow in boldness—in our relationship and in my ability to talk to others about that relationship.