(This picture appeared on Melinda Doolittle’s Facebook page)
This picture haunts me. Twenty-one men kneeling in a line. Waiting. My mind can’t help wondering what they are thinking as they kneel on the hard earth, waiting for the slice of a knife to end their lives.
Their faces are stoic. They look serious, but not scared or terrified.
I look at pictures like this. I read stories like the one about the girls in Nigeria – 200+ – that were stolen in the night and still have not been returned to their families, and I am tempted to feel helpless. To feel overwhelmed by the nightly news.
I was getting ready to start a series on taming the tongue – goodness knows that’s a lesson I need to learn! 🙂 But this picture, recent events – I had to share what God placed on my heart. Not because what I say is all that important, but because sometimes I forget the power I have residing IN me and I bet you do too.
See, I’m not helpless, and neither are you and neither were these men, martyred for their faith. in fact, all 21 of these men are now in presence of their Savior right now, not victims but overcomers.
But for those of us left with this last earthly image of them, it is easy to let the horror overwhelm you, to feel like there is nothing you can do but watch, powerless, as these events unfold.
We are NOT powerless though – far from it!
In 2 Timothy 3:4b-5a, it says, “Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (emphasis mine)
When did Christians get to the point where they felt helpless?
When did Christians forget that “greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world”?
When did we forget that we can influence the hearts, minds and actions of people around the world?
When did Christians become wimpy – or at least the ones in the U.S. anyway?
I can tell you when – when we started viewing prayer as a last resort and a long shot one at that. When we started letting busyness rule our lives and crowd out time for prayer. When we started viewing prayer as a weak alternative to action. How many times have I said or you said, “Well, all we can do now is pray”?
Recently, God has been opening my eyes to the immense power that is in prayer. I mean, I believed prayer was important. I had seen its power in my own life, but I never thought of it as influencing events across the globe. For those things, I felt helpless and powerless – not a great feeling.
I have been reading a book called The Hour that Changes the World, and in it, the author introduced the novel – to me at least – idea that I could contribute to the evangelizing of the world, without every leaving my house just through the power of prayer.
But this call to prayer, it’s not easy. Just because prayer is simple doesn’t mean it is easy. See, the enemy, he is VERY aware of the power of God’s people praying and he doesn’t want you to do it. He will do everything he can to keep you from it.
Ever notice how when you set aside time to pray, something interrupts you or your mind wanders or you fall asleep?
Yep, that’s the enemy keeping you from praying. It’s why there is a whole passage on putting on your armor BEFORE you ever get to the praying part.
Of course, this isn’t a new problem really. There is this great story in Acts 12. In the story, Peter is arrested. Since James had just been put to death and Herod saw that that was popular, he arrested Peter next. The believers knew Peter was terminal at this point, so they all gathered together to pray fervently for his release. In fact, they had been praying All NIGHT for Peter.
Meanwhile, an angel delivers Peter miraculously from the prison, and Peter makes his way to this house where everyone is praying for him. When he knocks on the door, the little servant girl, Rhoda, opens it. (I wrote about Rhoda as part of my Women in the Bible series) She is so excited to see Peter, she basically slams the door in his face and runs back in to tell everyone.
You’d think they’d all be rejoicing and jubilant that God answered their prayers. But they aren’t. Instead, they tell her, “You are out of your mind!” When she insists, they tell her, it must be Peter’s angel.
Meanwhile, Peter continues to knock and when they finally open the door – who knows how much later – it says they are amazed.
Amazed that their prayers had actually been answered.
Maybe, like us, they had prayed before and didn’t get the answer they wanted.
Maybe, like us, they had gone out on a limb with this whole prayer thing and felt like someone had sawed it out from under them.
Whatever the reason, they were AMAZED God had delivered Peter.
The thing is, God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The same God that heard those early Christians’ prayers is the same God that hears our prayers.
We don’t have to have the perfect words, or to intone “Thee” and “Thou” for God to hear us. We just have to put in the time on our knees.
So, when you see pictures that haunt you or read stories that make you cry and wonder at the state of the human race – remember that we have the power to make a difference.
Don’t let it make you feel powerless. Let it make you hit your knees and do something about it.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16