Pray For Those in Danger

COLLECT for The 3rd Sunday after Trinity
O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may by thy mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

We do not initiate prayer ourselves. It is God through his Spirit who puts the desire to pray within our hearts. Our role in prayer is to will to serve God who wishes to use us to his glory. Jesus is central to all our prayer. St. Augustine once said, “Christ prays for us as a priest, prays in us as our Head, is prayed to, by us, as our God. Let us recognize, therefore, our voices in him, and his voices in us.”

In this week’s collect, our request is that we “may by thy mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities”. We do not pray for God to keep is from danger, rather to KEEP US in our dangers and adversities.

Whatever may happen to us, we should have faith that God will make good out of any situation, if we offer it to him. This is the meaning of Psalm 9: “There shall no evil happen unto thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”

St. Peter Released from Prison

St. Peter Released from Prison

I cannot help but think about St. Peter in Acts chapter 12. He was in danger and adversity. He was in danger of losing his head to Herod, who was finding pleasure in killing Christians. In the passage, he was sleeping. He did not seem to be terribly worried about his own safety.

The house of Mary, the mother of John, was praying, and God answered their prayer. Peter was delivered from danger. Those praying, barely believed this, thinking that Peter was a ghost when he came to their house, but he was indeed free. In the case of Peter, as with us, God’s angels prevented evil from happening to him. God turned a bad situation into good.

This week, remember to pray for those who are in harms way. Remember to pray for your enemies. Remember to pray for those in civil authority. Remember to pray for those who are lost to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Remember that God sets captives free, and God answers prayer.

Heroic Examples to Live By in Holy Scripture

The Martyrdom of Stephen by Peter Paul Rubens

The Martyrdom of Stephen by Peter Paul Rubens

Corruption, terror, and war are just another day’s headline. Christians living in a post-modern world may sometimes find it difficult to know how to respond to the world around us, a world that promotes vanity and deprecates life. How do we answer this world?

Christ is our great hope. In and through Him, we are redeemed. We, who follow Jesus as Lord, have nothing to fear from the world, and we look toward Jesus’ coming again. In the interim, we obey, pray, read His Word, love our neighbor, and worship Him.

We know this, yet it is helpful to have examples for Christian living. We need heroes we can mimic. Jesus is the greatest of these. We are to model our lives after Him, but we can also learn from the example of the heroic men and women of the Bible. We can do as they did in our world today.

I was contemplating this during Evening Prayer Wednesday night while reading the Second Lesson for Evening Prayer, Acts 7:35-53, and was awed by the example of St. Stephen. Stephen was the first Deacon and Christian Martyr. Scripture describes Stephen as a man filled with grace and power. He spoke with wisdom when debated. He was brought before the Sanhedrin and accused of blasphemy by false accusers.

In answering his accusers, Stephen recollected the history of God’s relation to the Jews; the Abrahamic Covenant, the life of Moses, the ten plagues and emancipation from slavery in Egypt, the rejection of Moses and turn to idol-worship by the Jews in the Wilderness, and the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Solomon. Stephen concluded his defense by reproving his accusers for betraying and murdering the prophets, chief of whom was Christ. He said;

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Stephen told his accusers that their ancestors rejected God’s Word for generations before Christ. God repeatedly sent prophets to correct their ways, but the prophets were rejected, persecuted, and murdered. Their betrayal of Christ was the ultimate disobedience to the Law.

St. Stephen was himself a prophet sent to God’s people and he bore the fate of other prophets. He was rejected and murdered.

Today we live in a world that continuously mocks Christ. Ultimately, God will judge the world. In the mean time, we are to answer the World as Stephen did. We must be a prophetic people, who live for Christ and who speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), even to people who reject Christ. We must reprove those who do not live according to the Word of God, for, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16 KJV.)”

Before he died, Stephen uttered the words, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts 7:59 NAB.)” and, “Lord Jesus count not this sin against them (Acts 7:60 ESV).” He prayed for his persecutors, following the example of His Lord, who prayed for those who put Him to death, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34 KJV.)”

We must pray for those we love, yes, but we must also pray for those who reject Christ, that they may know Christ. We should pray for even those who persecute us, that they too may know Christ, and be forgiven.

May we be given the grace to live lives of truth speaking, truth doing, of prayer, and of forgiveness. May we follow our examples in the faith, St. Stephen, and our Lord Jesus Christ.