" 'Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.' Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy six persons." Acts 27:35-37
Luke's account of the voyage, the storm and eventual shipwreck gives a detailed recording of the events as the prolonged crisis appeared to be spinning out of control.
In the midst of the chaos and fear, Paul is the calmest man on the ship. Persistent prayer, through a prolonged crisis, has the power to turn a victim into a victor.
"Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation." v. 34
SIDE NOTE WARNING: The end of the "Holiday Season" is fast merging into "Flu Season." If Facebook posts are to be trusted, flu bugs are swarming, and Nyquil, Baptist Bourbon, is flowing. After observing all the postings of sugar laced food, adult beverages, and the mountains of calories being ravenously consumed, over the past month, it shouldn't surprise anyone that immune systems have been overloaded and exposed to disease. This only happens every year. I wonder if food was ever returned to a source of preservation, and not a form of gratification, if the result would be health restoration. But I digress. I warned you.
Paul seized the crisis as an opportunity for importunity. He reminded all of the 276 people on the ship that God was the source of their provision and preservation.
"Having said this, he took the bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat." v. 35
Gratitude towards God in the face of the ineptitude of man has a way of encouraging one and all that there is hope. Prayer reminds people that the best is yet to come, by taking their eyes off of the crisis and back towards the face of God. Prayer removes the crisis from man's hands and places the crisis in God's hands, even when the worst is staring them in the face.
"All of them were encouraged and they themselves took food." v. 36
Prayer may be the greatest untapped source for encouragement the world has ever known. Prayer infuses courage into the hearts of people that need the courage to fight for their lives, and to see God in the middle of any crisis.
Faced with Stage 2 B Breast Cancer, Dana and I met for the first time with her oncologist. He said something remarkably encouraging to us. With his rich, Columbia, South American accent, this wonderful scientist and gifted doctor said, "We are going to fight this with prayer." When he said this, he held up his thumb. We looked at each other, and nodded. We had found the right man to lead us through this fight.
The good doctor went on to add, "Then we will add, Positive People, Healthy Nutrition, Consistent Exercise, and Proven Science." For the past five years, we have both often remarked on the perfect timing of God to bring this one man into the middle of our crisis to give us hope in the darkest hours of it.
Prayer was not new to us, but God knew we needed someone else to remind us to take it to a new level. Think about it. It is impossible to make a fist without a thumb.
Remove the thumb and a fist becomes a slap. There may be impact, but the power of the punch is lost. The result is just not the same. A slap has the ability to annoy, but not the power to destroy. Don't slap at a crisis. Pray through it.
Note to self: Anytime, and anywhere you appear to be entering the fight of your life, don't forget the thumb. Satan loves to lie to you, and tell you, "It's over!" Prayer punches him in the throat. Make a fist. Hit back.
"All of them were encouraged." v. 36
This word used for "encouraged" does not describe a logo-wear blanket thrown across the legs of a chilled spectator in the stands. This is the passion, the fire in the belly of the gladiator who is about to enter the arena. The roar of the crowd is in his ears, and the boiling rage towards his opponent is pent up in his heart. With sword and shield in hand, he is armored up and ready to be released for the contest. Prayer releases the call of the wild, not the call of the mild.
Good cheer, indeed. This kind of courage is not a pep rally thrill. It is the surge that infuses the warrior with the urge to kill. Prayer encourages most when it focuses on the life and death struggle, and reminds the prayer warrior that he is not alone. The struggle is not against inconvenient circumstances or flesh and blood. The battle is against an ancient foe. Don't take my word for it.
"A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle." Martin Luther
Prayerless preachers who stand in the pulpit appear to be what they are not, warriors. They are guilty of stolen valor. They wear a uniform, but never show up for the fight. Prayer gets a grip on The Sword of the Lord, and runs to the battle line to stand next to The Champion. Prayer reminds the warrior that the battle is won, not his to lose. Take courage. Knees down! Thumbs up! TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!