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Braced up by Prayer

Read: Acts 12:1-11

We have a Honey Crisp apple tree in the backyard. Well over a year ago, we noticed that it was growing crooked. To remedy this problem, my husband and a friend braced up the tree by pounding rebar into the ground several feet away from the tree. They ran a cable from the tree to the rebar to give the tree every opportunity to grow upright. If this hadn't been done, the tree might have grown so crooked that the weight of the apples could have caused some of the limbs to break off. We hope that perhaps this year, we will be able to remove the brace and that the tree will grow straight and strong. However, we will leave the rebar in place as long as it is necessary. I don't want to lose even one of those luscious Honey Crisp apples.

Have you ever considered that our prayers accomplish a similar thing as the rebar and cable does for a tree? I wonder how many times prayer has been offered on my behalf and I have received strength from the Lord because someone cared enough to pray? How many times was I able to listen to the sweet nudging of the Holy Spirit and ignore the impulses of the flesh because someone was bracing me up through prayer? How many times did Jesus bring the right person with just the right words because someone was crying out at God's throne of grace on my behalf? How many times did God keep me looking to Him until a need was met because someone loved me as she lifted me up through prayer? The list could be endless concerning what Jesus has done because people have prayed, and there are no doubt countless answers that the Lord has generously provided, and I didn't even know that it was His sustaining that kept me trusting in Him.

I say all of this to encourage us to keep praying for one another. Sometimes, we don't see some of the what we call miraculous answers when we pray. Please know that I believe that God still does miracles according to His will and in His timing. However, His sustaining grace is both powerful and precious, even as we wait for the miracles that He might bring. People still need to be braced up through prayer so that they can continue to rest in the Lord and walk empowered by His Spirit.

The Evil One might tell us that our prayers are making no difference. Yet, James reminds us that we don't have because we don't ask, James 4:2. I know that is a verse that brings up questions that we can't answer completely. The Lord doesn't tell us everything about prayer, and we can't always understand what He does or doesn't do, Deuteronomy 29:29. yet, we are told to pray and that some things will happen when we are faithful that wouldn't happen if we didn't pray. Maybe that is why Acts 12:1-11 is so intriguing. James had been put to death by yet another of the wicked Herods, and when he saw that this evil action won him points with the Jews, he determined to give Peter the same treatment. It is verse 5 that is interesting to me. It begins with the words "But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him". Acts 12:6-11 relates God's amazing answer to those prayers. In this case, the desired outcome was realized. Am I saying that if the church hadn't prayed that the outcome would have been different? I can't do that because we can't know. I simply am encouraged that the Lord points out that the church prayed earnestly, and we know that God used those prayers to do an amazing thing for Peter and those who prayed.

So, when we brace people up through prayer, won't the same God Who delivered Peter in such an amazing way also do wondrous things for those for whom we pray? Even when we don't perceive what He is up to, won't it be a beautiful thing to one day see what Jesus has done through our prayers? Since He is great enough to drop the chains away from a sleepy apostle and open up gates ahead of him, what might this same God do as we call out to Him in prayer.

Lord, thank You for the countless times You have braced us up through prayers. Bless those who have prayed for us. Help us not to become weary in prayer when we don't see some of the answers we hope to receive. Help us to remember that You are working in countless and often unseen ways in answer to our prayers. Thank You that our prayers are a delight to You, Proverbs 15:8.

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