Franciene and I hope that you are enjoying these Chapters 10-12 in Acts.They are as full of adventure as any modern movie in recording some of the early years of the Church, and record the first martyrdom among the twelve apostles, James. It was certainly a tumultuous time to be a follower of “the way” and a believer in Jesus Christ.
One of the things that stayed with me as I read through these chapters again is the behavior of the members of the early Church in Chapter 12 verse 5, when Peter is imprisoned by King Herod and is under heavy guard there. The verse reads “So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church.” The footnote in my Bible said “Early believers fought the battles of persecution on their knees. It is here implied that Peter’s upcoming rescue is God’s answer to the intercessory prayers of the Church.” Hasn’t this practice continued on into the present day?
In the Catechism’s section on intercessory prayer, # 2634-2636, it tells us that the first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely. “The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: ‘for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions,’ for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.” These early friends of Peter and all those who were members of the growing Church must have prayed so earnestly for Peter’s release and for his continued ministry on behalf of the new Church. We certainly continue this tradition today.
In # 2635 in the Catechism in that section on intercessory prayer, it says “Since Abraham, intercession–asking on behalf of another–has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy.” We may not often think of our intercessory prayer in those terms, but certainly it is in God’s mercy that we hope and trust when we pray for ourselves and in particular for others in the various necessities of life. I think that we first have to be convinced of God’s love and mercy for His creation, and to feel very grounded in it, and then we can proceed to ask Him for help for ourselves and those we love. And how God must love to be asked! One of the Doctors of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila wrote “We pay God a compliment when we ask great things of Him” and I believe that this pleases Him because it shows our confidence in His merciful love.
And since that sentence in the footnote for verse 12:5 stayed with me that said “Early believers fought the battles of persecution on their knees”, it made me think of the battles that we each have probably fought on our knees. When we pray for the life and growth of the Church, and the safety of missionaries in harm’s way, and for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, aren’t we helping fight the current battles of persecution on our own knees? It makes me think of times when I have fought any kind of a personal struggle, from a painful betrayal or a heartbreaking loss or a setback of any kind, and I think of the times I spent enduring and grappling with those struggles while on my knees praying for light in the darkness. I can also think of times in my own life when I’ve faced a struggle and have felt like I could handle it on my own, and I have not turned over my broken heart of my sense of control to God’s hands where He will surely make something good out of it. When I look back over my own life, I can see a difference in how much good has come out of the times when I spent that time on my knees and sought God’s help in the struggle, and I suppose that the early members of the Church had the same experience from their prayers.
We can learn so much from each other in our study and discussion together, and I look forward to our Tuesdays. As always, feel free to contact either Franciene or me if you have any questions or concerns. We hope that you are enjoying a blessed week, and we look forward to seeing you next Tuesday.