My previous post was all about the significant relationships and networking opportunities that Red Sessions has opened to us this year. Today I will focus more on the role of prayer in these sessions.
3. The power of prayer
So yesterday I was reading the incredible (and hilarious) account of Peter’s arrest, incarceration and miraculous release from jail in Acts 12. What always strikes me is the role of the praying church in that story…
The situation was bleak – the brutal death of James by the edge of the sword was promptly followed by the arrest of the church’s leader, Peter, who was locked up under the charge of 4 squads of soldiers. It was a dark day for the early church. However, the response of the church was glorious and godly:
“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” (v5)
It was a phenomenal display of faith in the face of fear. Trust through tragedy. Godly action in the midst of great adversity. This “earnest” prayer was pivotal in the stunning events that unfold in verses 6-11 as God responds to the cry of His people:
“Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
Peter heads straight for the epicentre of intercession, Mary’s house, “where many were gathered together and were praying.” As the answer to their prayers stands and knocks on the door a young servant girl in such delirious joy leaves the most wanted man in town standing in the perilous streets and goes to inform the others that their cries have been heard by God and Peter was free! The response of this posse of faithful, faith-filled, fervent prayer warriors is…surprising!
“[Rhoda] did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” (v14-15)
Haha! That’s brilliant innit?! They prayed their socks off on behalf of their friend and then when God actually responds to their prayers by miraculous means – they don’t believe it’s true! It’s funny, but also SO encouraging! Cos let’s be honest – it’s not a million miles removed from our own prayer lives is it? How many times have you prayed for something or someone more out of blind hope than deep faith? I know I have. I know that I do. I don’t think that this story promotes that kind of prayer, but I do think that it reassures us that God can and will still respond to the prayers of His saints, no matter how weak and faithless they are.
It gives me hope.
What’s that got to do with Red Sessions? Well you might say – it kind of illustrates perfectly what our prayer meetings have been like. Truth is that praying for your friend to be released from a high security Roman jail might seem like a huge thing to pray, but praying for freedom for 27 million slaves around the world is a whole next level! Yet that is what we have sought to do. Red Sessions are first-and-foremost prayer meetings. Each month we have prayed for the 27 million as a whole, as well as for specific people by name as we hear about their situations in our meetings. Sometimes…most times…it has felt more like blind hope than deep faith, and sometimes we have been the tiniest of groups, yet we have continued to pray regardless.
So when we heard several months ago that a few hours after one of our prayer meetings a trafficking victim had been freed from a brothel just a few miles away in Cardiff – we didn’t really know what to make of it. I don’t think we REALLY believed it was an answer to our pathetic prayers. Similarly, when slaves were rescued from a farm near Newport a few months later, again it was more disbelief than dancing in the streets. And yet this is what we have been praying for! We pray for the 27 million yet we need to remind ourselves that it’s 27 million individuals. So every time IJM tweet about another slave being liberated in India, or A21 tell us about another prostitute that’s been freed in eastern Europe, or we read in the headlines about another trafficking ring in the UK being smashed and the exploited being set free, or we hear from Jade how many girls she’s rescued and repatriated, we need to see that as our God faithfully answering our prayers! Not just our prayers at Red Sessions, but the prayers of the saints around the world as God burdens His people to pray into this issue. 27 million is way too big a number for any single saint or group to tackle. Slavery is a global problem, so our prayers need to be global. I for one feel privileged to have played my part in stoking the embers of intercession here in Wales.
Red Sessions has taught us that prayer is where the power lies.
And it works!