Scripture

Acts 4:23-31

The Believers Pray

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Reflection

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., this week we will reflect on the qualities that made him a great leader, not only in the Civil Rights movement, but also in the faith.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time. We often forget how young he was when he became a leader in the Civil Rights movement. He was only 26 years old when he was nominated to lead the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. His rise to leadership was quick and unexpected. King once said, it “happened so quickly that I did not have time to think it through. It is probable that if I had, I would have declined the nomination.” I think sometimes that is how God leads us into new territory. We don’t have enough time to become fearful.

Shortly after King was nominated to lead the Montgomery boycott, tension erupted within the black community. King was thrown in jail for a traffic violation. He received over 30 death threats a day. Only a few months into the movement, he realized his own fear emerging. King said, “I almost broke down under the continual battering.” His courage was wavering.

Eight weeks after the start of the boycott, he received a particularly harsh death threat. He couldn’t sleep and began to think of ways he could get out of leading the movement without seeming like a coward. He said, “I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born. I’d come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. I started thinking about a dedicated and loyal wife, who was over there asleep. And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer. I was weak.”

 

At midnight, he began to pray out loud: “Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. Now, I am afraid. And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.” King said after a short time he experienced the Divine like he had never experienced it before. He heard an inner voice assure him, “King, stand up for justice.” He knew God was with him, and would be with him until the end.

“I am at the end of my powers.” That is the prayer that shifted everything for King. When we recognize our lack and God’s abundance, the Holy Spirit will empower us with courage, strength, vision, or whatever it is we need to move forward for Christ. The leaders of the early church discovered this, and since then, great leaders and every day disciples have found the same. When will you recognize the “end of your powers?” 

Prayer

Dear Lord, help me grow deep in agape love. Show me the places in my community where I can make a change. Guide me to recognize the limit of my powers and give me courage, strength and grace to act as needed. Help me use my freedom for good. Draw me into new spaces and guide me to share my space with others. Create in me a heart full of grace and a soul full of love for your people. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.