Described with thunder

Poetic metaphor is stealthy. Magnificent references can be mistaken for sleepy flourishes. Beware of this, for not all metaphors are meant to be delicate.

Back in the day, we tacked Niagara Falls onto the end of too much vacation. Bad move. I still hope not to be remembered by my kids for that visit. Two weeks ago, feeling redemptive, we again stopped at Niagara, this time on our way to Rochester. Here’s what we discovered.

Niagara is actually three falls, the smallest of which is Bridal Veil Falls. Picture a grape tucked between an apple and a watermelon. At the foot of Bridal Veil Falls is a wooden deck that takes you right up to the spray from the edge of the smallest of the three falls. When you first see it, you think, I paid money for this? And now they’re making me wear a rain slicker and plastic flip flops? Huh.

But then something happens. You see people coming back from the end of the deck — and they’re soaked. And you notice that, the closer you get, the harder it is to hear each other talk. In fact, the people ahead of you are screaming and shrieking and holding their hands over their faces.

And the closer you get, the more wet you become, until there’s so much water flying around you can’t even keep your eyes open. And, despite the crowds, there’s no one actually standing on the final platform — the one right up against the spray from the edge of the smallest of the three falls. Taking a group selfie is out of the question. You’re all just shouting over the thunder and trying to keep your eyes open against the force of a fire hose driving you back from the edge.

Some of us forced our way up to the railing and faced into the torrent — but not long enough to count to ten, for the pain and the pounding and the thunder and the force of the spray in your face makes it impossible to see or get any closer.

Imagine what it would be like to step into the full force of six million cubic feet of water crashing down from over a hundred feet above. Who could stand against such unrelenting power?

Now, picture the full force of this poetic metaphor:

But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).

When we petition the Almighty to bring justice or righteousness to a land, people, or situation, we are not tiptoeing about. Not at all.

Bridal Veil Falls

Prayer is the work

In his book Deepening Your Conversation with God, Ben Patterson observes: prayer is the work and ministry is the fruit. He’s right. Praying for others is the heavy lifting of wielding influence — especially when your advocacy involves searching Scripture and using God’s revealed will and reputation to make your case.

As R. A. Torrey writes in How to Pray:

We live in a day characterized by the multiplication of man’s machinery and the diminution of God’s power. The great cry of our day is work, work, work, new organizations, new methods, new machinery; the great need of our day is prayer.

If your heart is bent on making a difference, search out God’s interests in the matter. If it’s more than you can lift, enlist others. Join forces with a praying friend, or discover who prays at your church. It’s the giant first step toward fruitfulness.

What are citizens to do?

God is in charge of history. He asks us to work, to try, to pour ourselves out to make things better. But he is an actor in history also. He chastises and rescues, he intervenes in ways seen and unseen. Or chooses not to.

Twenty-sixteen looks to me like a chastisement. He’s trying to get our attention. We have candidates we can’t be proud of. We must choose among the embarrassments. What might we be doing as a nation and a people that would have earned this moment?

That’s how Peggy Noonan concludes her November 3 column in The Wall Street Journal. How we respond to her piece depends on many things — belief in God, assessment of the candidates, standards of civility, and so on.

For those of us who agree with her view of God’s role in history, today’s election gives pause regardless of its outcome. And yet, it also doesn’t. There are many honorable responses, including the following:

  1. Pray for those in authority. Their hearts are in God’s hands.
  2. Do justice and love mercy. We’re accountable to one another as citizens.
  3. Seek the good of the land. This finds a parallel between ancient Israel’s exile in Babylon and the “dual citizenship” of those who also live as citizens of Christ’s kingdom.

Life is an act of service — to God and others. That’s a great reason to get up in the morning. Especially on November 9.

A Student’s Perspective / Prayer

Our group recently did a ski retreat. While snowboarding, one of our freshmen guys got seriously hurt. He ruptured his spleen and the doctors said it was bad — stage four out of five stages of danger. He wasn’t expected to recover without surgery, and even then, it was iffy. So iffy they medevacked him by helicopter to the nearest big city.

We, however, had a powerful weapon. As soon as the group learned about his condition we started praying. Not just three-second prayers, either. Groups of us clustered around the ski lodge and prayed for half an hour. Dedicating his safety to Christ, we prayed for our friend, pleading for his recovery and health.

The next morning, after at least half a dozen more prayer times, we heard from his mom. The doctors were stunned. Not only was he recovering at record speed, he hadn’t needed surgery and the internal bleeding was only nominally affecting him. They couldn’t figure out why he was getting better so fast.

We knew.

Praying for the World

When it comes to prayer, we often need a spark or catalyst to get us outside our self-centered box. Check out:

A separate country is featured everyday, exposing various needs, the percentage of the population that is Christian and other unique aspects. I found it very helpful for specific prayer concerns.

Prayer and youthwork

We had a woman volunteer in September. She didn’t mean to, but there were five students without adult sponsors.

For months she met with those girls on Sunday mornings, talking with them, remembering their birthdays, and saying a short prayer. But not much happened. They weren’t a group. They didn’t bond.

So she prayed for them. A lot.

In February things picked up. The Winter Retreat came and some of the girls brought friends. Several met Christ, and a few doors were unlocked.

After the retreat she prayed even more. If only she could get them into the Bible. Teach them to grow. Encourage them.

The very next Sunday all the girls asked if they could come over during the week and learn about the Bible. No kidding.

Six random girls are now a group, encouraging one another to grow. Not overnight, but it didn’t take forever, either.

We have a God who responds to prayer.

There’s Someone pursuing those you pray for

When I pray for friends who don’t believe Jesus is God, I search Scripture for ways to pray. Just today an encouragement from an old poem came to mind. It’s not Scripture, but you can trace its roots there . . .

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped; and shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after . . .

God pursues those who need Him, and He involves you in the pursuit. Here’s an interesting insight from Roger Steer’s biography of George Muller (see chapter 20). At age 39 Muller began praying for five friends. They came to Christ after:

— eighteen months
— six years
— twelve years
— fifty-four years
— fifty-seven years

Prayer can be sprint or marathon. Find joy in the running.