When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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January 21, 2019
Dr. Hal Brady

In one of his columns, the late Lewis Grizzard described standing outside the church in his hometown of Moreland, Georgia on a cold day. It had been at least 10 years since he had been inside, but his roots were there.

As he reminisced about the youth group that met on Sunday nights, he recalled how two rowdy boys in town broke into a store and were required to attend the youth group for six months as punishment. The first night they attended, Grizzard recalled, they beat up two boys and threw a hymn book at the nice woman who led the group and always brought the cookies. Fortunately, she ducked just in time. Grizzard remembered her words to the boys: “I don’t approve of what you boys did here tonight, and neither does Jesus. But if He can forgive you, I guess I can, too.” Then she handed them the cookies.

The last Grizzard heard both boys had grown up to become “good daddies” and seldom missed a Sunday in church. Grizzard concluded that was the first miracle he ever saw.

Mildly stated, this issue of miracles has been a troubling one. Do miracles still happen? This has been one of the biggest and longest-running controversies of the church.

To be sure, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Era have all added blocks of separation between miracles and our daily lives. For many, miracles have been looked upon as anti-science, anti-rational, and anti-intellectual.

On the other hand, people have and do believe in miracles. Writing in his book, “Conversations of the Heart,” Bishop Woodie White, past resident Bishop of the Candler School of Theology, says, “I do believe in miracles – the occurrence of acts not explained by rational and logical reasoning, cures and healings that have taken place in the face of contrary medical predictions and evidences ... But this is more testimony to the power of God that the claims of men and women.”

I asked a friend the other day about the welfare of her relative. She replied, “It’s a miracle he’s alive.” Then she talked further about the miracle.

While preparing for this article, I tried to read as much as I could about miracles. One of the best things I read was a short sermon by Barbara Brown Taylor, noted preacher, professor and author, titled, “The Problem with Miracles.” I’d like to mention that a few of the thoughts Dr. Brown shared that I found helpful. She said:
  1. The problem with miracles is that it is hard to mention them without wanting one of your own.
  2. Not everyone who prays for one gets one, not by a long shot, and meanwhile there are people who get them without asking for them at all.
  3. There is no formula for miracles because God rarely does anything the same way twice.
  4. One of the meanest things religious people do is to blame the lack of miracle on a lack of faith.
  5. Faith does not work miracles. God does. To concentrate on the strength of our own belief is to practice magic. To concentrate on the strength of God is to practice faith. God, not faith, works miracles.
Personally, my favorite definition of a miracle and one I whole-heartedly believe is the following. “A miracle is when God makes a way.” As Isaiah the prophet observed, “Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea ... I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it! I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” 43:16,19.

If you were asked to name a miracle that God has performed in your life, you might not be able to answer. But what if you were asked to name a way God has made for you when there didn’t seem to be a way?

A young wife and mother had just had her third child. She didn’t know how in the world she could take care of three babies and do the other things that she was expected to do. Unexpectedly, an older Christian friend paid a person to come in and help that young mother for nine months. God made a way.

Like many of you, I’ve found a number of situations I wasn’t sure how it would go. But God made a way.

What about the time when someone held your hand, figuratively or otherwise? Has there been a moment in your life when the miracle of companionship made the difference? God made a way.

In conclusion, Albert Einstein noted, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing in a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I choose the latter!

Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries (halbradyministries.com).

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