Skip to content

Power Player of All Time

April 1, 2016

Chris Wallace has a weekly segment in his Sunday news program called “Power Player of the Week.” The segment is a short documentary about a newsworthy person. These shorts capture our interest and imagination—often because they focus on ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Their stories inspire us to go the extra mile to make a difference in our community, to excel in our profession or vocation, or just to give more to those around us. In a similar way, the Scripture texts this week[1] pull us into examples of God’s power, and the extraordinary things that ordinary people accomplish when empowered by him.

The psalmist describes the greatest exhibition of God’s power—the creation of the universe. He calls on the heavens, the sun and the moon, sea creatures and creatures of all kinds, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, trees, mountains and people to “Praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away.” (Psalm 148: 5,6). He is truly the power player of all time.

The apostles were empowered by Jesus when he visited them on the Sunday evening of the resurrection. He breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). There is life in the breath of God. Jesus gave his disciples a special foretaste of Pentecost, to embolden them to preach in the temple, and to empower them to perform miracles. Luke tells us that the apostles went back to Soloman’s Colonnade, on the temple grounds, to preach where Jesus taught and performed miracles. By preaching and performing miracles in the same place where Jesus had preached and performed miracles, they showed that the power of the crucified and risen Christ was with them. The power of the disciples to heal was so amazing that “people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits and all of them were healed.” (Acts 5:12-16).

N.T. Wright notes that “[t]he healings were not simply a matter of providing urgent medical care for people who needed it, though that was of course enfolded within the larger purpose. It was a matter of God’s power going out and doing new things: a work of new creation, in deep continuity with the original creation, and indeed mending bodies and lives within that original creation, but demonstrating by its power and character that something new was afoot, something in the light of which believing in Jesus’ resurrection didn’t seem such a strange thing after all.” (Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part 1 (2008), Westminster John Knox Press, p. 84) (emphasis original).

But Luke reminds us that receiving power from God did not insulate the disciples from hatred and prosecution. The temple priests were “filled with jealousy” of the apostles’ power, and from the attention they were receiving: “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out” (Acts: 5:17-19).

The authorities tried to put an end to John’s ministry as well. He was exiled to the island of Patmos, about 35 miles off the coast of Turkey, because he refused to stop preaching the gospel. Wright notes that “[t]he authorities have put him there, in exile as a punishment for his fearless teaching, and to try to stop his work having any further effect. The result has been the exact opposite. Exile has given him time to pray, to reflect, and now to receive the most explosive vision of God’s power and love” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone (2011) Westminster John Knox Press, pp. 9-10). In that “explosive vision,” John describes Jesus as a powerful king (Revelation 1:5), whose second coming will be visible and victorious (“every eye will see him,” v. 7). God is the beginning and the end—without him there is nothing eternal (v.8).

Prayer is our main connection to the power of the creator of the universe. The time that John spent in prayer and meditation led to profound spiritual insights that are still relevant to us almost two thousand years later. I am reminded of what E.M. Bounds taught: “More prayer, more power; less prayer, less power; no prayer, no power.” Peter Kreeft tells us that the simplest prayer is the most powerful if prayed sincerely. He suggests the classic “Jesus Prayer,” which has been prayed by Christians for centuries: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is a prayer that can be prayed silently or aloud at any time or in in any place. I was introduced to the power of this simple prayer by an Orthodox priest (formerly an attorney from Australia), who taught it at a retreat several years ago while he was in temporary residence at St. Andrews Abbey in Valyermo. In Kreeft’s opinion, “the reason this prayer is so powerful is that the name of Jesus is not just a set of letters or sounds. It is not a passive word but a creative word, like the word by which God created the universe. (He is the Word by which God created the universe!)”

When we invoke the name of Jesus in a prayerful manner, the power player of all time comes to us and opens himself to us. He engages us. And even though God does not always shield us from suffering, we can count on him to be there and to get us through the trials that we all face. He is our rock and our refuge. Without him, there is nothing eternal. Any sacrifices that we make along the way are worth it. An eternity’s worth.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan








[1] Psalm 148; Acts 5:12-20; Revelation 1:4-18; John 20:19-31.Power

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: