The Apostle Paul knew exactly what would happen if he gave in to the request of Festus, to be tried in Jerusalem. The chief priests had asked Festus to bring Paul from Caesarea so that they could kill him. He had been locked away for two years with no conviction because of the corruption of local leaders, but in spite of the peril he faced, he still had one recourse:
Every Roman citizen could, when a local governor or authority seemed unjust, appeal their case to the highest authority in the Roman government…to Caesar himself.
Standing before Festus, Paul used his last maneuver:
“Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.” (Acts 25:10-11)
As corrupt as the local governors were, they still had to honor this fundamental Roman right. There was only one possible reply Festus could give, and he gave it:
“Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.”
Of course, the logistics of having one high authority hear every case make this a difficult right to honor. Caesar might not have had any time for any other matters of state had he needed to immediately honor every appeal. The obvious solution is to have the accused wait until such time that Caesar could hear their case…time which Paul used to communicate with the church and preach of Jesus as he was able.
Similar systems of appeal have been employed by other organizations and governments. A notable example is the Supreme Court of the United States. Each year, thousands of applications are made for Writ of Certiorari, which allows the case to be heard before the Supreme Court. Small numbers of these applications are granted. Between the years 2014-2017, the year with the highest percentage of granted applications was 2015, with only 4.2% of applications submitted being granted. (https://supremecourtpress.com/chance_of_success.html)
The logistics of hearing numerous cases may be daunting, but compounding the difficulty, the final judgment may not be just. In the United States, cases such as Dred Scott v Sanford, which ruled against an escaped slave, demonstrate the potential for bad decisions by the Supreme Court.
Though we do not know the result of Paul’s case from the New Testament, there are traditions that suggest Paul was beheaded by Nero. Whether or not this is true, most sources seem to agree that Paul never left Rome.
While a system of appeals may be able to mitigate problems with unfair treatment and encourage justice, the costs of such a system are significant, and it is clear a system run by corruptible people can be corrupted.
Perhaps this is the reason human beings have been given one last recourse…an appeal to the Highest Authority.
This is not just an application for Writ of Certiorari. It is not a queue into which a person enters and waits for years to be heard. It does not require a lengthy journey or a complex scheduling algorithm. It does not even require a specific type of case; the appeal can be used for any reason.
Does this appeal seem too good to be true? It should.
Right now, at this very minute, whether you are bearing a difficult burden or just need a little comfort. Whether you have endured awful abuse, or you’re just not getting along with someone. Whether you need answers to serious questions about life, love, and purpose, or you have misplaced your keys…You can appeal immediately to the Highest Authority!
The name of this appeal is prayer.
While, on the surface, this may seem to be a simple thing, consider how ludicrous it would be to file a Writ of Certiorari because of an argument about what to have for dinner. You might not want to stand before a King or Emperor asking for help remembering where you put your phone down or to do well on an exam. You probably don’t expect Oprah and Dr. Phil to personally come and help you sort out your relationship issues.
Yet the Eternal God who knows all and forged the plan that put billions and billions of people into mortality sends all his prophets and apostles to remind you to come to Him with all of these things – both great and small – because he is eager to hear and help you!
The volume of requests cannot exceed his capacity to hear and answer. The triviality of your worries will not exclude you from approaching his throne. He will not weary of hearing genuine the genuine pleas of his beloved children, and in spite of how insignificant we are in comparison to him, he invites you to call him Father.
Only a fool would neglect such a ridiculously generous gift. Don’t be a fool! However long it has been since you have appealed to the Highest Authority, do it again. Call upon God in prayer. Even if you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes, all you need is a sincere heart and faith. He will hear and answer! Mercy and love abound among all those who kneel before Him and call upon his name.
“Sweet Power of Prayer” – Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 2003
“Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus” – Elder Quentin L. Cook, October 2016
“Prayer” – Elder Henry B. Eyring, October 2001