The 12th Legion was out of water, they were tired from a long campaign, and surrounded. Barbarians from Germania, the Quadi, out numbered and surrounded the Romans. The Quadi were so confident of the dire condition of the Romans that they had actually stopped fighting, and were waiting for the legion to literally drop dead as they guarded them.
As the story goes, dark clouds formed above the battle field, and a heavy rain began to shower down on the armies. As the rain progressed, lightning, hail and thunder greeted the Quadi army, filling the warriors with fear. Yet, the Romans, literally drank the rain as it fell, catching water in helmets and shields to give to their horses. Revived, the 12th Legion mounted an attack and over ran the confused and frightened Quadi as the thunder, lightning and hail continued to fall.
The 12th Legion was known for having a number of Christians in the ranks. After this battle in Germania is was said that the Christians prayed for God to deliver them from the certain death that was waiting under the watchful eyes of the Quadi. This storm account appears in several historians accounts of the event including: Cassius Dio, Eusebius, Apollinarius and Tertullian.
Marcus Aurelius himself acknowledged that a miracle had won the day, and decreed that 12th legion would be known as “Armed with Lightning” or the “Thundering Legion” … but Marcus gave the credit to Hermes. The Column of Aurelius, which is still in Rome, depicts the rain that saved the day showing the water pouring out from the beard of a grim, half-human deity, either Hermes or the Egyptian god Thoth-Shou.
So why does this matter? We have this story, where some folks believe that God changed circumstances (the storm) due to the prayers of some (Roman christians), at the expense of others (dead Quadi). Initially people are willing to call it a miracle, even those who do not believe in God. But then over time, we forget the story, we change the way it happened, we attribute the result to something other that what the origin meaning was. And we do this all the time!
How often do we ask for God to move, we plea in prayer, we persist in prayer. And then something happens that resolves the situation … and we say, ‘What a coincidence’ or ‘Wow, that worked out well, didn’t it?’ Sometimes the most difficult thing is to thank God for His sovereignty, His ability to work the simple for a glorious purpose … after all, it is far simpler to just say ‘I knew it would work out!’ and leave it at that. I mean telling people God answers prayer, that is truly risky!