So Peter was kept in Prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church… Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shown in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.”
And the chains fell off his hands… they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along the street… Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.”
Excerpts from Acts 12
I wonder what the church in Acts was specifically praying for concerning Peter’s imprisonment. Did they limit their prayers to his comfort and protection or did they pray boldly that he might be set free? The people’s response of “You are out of your mind” when Rhoda told them Peter was at the door would appear that they were NOT praying for Peter’s release.
Or were they…?
The very fact that the church had gathered to pray about Peter’s imprisonment and were still praying when Peter arrived at their house would indicate to me that they were indeed praying for his release. Yet, they didn’t even believe that Peter was at the door!
When I was first pondering this passage, I was most struck by the very connection between the church’s earnest prayer and the astounding miracle of Peter’s chains falling off resulting in his subsequent freedom. This brought me great encouragement as I have been praying for someone in the throws of addiction — chains of bondage in its own right.
I admit, though, that when I was praying and feeling the hopelessness of the situation surrounding this person’s addiction, I was “talking” to God, saying, “I know you can do anything, but…” But? How did I allow that thought to come into my mind?!
Jeremiah 32:27 says,
I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?”
Well, I’ll tell you how… too often I predetermine the will of God in a given situation, much like the people praying for Peter probably had. I will assume that “my desire” is not His will. This is not because I see Him as a “harsh Father,” but because I truly don’t know “His plans” concerning that which I am praying.
But God says…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)
…the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
I am not called to presuppose the will of God in any trial, I am called to pray!
When the Israelites were in the dessert being led by God presented as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, the Israelites STILL had doubts about what God could do. I’ve often said I am just like the Israelites in the desert. Despite seeing God working miracles in my life and answering prayers which FAR exceeded my hopes and expectations, I could still be found doubting His provision!
Instead of doubting an answer to prayer for a situation that seems “hopeless,” I must do as the Psalmist said and “…remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11). My life is full of examples of God’s goodness to me, and the Bible is incredibly full with examples of His great and mighty works.
The above verses from Acts 12 have spurred me on to pray boldly, ESPECIALLY in situations that seem impossible, and to always look EXPECTANTLY for the answer.