True confession: Sometimes I pray and I don’t expect God to answer.
I know it’s wrong and I beat myself up regularly because of how important faith is to God (see Hebrews 11:6). I know how often Jesus healed people based on their expectant faith. I know how many times the Scriptures implore us to believe beyond doubt and confidently and courageously trust in God. So it warms my heart to see that I’m not that much different from the Early Church. Even though they experienced mighty miracles they were sometimes shocked when God said yes.
In Acts 12, Herod starts killing and rounding up the Christians to curry favor with the Jews.
Acts 12:5 (ESV) So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
The Church was praying… not just praying, earnestly praying.
God answers miraculously. Peter is led by an angel to dress warmly and exit the prison without a fight. Finally Peter comes to his senses, realizes it’s a real life miracle and goes to see the little band of believers behind locked doors still praying for him.
I would have loved to have been outside that door watching this scene.
Peter knocks. No answer. They are in deep prayer… for Peter.
Peter knocks more. No answer.
Peter knocks like crazy… finally an answer and the gate is left locked as a servant named Rhoda excitedly tells the church their prayers are answered leaving Peter waiting in the cold with the scarf the angel made him put on before leaving prison. Evidently God, the Son gave the Angel a heads up here. But my heart goes out to poor little servant girl Rhoda. She is going to have a ton of the same conversations in heaven with most of us asking the same question…. “Why did you leave the gate locked? Describe what you were thinking in that moment…”
Look at the next line:
Acts 12:15 (ESV) They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”
How condescending and patronizing. They don’t say, “It can’t be…” They accuse Rhoda of insanity! Then when she insists it’s Peter they accuse her of being too spiritual… “It’s an angel honey, sit down and pray some more.”
Peter continues knocking, finally the gate is opened and they are what…?
Seems the early church was shocked when God answered their prayers too. So if you’re like me and sometimes God shocks you by doing what He said He would do – answer your prayers – this little passage is a bit comedic relief to help you stop beating yourself up.
But more importantly, He answers.