I think God enjoys catching us off guard. A perfect example of this is in our reading this week. In Acts 12, we hear about King Herod’s initiative to rid the region of Christian leaders. His purpose was to stop any potential rebellion, cause the populace to feel indebted to him, and to fuel his massive ego. Herod had most recently arrested Peter, and was planning on making a big public event by giving Peter a public trial and execution. While this was going on we read, “But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.” Acts 12:5 (NLT). At this point, the story gets pretty exciting. God decides to rescue Peter from Herod, while at the same time demonstrating to everyone that He is sovereign and to be trusted, or feared, depending on your attitude toward Him. Peter was visited by one of God’s messengers (an angel) and freed from the prison! Once he realized that this was not a dream, Peter went to a home where he knew a group of Believers met to pray, so that he could tell them what God had done. When he arrived at the house, he was met by a household worker named Rhoda. She immediately recognized Peter, and in her excitement to tell the others, she left him outside the door. When Rhoda told them Peter was there they thought she was “out of her mind” because the timing was too crazy. You see, they were in the middle of praying for Peter to be rescued, but they had no idea that it would actually happen and definitely didn’t expect it to happen this way! Once they let Peter in (after he continued to knock at the door) they realized that God has answered their prayer in a dramatic fashion.
A take away for me, is to never under estimate God and what He is capable of doing. While there is no magic formula to make miraculous answers to prayer occur, there are times when God is ready to act if we will just ask. Later in the New Testament it says this about prayer, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2-3 (NIV). We should always ask God for help that’s in line with His will, and we shouldn’t be shy about it. We can be certain that, like any good parent, there are things God wants to do for us, if we just ask. We also need to be careful that we aren’t asking for things that are motivated by selfishness or greed. The secret to prayer is asking with open hands, trusting God to do what is right and best, and then watching to see what He does.
P.S. At the end of chapter 12 we see that Herod comes to an abrupt, and fitting, end due to his arrogance and pride.