12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. 18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
As one body, the church is earnestly praying for Peter’s release. Yet when Peter turns up their response is complete surprise and disbelief. God actually answered our prayer!? In this same passage though another brother in the faith, James, is executed. Peter’s guards, powerless before Gods purposes, are also executed.
Recently I started a practice of two columns in my prayer journal. In one column I make note of my ‘thank yous/praise points’ and in the other note of my ‘prayer points’. And at the end of the month I look back over the columns. I have been amazed at the prayers God has answered. This has sparked new praise in me as I thank God not only for the answer to prayer but also that He let me be part of his work through praying!
But this has also given me a chance to wrestle with God over the prayers He hasn’t answered the way I expected. And it’s brought me again and again to the place of Jesus before the cross. Jesus prays ‘may this cup be taken from me’, but God the Father does not answer by sparing His Son the cross. Instead, knowing the cross was the only way to have us, Jesus then prays ‘yet not my will but yours be done’ and dies for our sakes (Luke 22-23).
Dear God thank you that you hear the prayers of your people. Thank you that you allow us to be part of your incredible work in this way. Thank you that we can trust the answer, no matter what it is.
Written by Rhiannon Mellor