" 'You're out of your mind, ' they told her. When she kept insisting that is was so, they said, 'It must be his angel.' " (Acts 12:15 NIV)
Praying desperately and expectantly for Peter, the followers of Christ gather in the house of Mary. I can just imagine the scene. James has just been murdered by the king, and now Peter has been put in prison for preaching Christ as resurrected Messiah. He's going to be be sentenced to death. Everything seems hopeless; the Christians are being persecuted and killed, and the best idea is probably just to hide. After all, nobody wants to die by the sword, right?
Many of these people have been witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus, and they've seen the Holy Spirit come upon great men of God. They are not strangers to the power and healing of Jesus, and there should be no shadow of doubt within them. And so they pray, hoping against all hope that Peter will be spared and the cruel persecution will come to an end.
Mother and children gather in the corner, asking God to spare the apostle. Men kneel on worn and dusty knees, believing that Almighty God will hear their cries. It's quiet here, for no one wants to be found by the authorities, but you can hear it- the silence speaks loud of hope, but cautious hope. Will God really save him?
Meanwhile, in another part of the city, God IS saving. Delivering Peter, and angel ushers him out of the dark and damp cell, past the sleeping guards and miserable prisoners. The gate opens for them and suddenly Peter realizes he's free! He's a little dumbfounded, thinking he's having a dream. After all, he just walked right out of that place! He's gone from death to life in a matter of moments! He's been liberated.
Here, our two stories merge. Peter, knowing the Church is praying, goes to Mary's house. Enter Rhoda, a young girl most of us have probably never even heard of. She's a simple servant girl, but she plays a big part in our story. She's been chosen to be the one to see the first fruits of prayers being answered.
A knock at the door takes Rhoda away from her duties, and after wiping her dirt-covered hands clean, she heads toward the door. Peter calls out and without even opening the door, she recognizes his voice and joyfully exclaims this news to all within the sound of her voice. "It's Peter!" she shouts.
And their response?
The answer from the very people who are praying that Peter will be released?
Rhoda, silly girl, you're crazy. It can't be Peter. He's in prison. It's probably just his angel.
And here we sit, some 2,000 years later, and we can't believe what just happened! What are they thinking? After spending hours in earnest prayer, they don't even recognize the answer???
Unbelief permeates the heart when that heart is focused on circumstances rather than the keeper of the the circumstances.
As I think back to that day, I realize that the real prisoners in shackles were the ones on the house of prayer that night. Their belief in deliverance was shallow, and they needed a miracle. They needed to know that God was on their side and completely in control.
Don't miss this. When we pray, we should pray with complete faith, knowing that He WILL answer. Do NOT give up when your eyes look around you and your head tells you it's hopeless.
"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16b NIV)
He will answer. He will restore. He will deliver. He will save.