Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 19 February 21:
Acts 12:5 — So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church….
Prayers and answers to prayers. Both James and Peter were targeted by Herod the king. James was killed, and Peter was imprisoned. Undoubtedly both James and Peter had remained in the continuous prayers of the other apostles and disciples, yet James was not spared, much like John the Baptist was not spared from beheading, and Stephen was not spared from stoning. Even more, consider Jesus’ Prayers in Gethsemane before the Cross –
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will….’ Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done….’ And… again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.” (Matthew 26:39, 42-44)
The violent death of James must have been a devastating blow to the disciples. Were the disciples’ prayers for James somehow ineffective as opposed to their prayers for Peter? Was Peter simply more favored by God than James? No, in all the cases mentioned above, God compassionately heard the prayers of His children and answered in accordance with His perfect will and to far greater benefit than could be possibly imagined. All these martyrs (including Peter eventually) lived for God’s glory, died for God’s glory, and received God’s glory. Consider death from God’s perspective –
- John 11:25, 26 — Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
- Psalm 63:3 — Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
- Philippians 1:21 — For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
- Luke 23:43 — And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
- Revelation 14:13 — And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
Meanwhile, while Peter was imprisoned, the disciples continued to pray for him earnestly. In Peter’s case, God answered their prayers the way they desired and miraculously freed Peter. However, when the servant girl reported to the disciples that Peter had been freed and stood at the door, the disciples’ response was, “You are out of your mind.” They were praying earnestly, but apparently didn’t really expect God to answer their prayers in a miraculous way. “But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.” (Acts 12:16) Was it really so hard to believe that the Almighty God might snatch Peter right out of Herod’s prison? Perhaps James’ death caused the disciples to lower their expectations of God’s answers to prayer.
Do you pray expectantly, anticipating God to respond in miraculous ways? Or have past disappointments hindered your prayer life? “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14, 15) We don’t always know God’s will in a matter, but the Bible calls us to pray in faith and to wait expectantly. Anticipate, “Yes,” and have no doubt that “No,” means something far more wonderful than you ever imagined.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 Feb 20: Today, pray in confidence, expecting God to do God-sized things in your life. Rejoice in knowing that God hears all of your prayers and lovingly answers them in accordance with His perfect will for your life. Walk boldly in that confidence and glorify Him with your joy and peace.