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Failing To Receive God's Answer

Acts 12:11-15
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.' 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. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognised Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, 'Peter is at the door!' 'You're out of your mind,' they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, 'It must be his angel.' (NIVUK)

God had miraculously released Peter from prison (Acts 12:6-10). By the time Peter was walking through the silent dark streets of Jerusalem, he realised what the Lord had done for him. The Lord's intervention was not just a personal relief, but was a manifestation of His power in frustrating the murderous ambitions of King Herod and the religious leaders. Then he went to Mary's house where the church people were meeting.

It was a large merchant's property with an outer gate and courtyard leading to the house; and they had servants. The believers were still there as they had been praying through the night (Acts 12:5). Peter banged on the outer gate and a servant girl came to hear what the noise was about. Peter identified himself and Rhoda recognised his voice. Nevertheless, because of the security risk she did not unlock the gate but ran to tell her employer and the group of pray-ers that Peter was outside.

Their reaction seems comical. Although they had been praying for Peter's release they could not believe that their prayer was answered. Instead they accused the servant of being deluded and hearing voices that did not exist. The more Rhoda insisted that it really was Peter, the more they refused to believe but tried to pacify her by saying that the voice came from Peter's 'angel' (Matthew 18:10). They had no idea that Peter had just encountered a real angel who had released him from prison at God's command and in answer to their prayers.

We may think that disbelief lodges only with unbelievers. This narrative shows us that even believers in Jesus can fail to receive God's answers to their prayers. They may be so overcome by their sorrow that they either fail to pray or fail to watch for the answer (Mark 14:37-38). Their problem seems so hopeless that they fail to trust the Lord. Their praying is more a cry of despair than an anticipation of divine intervention and the Evil One would like us to be so trapped by fear that we cannot exercise faith. And yet God is gracious and amazingly often answers prayer despite our faithlessness (Mark 4:38-31). Nevertheless we should take a rebuke from this passage. Let us ask for His help to pray with the full expectation that He will answer and that we will glorify Him by recognising what He has done (Psalm 17:6).

Dear Lord God, my Heavenly Father. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayers. I am so sorry that I often fail to recognise the magnitude of what You have done, or even recognise that You have answered. Please help me to learn to pray with the expectation that You will answer, and learn to give You thanks and glory for Your great love to me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams