It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. . . . 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. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
. . . he went to the house . . 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 recognized 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.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. (Acts 12:1-5; 12-16)
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)
It’s so hard to keep praying for the same things without seeming to get any answer. It’s so hard to keep praying when I’m depressed or discouraged, when things look hopeless.
How do I keep going? How do I quit quitting?
God is impressing on me the need to remember that I’m a child of His. Children have no trouble at all in being persistent. They keep on asking and asking and asking. They only tend to give up when they’re rebuked or threatened with loss unless they stop.
God my Father will never rebuke or punish me for praying. He will never rebuke me for asking Him to make me more like Jesus. He won’t punish me for asking for the salvation of others. He won’t frown on my prayers for the protection of my children. He won’t be annoyed at my requests for His wisdom and guidance.
The times I feel least like praying are the times I most need to. It’s not God’s will that I should feel useless and hopeless. When I’m depressed or oppressed, I need to remember the persistent widow who got what she needed to carry on because she didn’t give up on asking.
In the case of Peter’s imprisonment, the church had no earthly reason to hope for his deliverance. Herod had already murdered James, and with 16 guards surrounding him, Peter wasn’t likely to escape. But still, they prayed persistently. It’s ironic that when those prayers were miraculously answered, they were too astonished to believe it. It seems they had a rather fractured faith; they believed enough to pray for Peter, but not enough to expect God’s explicit intervention. It suggests they had their own ideas of what the answer might be, and because this miracle didn’t fit in with their expectations, it couldn’t be true.
How often do some today make the same mistake when they hear a first-hand report of a miraculous answer to prayer and dismiss the witness as deluded or crazy? Perhaps it’s only when we’re willing to open the door for ourselves that we see the reality of God’s answer, no matter how unexpected.
Father, please help me to keep on knocking at Your door, to never give up on You, just as You never give up on me. Remind me not to anticipate what Your answer will be, but to rest in the assurance that whatever form it takes, whatever time it takes, will be the best answer for Your purposes.