Acts 12 has single-handedly transformed my prayer life. But before I explain how, let me share with you a story I recently came across that is both funny, challenging and relevant:
There’s a story of a young girl who wrote a letter to a missionary to let him know that her class had been praying for him. But evidently she’d been told not to request a response to her letter because the missionaries were very busy. So the missionary got a kick out of her letter. It said,
“Dear Mr. Missionary, we are praying for you. But we are not expecting an answer.”
For many Christians, this girl’s letter is an analogy for their prayer lives. We pray all the time for the healing of a loved one or the reconciliation of a broken marriage, but we secretly believe it’s too late. We think we already know what God is going to do. So we pray, but we don’t expect a positive answer.
And that is exactly what happens in Acts 12. Peter is in prison awaiting his near certain execution. Verse 5 tells us that his church was earnestly praying for him, but they probably felt hopeless. Their brother James had been executed just days before.
Fortunately, God hear their prayers and delivers Peter. And He does so in a pretty extraordinary way. He sends an angel to wake Peter in the night and lead him out of the prison. Peter himself can’t believe what’s happening. He thinks it’s all a dream.
Ironically, his friends have the exact same reaction. Once he arrives at the house of Mary, they can’t believe it. The servant girl who answers the door and claims to have seen Peter is immediately dismissed. “You’re crazy!” They say.
They can’t possibly imagine that God would actually answer their prayers.
But He did. And He does. Not only does God answer our prayers, but He can do so in the most miraculous, mind-blowing ways. We rarely see this happen because our prayer lives are so faithless. We are like the man in James 1 who asks but does not believe. Scripture warns us that such people “should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
I challenge you to test God in this. The next time someone calls you with a prayer request that you immediately think you know the answer to, resist that reflex. Instead turn it over to God in genuine trust and see what happens. If God can send an angel to bust Peter out of prison, then I feel pretty confident about what He can do with my requests.