by olivia Caldwell
Hey, when you pray, do you believe that God hears?
Do you believe that He answers?
There was a time several months ago that I was sitting in a conference and before it began, our Pastor prayed over us, and over the weekend. He asked that the Lord would remove anything that would distract or hinder us during our time together and, up until that moment, I had been dealing with a pounding headache. It had been a crazy day and it was like the stress of everything had just compounded in my head.
So, I'm sitting in my seat at that highly-anticipated conference and I'm a little worried that I won't be able to concentrate through the throbbing of my head. And then my Pastor prayed. And my headache immediately subsided.
And look, that was amazing and wonderful and so kind of the Lord. Honestly, it blessed me, and then our time in the Word that weekend blessed me even more. But that moment really changed the way that I think about prayer.
I thought about my pastor, who wouldn't know that the Lord answered his prayer unless I told him, and I thought about times that I have prayed and wondered, 'What do I think happens when I pray? Do I actually believe that when I pray, the Lord answers me?'
I mean...I do. I do believe! A lot of the time, God actually reminds me of past prayers or illuminates when He has worked in my life and in my heart and in the lives of others and answered my earnest prayers. But I began to be concerned about my heart and my posture regarding prayer and regarding God Himself.
What is my posture in prayer? What do I believe happens when I humbly and yet boldly bow before the throne of God? And when I open my eyes and stand to go about my day, are my eyes really open to looking for how God may already be moving and working? Is it His promises I am standing on? Do I truly believe that He has heard me and will work things out for my good, according to His will and purpose?
There is a story in Acts 12 that increases my conviction when it comes to prayer.
Herod has killed James, brother of John, and arrested Peter. Peter is in prison, guarded by four squads of soldiers, and Herod's intention is to bring him out before the people after the Passover.
"So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church." Acts 12:5
So, at Mary's place, there were many gathered together, praying. No doubt these followers were praying fervently for Peter, especially after the devastating loss of James by the sword.
I think it's safe to say they did not anticipate what happened next.
"Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Acts 12:6-11
Peter heads to the house of Mary, where everyone is praying and knocks at the door. A servant named Rhoda came to answer and she recognized Peter's voice! And "...in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate." (v14)
As many were praying, their meeting was interrupted by a servant girl who was so overwhelmed with joy over the miraculous answer to their prayer that homegirl didn't even let Peter in!
And their response?
"You are out of your mind."
I kind of wish you could see my face right now. I'm envisioning this scene and thinking, "I'm sorry, what? Out of her mind? What exactly were you praying for?"
Really, what were they praying for? What were they expecting? Probably not for Peter to show up at their door right then and there, to be fair, but was it so hard to believe a breathless and exhilarated servant girl carrying news that their prayers had been answered? Was what she said too outrageous and good to believe?!
Instead of going to see for themselves, they kept saying, "It is his angel!" when Rhoda insisted and insisted. I wonder if it would have been more believable for them to hear news of Peter's demise instead of his rescue and deliverance from the violent hands of Herod.
Why pray, then?
Rhoda kept insisting and Peter kept knocking. They finally opened the door and were amazed when they saw him standing before them!
"Christians are often overwhelmed and astonished when even their own petitions are granted, and when God manifests his own power in his own way and time. Prayer should be persevered in, and we should place ourselves in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us." (Barnes' Notes on the Bible)
Oh, sisters, may we be found in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us! May that be our posture! May we be like Rhoda, not swayed by unbelief, but instead persistent in the face of it!
I'm a bit tempted to insert some sort of caveat here, but honestly? I think we have enough of those. I think we should keep this story fresh in our minds and do our best to enter into prayer with a posture that honors the Lord and says, 'I believe You. I believe You are mighty and that you can do mighty deeds by Your mighty arm. I believe You are God Almighty. I believe in You!'
And then, we need to wait expectantly.
God, make us like Rhodas rising up in the midst of an unbelieving generation. Make us persistent and insistent upon Your Word and Your character and Your might and Your works! Make us women who beckon those around us to come and see what You have done. Give us a posture of prayer that honors You. And God, give us eyes to see how You are answering our earnest prayer unto You.
In Jesus' name we pray! Amen!
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