I’m on my last day of “vacation” in Charleston, S.C., visiting with our oldest daughter and her husband, but I’ve still found time to sit and quietly study. As a matter of fact, I’ve had some wonderful times of peaceful, uninterrupted periods of reading and note taking.
Which brings me to what I want to share with you this morning, while I have a moment and it’s fresh on my mind.
I’m good friends with a legendary Church of God gospel group, the Branham Family. In one popular song that Donna Branham (Coleman) wrote, she sings about the story of Peter being released from prison (Acts 12:1-19), then coming to the house where the church was praying. In short, the song makes the argument that even though they had been praying all night, because they were shocked to see Peter at the door, they must have not really believed the prayer would be answered.
Then, as the title of the song describes, the chorus leads us to acknowledge that “someone in that house believed when they prayed…” because the proof was that Peter did get released. The assumption, then, is that because the people were amazed to see Peter at the door they must have not really believed God would deliver him from being executed the next day.
And honestly, that’s what a lot of people think about these early Christians. They tend to detract from the fact that they were in one accord pleading with God all night long for Peter’s life, and then describe the prayer warriors as “faithless.”
You see, as I have been studying Acts 12 (along with the rest of the book), it doesn’t appear that the church that prayed for Peter was faithless; it’s just that they were shocked at how God answered.
Think about it, just because Peter and the other “apostles” experienced a similar angelic deliverance in Acts 5, that doesn’t mean they were going to assume it would happen again. After all, both Stephen and James had now been killed, not delivered, so why were they to assume the doors would open on their own for Peter this time?
Yet, they did pray all night for Peter, which is far more than we might see today. Could it be that what they were praying for was Peter’s life to be spared, and possibly by changing the heart of Agrippa?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a message to the Church in Acts 12, and I think it’s more than “believe when you pray.”
I believe the message to us today might be more like, “Don’t be amazed when God answers your prayers in an unexpected way.”
I mean, the church might have been expecting to wake up the next morning to hear word that Herod Agrippa had accepted Christ as his Messiah, or something. But I think it’s unfair to judge this fearless and committed group of early believers as unbelieving pew-warmers just going through the motions.
They DID believe, but they never expected how miraculous the answer would be.
So, keep praying and believing; you might be surprised at what God has planned.