This week I have been writing about honest and heartfelt prayers, but I haven’t explored what happens on God’s part. At times we see an affirmative answer to our prayers, sometimes we feel God telling us “no,” and sometimes it just doesn’t feel like He answered at all. The next few days I want to explore the idea of answers to prayer and our reactions to God’s answers. I often laugh at myself because I see so many times when God has answered “yes” to my prayers, yet each time I am amazed. I think of a time when my husband and I needed a second car and we had gone almost a year with one car. The arrangement was working for us, but not well. Finally, in desperation I asked God, “Would you please give us a car?” Within a few days, a lady from our church had called my husband and said that she was getting rid of her car and she felt led to give it to us. I was astounded, but why? By this point in my life, I had seen God do miraculous things to provide what I needed right when I needed them. I had experienced physical healing as a result of prayer and seen others experience miracles through prayer. As I have thought about this, I think maybe it is because I have also experienced several “no” answers as well. It is kind of like my kids asking me every day if they can have candy and my usual answer is no. If I let them have candy every time they asked, I think they would have health issues later down the road. However, sometimes I say yes, and their excitement over the candy is greater than it would be if they could have candy all the time. I want to look at believers that were also amazed at God’s answer to prayer; please turn to Acts 12:1-18.
The first couple of verses show us that the church was under persecution from the government; it was no longer just the religious leaders. The church just saw the death of a leader at the hands of the Roman government, and now Herod had Peter arrested and was intending to put him to death as well. Verse 5 tells us, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” The word earnestly stuck out at me because I have been studying the idea of honest and emotional prayer. I can just imagine how heartfelt their prayers must have been. They had experienced persecution from the religious leaders, but now they were experiencing persecution from the Roman government and I’m sure it may have seemed overwhelming. Peter was a strong leader and I’m sure the church couldn’t imagine not having his leadership. There was probably desperation in their prayers. But their reaction in God’s “yes” answer always makes me laugh because I sometimes see myself in their reaction. Please look at verse 11 and we see that Peter is amazed when he realizes that he was not having a vision. Then in verse 15 we see that the people who were praying at Mary’s house didn’t believe that Peter was there and in verse 16, we read that they were “astonished.” Praying earnestly doesn't necessarily mean that we're ready for the answer that God is going to give!
I guess sometimes our astonishment isn’t always even the fact that we receive affirmative answers to prayer; it is the way God answers them. He is the creator of the universe, so of course His work is going to be creative. Sometimes we expect Him to answer on a human level that makes sense to us, so when we see a miracle it is amazing. Phillip Yancey defines miracles as, “rare exceptions to the normal laws that govern the planet,” (page 87) in his book Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference? Sometimes He moves in a way that is an exception to normal and when that happens we are amazed. Sometimes He uses normal people and normal events to answer “yes.” I have to admit that it is fun to be amazed by God and the way He chooses to work.
Do you expect a “yes” when you pray? Are you amazed when you see God’s hand at work?