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: 13-16)
This chapter brings together both hope and fear. The author first describes how the Apostle James was killed by Herod with a sword, and how James became the first apostle to be martyred. Peter was also arrested, put in prison and closely guarded because Herod intended to kill him in the presence of the Jewish people and earn their favor after the Passover. When the church heard that Peter had been put into prison, they eagerly prayed to God for him. Although Peter was closely supervised, not only with the chains which bound him but also by the guards taking turns watching him, the angels still rescued him from prison.
When the angel rescued Peter from prison, Peter came to Mark's house, because there were many people gathering and praying there. So Peter wanted to tell his brothers and sisters that he was safe so that they could be at ease. Although these people were praying urgently for Peter at this time, when the maid Rhoda told the people that Peter was outside the door, no one believed her. Even after she told them again, the people still didn't believe. They thought that Peter had been martyred, and said that it must be Peter's angel. The Jews believed that everyone had a guardian angel who looked exactly the same. When the crowd opened the door and saw Peter, they were surprised, which showed their unbelief.
Although, when Peter was arrested and imprisoned, the people eagerly prayed for him. At least they still had faith in God at that time, so they prayed for Peter urgently. But when this prayer was answered by God, they appeared distrustful. The fundamental reason was that they did not have enough faith to accept God's answer.
When we encounter difficulties, we pray to God urgently but have no confidence that we will receive an answer to our prayer. This is a common thing among us. This happens because prayer is often treated as a routine, or as a compulsory act. But too often, God answers our prayers even though we are not sure that he really has, so we may be surprised or have doubts and unbelief.
Prayer is essential for the spiritual life of Christians. Prayer is also an expression of faith in God, so it requires faith. We come to God to pray because we have faith in God. But our faith should not just be confined to prayer, but we should pray without ceasing. Whether we get an answer from God or God leads in other ways, we must always receive it with faith. Maybe at the beginning, we don’t know how God will lead and what his will is. But if we look up to God in faith, one day we will surely understand his will. And we will see the glory of God in the things we don’t understand.
(Note: The author of this article is a full-time co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian)
-Translated by Abigail Wu