Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest...and Thankful

The pastor at the church I attend in South County St. Louis, Missouri spoke this past week on a passage in Acts (12:1-16) which describes an event in the life of Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples and a founding member of the Christian Church.

This is what happened.

James, John’s brother, is killed by Herod. Not the Christmas story King Herod, but rather his grandson. He’s cut from the same cloth, however. Wanting the Jews on his side, and also because he was just an ungodly man, he persecuted the Christians, the Jesus Followers. After killing James and seeing the positive reaction from his constituents in Jerusalem, he forges on by arresting Peter.

As would be the case today, Peter’s church congregation is alarmed and upset about this and begin ‘earnestly praying’ for his safety and release.

Jump to Peter’s prison cell. An angel appears. (How cool would that be?) The mission is to bust Peter out of jail! To do that, to get Peter to safety, they have to go through four gates. The angel leads the way through three of them, all the while Peter believing that he’s dreaming. But after the third gate, the angel leaves Peter, disappears entirely, and Peter is left on the street, alone, but awake now to reality. The fourth gate he has to pass through in order to complete this prison break and reach safe is the gate to the church, to the building where the believers are ‘earnestly praying.’ So he high-tails it there and knocks on the door.

Two things happen. First, the servant girl sent to see who was knocking on the gate is so surprised to hear Peter’s voice that she forgets to let him in before running back to tell the others. Second, the others do not believe her, in fact they say she must be out of her mind.

Eventually they open the gate to Peter and they see and believe Peter is out of prison.

There’s so much to learn from this story. So many angles and perspectives and revelation and application possible to harvest from these verses.

But what popped out at me this read-through concerns the perspective of the ‘earnestly praying’ believers.

From the moment Peter is arrested, the believers ‘earnestly pray’ for his release. We can relate to that, right? A serious issue comes up, we put our heads and hearts together and we implore God to set it straight, fix it, restore it, send a miracle.

When Peter’s congregation received, in miraculous fashion, the answer to their ‘earnest prayers,’ they did not believe it. They rationalized the news, dismissed the messenger, even accused her of being crazy. Yet, the very answer they had been seeking stood just on the other side of the gate. Knocking. Waiting to be ushered in.

In light of this, I ask myself the following question: What prayers have been answered in my life that I have not acknowledged because I have yet to see them with my own eyes?

I’m wondering if it is possible that the answer I’m pining for stands right outside the gate, knocking, because I sit inside refusing to believe it’s possible.

I don’t completely understand where my thought process is going on this in a theological sense. But it does encourage me in one thing – gratitude. Instead of shouting ‘Thanks be to God, Peter’s okay,’ the early believers doubt instead. If I can form a habit of counting my blessings, readily have praise on the tip of my tongue, I may believe the answer to my ‘earnest’ problem as soon as it knocks on the door. Maybe even before then.

But what if the answer is ‘no’? you ask.

All the more reason to praise Him. Why? Because He is a great and good God. And because I can trust Him in all things. And because I know He loves me with an everlasting, unfailing love.

By all means, continue to pray earnestly. Just be ready to welcome the answer with a thankful heart, too.

Happy Wednesday, Dry Ground friends! Be encouraged!

(photo by