“Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.” – Acts 12:16
Here’s the scene. A group of Christians has gathered together for an all-night prayer vigil to seek God for the life of their beloved friend and leader named Peter, whom Herod has arrested and plans to execute. They are crying out to God for Peter’s life and the prayers take them into the early morning.
Then a knock comes at the front door. A servant girl name Rhoda is sent to see who it is. Rhoda must have been very familiar with Peter to recognize him just by his voice, because she left the gate locked and ran back to the prayer group and told them Peter was here.
And, being the faith-filled, Spirit-led, Holy Ghost baptized believers that they were, they immediately dismissed Rhoda’s news by telling her she was crazy, it was just probably just his angel. Say what? Here these people are involved in some serious prayer but when the answer comes knocking at the door, they don’t believe it. THAT is what I mean by this being an imperfect prayer – they didn’t even have enough faith to think that God would answer their prayers.
What this means for all of us is that it isn’t the “perfect” prayers we pray that finally prevail. It wasn’t the extraordinary faith they all had that moved God to release Peter. In fact, they didn’t show much faith at all. Here they are, all gathered together to pray for their beloved friend, and when he shows up in answer to their prayers, they don’t believe it. So, how much faith does it take to pray for something and then, when you get it, turn it away because you doubt? Not much faith. Not much at all. But what we learn from this passage is it isn’t the amount of faith you have but Who your faith is in.
We must always remember that our faith isn’t in our faith, it is in God. Jesus knew we’d only need faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains (Matt 13:31-32). The fact that they were praying was enough faith to produce results. I admonish you to NEVER tell someone they didn’t receive an answer to their prayers because they didn’t have enough faith. I want to seriously hurt the self-righteous clods who tell people, “The reason you didn’t get healed was because you didn’t have enough faith.” If you want to see me truly angry, use that sentence in my presence! How much faith does it take to become saved? How much faith does it take to have your first-ever conversation with God? I think that is the same amount of faith it takes to move mountains. Just talking with God takes a certain amount of faith in itself.
Think about this: Peter was released but James was killed. Do you think any apostle could have been arrested without the prayers of the church going out to them? Could the prayers for James have any less faith in being answered than the prayers for Peter? How much less faith can you have than the little faith they had for Peter’s return? They disbelieve Rhoda and then use the excuse it was a ghost or his angel. Can we really say that they had less faith in praying for James and that’s why God didn’t answer them?
Can I tell you a secret? Sometimes the answer God gives is “No,” and no amount of faith will change that. Sometimes it is the death of His servants that serves Him in a way that his life could not. We say God is God and He can do anything He wants, but then we proceed to give Him a list of acceptable and unacceptable things for a God to do. You know, a God we’ve created in our own image to serve our own interests, wants and needs.
I admit that it comforts me to know I’m not the first person to pray for something and then doubt when it arrives. These early believers prayed rightly, and even though they didn’t believe it when God answered their prayers, God answered them anyway. They prayed effectively but didn’t fully believe. Still, they had enough faith in them to pray in the first place, and that was all God needed to answer their prayers. It is all we need, too.