Those dear folks praying for Peter at Mary’s house in Acts 12 get such a bum rap. You remember the story: Peter was in prison, many were gathered together at Mary’s house praying for him, he was miraculously delivered, he came to Mary’s house, Rhoda answered the door, in her excitement she left him at the door while she told the others he was there, and they thought she was crazy. They’re accused of not really praying in faith if they were so astonished when the prayer was answered.
But Dr. Layton Talbert, in his book (Not By Chance: Learning to Trust a Sovereign God, brings up a different viewpoint. We don’t know that they were praying for Peter’s deliverance from prison. He points out that the text doesn’t say. James was killed by Herod earlier in the chapter: since he was not delivered they may not have expected Peter to be, either. “The only precedent we have for the church’s prayer under similar circumstances is in Acts 4:23-30. There, in the face of recent imprisonment, persecution, and renewed threats, the church made only one request. And it wasn’t for deliverance from prison or persecution; it was for boldness in the face of both (4:29)” (p. 203).
That’s a rebuke to me. When I’m experiencing any kind of trouble, the main focus of my prayer is likely to be deliverance. “Lord, please get me out of this. Please remove this problem. Soon. As soon as possible. Today, even? Now? Please?”
It’s not wrong to pray for or seek for deliverance. There are examples of both all through the Bible. Jacob. The Psalmist’s prayers. Persecution scattered the early disciples far beyond Jerusalem, taking the gospel with them. Paul escaped for his life several times. Even Jesus evaded the murderous intents of mobs when His time was not yet come.
But as we saw yesterday, it is not always God’s will to deliver, at least not in the way or the time we wanted. James was killed. Joseph spent long years as a slave and then as a prisoner. Paul was eventually imprisoned. Jesus, when His time was come, faced betrayal, arrest, torture, and death.
When we don’t know when or whether God will deliver us or a loved one from a serious trial, besides praying for deliverance, we can pray for these as well:
- that with all boldness they may speak His word (Acts 4:29)
- that they or we would “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2)
- that we’d know “that the trying of your faith worketh patience” and “let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:3-4).
- that we’d “fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10).
- that we’d let “none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
- “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3) (It’s interesting to look through verses about comfort in Paul’s epistles.)
In fact, the more I look through these, the more I seem to find: not surprising since many of Paul’s epistles were written while people were after him or while he was in prison.
May we and our loved ones seek His will and grace and help in our afflictions as well as out of them.