when he realized this, he went to the house of mary, the mother of john whose other name was mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. and when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named rhoda came to answer. recognizing peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that peter was standing at the gate. they said to her, “you are out of your mind.” but she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “it is his angel!” but peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. but motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. and he said, “tell these things to james and to the brothers.” then he departed and went to another place. [acts 12:12-17]

the disciples had prayed earnestly for peter’s release from prison. for protection over his life. they had cried out to the Lord. but they had prayed in disbelief. they did not expect that he would answer their pleas. when deliverance came, they did not even curiously explore the possibility, but told poor rhoda she was crazy! they tried to explain it away by saying it must have been his angel. 

but thanks be to God that his work does not depend on our perfect prayers. he is gracious and patient with us, feeble mouthed as we may be, weak of heart as we may be. the Lord delivered peter in spite of unbelief. and as peter recounted this mighty act of God, their hearts were amazed, their faith was bolstered, their minds broadened to the mighty and caring hands of the Father.

we have these accounts so that our faith, too, might be bolstered. that we might see the mighty acts of God and believe that he alone has all power, wisdom, and authority to make his glory known in the world. that we might pray boldly to that end!

if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. [john 15:7]

Jesus gives us this beautiful promise to assure us that when we seek the Lord with our whole heart, knowing and being known by him, bowing our knee to his word and walking in his Spirit, the Father will hear and answer our prayers. because of the blood of Christ, we are invited straight to the throne of grace. [hebrews 4:16] we can pray with confidence.

you desire and do not have, so you murder. you covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. you do not have, because you do not ask. you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. [james 4:2-4]

our prayer is always to the same end. for God to be glorified in the work that he does. he is not to be treated as a genie in a bottle, that we should summon him only when we desire something from him. he does not bend the knee to our will. we bend our knee to his. this exhortation from james is a warning against worldliness. if we are chasing after the world, we cannot expect to pray in the will of God. we can pray in worship.

again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “my Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” [matthew 26:42]

Jesus himself gives us this perfect example in prayer. boldly bringing his request, yet bowing his knee to the will of his Father. trusting in his wisdom. submitting to his perfect plan. when we pray, we do not command that God answer in the way that we want. we ask in complete confidence, yet we submit to his will, and admit the limitations of our vision. we trust that he knows best. we can pray in humility.

now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. amen. [ephesians 3:20]

we cannot fathom the power or creativity with which the Lord works in the world. the way we pray often reveals our view of how big God really is. or how generous he really is. small prayers, small God. safe prayers, stingy God. but he is waiting to pour out his grace on his children. he delights to bless them with his nearness! his power is great and his love is equally as great. we can pray with boldness.

what a mighty God we serve! with infinite power to do whatever he pleases, with no need for assistance from those who serve him, he still delights in using our prayers as a means to work in the world. this amazing gift is ours to steward well. today, alone in his presence, praise him for the gift of prayer! ask him for greater understanding and greater faith!


~ arwen eastman