If someone who you cared for was executed because of their faith and at the same time another person who you knew was imprisoned because of their beliefs, what would you do?
When one church went through this, they gathered to pray. We don’t know if their prayers were full of confidence that God was going to fix things or whether they simply prayed because they didn’t know what else to do.
Either way, something remarkable happened!
As they prayed for Peter, who had been imprisoned, God set him free and he came and knocked at the door of the house in which the church was praying. Rhoda saw it was Peter and ran to tell everyone but they didn’t believe her.
Get that, they were meeting to pray for Peter and when he turned up they didn’t believe it was him.
I always used to think this was about a lack of faith, that they were praying for Peter’s freedom but that when it happened that they didn’t believe. Now though I see the story differently, what if the prayers for Peter were nothing to do with his release?
The Apostle Paul was imprisoned because of his faith and from his prison he wrote several letters that make up a large part of the New Testament. In those letters he asked for prayer but remarkably he didn’t ask for prayer that he would be set free. In fact, his consistent prayer request was that he would be able to tell people about Jesus.
When Peter and John had been imprisoned during an earlier run in with the authorities, the church met to pray then as well. Their prayers acknowledged that the authorities were against them and that they were living in dark times but then they prayed;
‘O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ (Acts 4.29-30).
Do you see the commonality in these prayers? In dark and terrible circumstances, rather than focusing on the darkness they prayed for the light to shine. They didn’t pray against evil or religious persecution, they prayed that they would be able to talk about Jesus more.
What is our primary prayer, is it for safety or is it for more people to hear about Jesus?
With the recent attacks in France, many of us have been left dazed, bewildered and upset by what we have seen on the news. If we are feeling low and vulnerable at the moment, how should we respond?
Perhaps it is time for us to take our eyes off the darkness and look towards the light!
If we believe in God, we shouldn’t be discouraged because it really is true that the light shines the brightest in the brightest places.
As we pray during these dark times, may we be full of hope and expectation that God is at work even in the aftermath of these terrible circumstances.
I hope that our primary prayer will be that God’s light would shine in the darkest of places and that his light would shine in us, through us and in spite of us.
God, may your kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
You can read more about Peter’s imprisonment and the prayer meeting for him in Acts 12.