Have you ever noticed that God sometimes does things differently than the way we expected? That has certainly been true in my life, but I take comfort from the fact it was also often true for the characters we see in Scripture. Recently I was asked to open a prayer meeting; and knowing that in times of crisis God’s people frequently encouraged themselves by recounting what God had done for His followers in the past, I felt led to look at God’s miraculous intervention when Peter escaped from prison as detailed in Acts 12:1-16.
At this point in the life of the early church, King Herod had begun to escalate his persecution of Christ-followers because he saw that mistreating them met with approval among the Jewish leadership. Wanting to stay in favor with them, Herod killed James, the brother of John, and then arrested Peter, one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem.
Peter was thrown into the deepest part of the prison where he was heavily guarded. The night before his trial was due to begin, Peter was huddled on the floor of the cell-bound with two chains in between two guards. You would think that hope would seem lost in the inky darkness of the cell, but Peter had peace enough to fall asleep! Hope was not lost because the church was earnestly praying to God for him!
Suddenly, in answer to their prayers, an angel appeared in the prison – a light shone in the darkness! Waking Peter, the angel commanded him to get up; and as he obeyed, the chains fell off his wrists. Quickly putting on his cloak and his sandals, Peter followed the heavenly messenger out of the prison. In truth Peter did not believe this was actually happening, rather he thought he was having a vision! They approached the huge iron gate that led to the city. The Scriptures tell us, “It opened for them by itself and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.” Peter came to himself and realized he wasn’t dreaming after all! The Lord had indeed rescued him from Herod’s clutches!
He immediately made his way to the house where the believers were praying and knocked loudly at the door. Interestingly, a servant girl by the name of Rhoda came to answer; but when she heard Peter’s voice speak to her from the other side of the door, she was so surprised she ran to tell the others without ever opening it to let him in! For some time, Peter had to keep on knocking while the believers inside struggled with their unbelief! When they eventually opened the door, they were astonished to see that it really was their friend standing at the threshold! They obviously did not expect God to answer their prayers in the way that He did!
Something in the story really stood out to me though as I read it. God miraculously caused the heavy iron gate to the city to fly open by itself; and yet here, at this much smaller door, Peter had to stand knocking! Not only that, he had to keep knocking and knocking and knocking before it finally was opened. It was such a reminder to me that each situation, each need we face is unique and God does not always answer our prayers in the same way. We cannot predict what He will do or how or when. Sometimes things will open before us even before we get there. But sometimes we must stand and just keep knocking until He moves.
Perhaps you have begun to feel discouraged because for all your prayers the way still seems blocked before you. Doors have not opened for you as you had hoped. I sense that God is impressing on our hearts that there will be some “doors” in our life that we will have to keep knocking on. The answer we seek may seem slow in coming, but we cannot give up! Keep knocking, my friend. Keep knocking.
May God bless you!