I knew the story that followed because I’ve read it many times. It’s a story we love to teach children because it involves a little girl who was so excited that she forgot to open the door.
Herod had killed James with a sword, and because he saw it pleased the religious leaders, he put Peter in prison. The church was praying. Think of this frightened group. Things must have looked very desperate and impossible. But they prayed. They weren’t watching the news or eating every cookie in sight. They were praying for Peter. Earnestly praying.
We are in prison! Locked down. My friend who is recovering at home from the virus told me she had an O2 monitor on her finger. She said, “It’s the new version of the ankle bracelet while I’m under house arrest.” That’s how we all feel- like we’re under house arrest.
But when I read the verse – “Peter was kept in prison” -the image that came right to my mind was not of us but of newly appointed missionaries Caleb and Carina Beatty who, shortly after they arrived to plant churches in Madrid, were caught in this COVID-19 lockdown. They’ve been shut in their apartment on an upper floor with their two little girls for more than a month. The girls can see the playground below but have not stepped out of the door all these many long days. In prison!
For Peter, as the believers gathered in earnest prayer, the most surreal events took place. Just put yourself in there with Peter for a moment and imagine this unfolding—
“Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Acts 12;6-11
I can relate to the response of the believers when Peter showed up at the door of Mary’s house and little Rhoda ran to the group without letting him in. Nobody believed it could be him! We pray but are surprised when God answers.
God can do much more than we even expect! They prayed. God responded. Prison doors were opened!
For Carina and Caleb, the door is still closed, but their windows are open. Using their considerable musical talent, they’ve led their neighbors in worship through their windows – their voices, guitar, and violin ringing out in the courtyard, amplified by the apartment walls. Listen Here
The electric bolt of insight about the power of fervent prayer motivates me to keep praying. And believing that God will answer. He is answering! Things can turn around miraculously.
In the meanwhile, let’s take every opportunity to worship and share the love of God through whatever window we can open.
And may it be said of us – Ernest prayer was made to God by the church.