Text: Acts 12:1-25, Mark 10:35-40, Isaiah 42:8
Peter’s position seemed dire. He was in prison and scheduled for execution the following day (Acts 12:6). But I love the response of the Church here; they didn’t start a letter-writing campaign, or stage a protest—they gathered together to pray. And after they gathered together, instead of just angrily shouting about what to do next, they actually prayed.
This was their solution to an impossible situation. God was teaching His people what it means to be the Church. He was teaching them—and us—how to solve impossible problems. The answer is simply this: pray. It’s such a simple answer that they found it hard to believe it would actually work. They were surprised when Peter showed up at the door with the shackles off his hands (Acts 12:6-16).
God is so abundantly good, sometimes we don’t even see it. When He moves in a direct response to prayer we are inclined to miss it; we’d never dare to dream that His goodness extends far enough to answer our requests. In fact, sometimes we forget to pray at all!
What if God uses pain to draw us to Him? It’s possible that dangers and struggles come to drive the Church to prayer—not because He needs us to pray, and not because He needs us to give glory to Him, but because He’s turning our gaze back toward Him. Surely, God’s glory and purposes aren’t subject to what we do or don’t do. In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis put it this way: “For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”
God uses trials to bring us to prayer—to change us. He calls us to do His work, and sometimes that work feels impossible. Unthinkable things happen to us, marriages fail, parents get sick, our sweet new babies die—our hearts are broken. But we are not called to despair, or even to fear (Isaiah 41:10), because it’s in the places of deep darkness that God does His greatest work.
Let us join with the saints of the early Church and use every hardship as an occasion to pray. We, too, can believe in God’s abundant goodness, and see how the gospel can flourish and multiply (Acts 12:24), even in times of persecution.
Are you hurting today? Are you mourning the loss of the life you imagined? Does it seem like there is no solution, no hope? You are not alone. Receive that: you are not alone. Let your sadness, hurt, and despair prompt you to pray.
God is at work, even when we struggle to believe.