What are you praying for that seems impossible? Check out this situation:
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
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.”
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. Acts 12:1-17
James had just been martyred, Peter was imprisoned. Surely he was next for the bloodthirsty, crowd-pleasing king. The odds were stacked against the praying church and surely against Peter. They could have assumed the will of the Lord was as it seemed yesterday for James – to give his life in ultimate sacrifice for his Lord.
Maybe their thoughts and conversations were something like this:
“Why bother? Maybe this is how it supposed to be. Maybe we all will die for our faith.”
“Maybe the Lord will turn Herod’s heart.”
“Maybe Jesus will come back!”
“Or maybe Peter will just die, and we will too, one by one.”
Then someone says, “We could pray!”
And another, “We did that yesterday for James, remember?”
“But I guess we should, you know, just because we should.”
Or maybe the conversation was like this:
“We don’t always know the mind of the Lord. We don’t know why He allowed them to kill our beloved James. But this we do know; this is not right, this is unjust. We are the salt of the earth and all we are trying to do is redeem it back to God! I think it would be good and wise to pray the will of God be done on earth as it is in Heaven; and in Heaven, righteousness prevails! God is powerful and He can turn Herod’s heart! Or He can do something else that is greater than all we could ever ask or even think!”
“That’s right, let’s pray right now! Why not? Let’s lean into all of God’s attributes.”
And together they pray, “Great Father, You can do as you please – and often you are pleased to do as we ask. We want you to spare the life of our friend Peter. The odds are against us. It is not likely that Herod will relent, that rat! He is hungry for the praise of men and took Peter only because his risk of killing James went well for his ego. Crush his pride, bring justice to him now; or if you want to do it another way. We are happily submitted to your perfect will. We know that here below we do not have perfect clarity concerning what you are doing in every circumstance, but in the absence of divine revelation (and you have given none concerning Peter’s death to us today) we are going to go with wisdom. And wisdom says Peter should not die! So, in the face of human impossibility show the world you still reign in sovereign power! Defeat our Enemy and our enemies in the name of Jesus Christ!”
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Did Peter eventually succumb to this wicked world and become a martyr as was foretold? Yes, but not this day!
“Knock and it will be opened unto you.” Matthew 7:7