“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” Acts 12: 5 (NIV)
Early church was going through a crisis. King Herod had beheaded James. Now their leader – Peter was imprisoned. In midst of this hostile political situation the believers are praying earnestly. They prayed through the night.
But why didn’t they believe the servant girl Rhoda, when she said that Peter was at the door?
Was it their unbelief? If so, their prayer was without faith.
Can a faithless prayer be called earnest? Was the miraculous deliverance of Peter in some way connected with this prayer which lacked the faith? Or the deliverance was just a coincidence?
Based on the context of the text we can say that the early church indeed prayed in earnestness. They had the commitment to gather at an odd hour of the night at a believer’s house to pray for Peter.
Only our presumption about the content of their prayer that it was for the deliverance of Peter makes it look like a faithless prayer. But they could have prayed to God that Peter would be faithful witness to Jesus in the trail next day. Or their prayer was to keep Peter strong so that he would not deny Christ like the previous time when he would be killed like James.
If we look at their prayer in this way their reaction to the announcement of Peter’s presence would make sense.
When Peter met them, he did not condemn them for lack of faith but he explained to them how God delivered him.
Thus the prayer of the early Church for Peter was not for his deliverance but for God’s strength in midst of possible death.
How is our prayer? Do we pray with right intention or only with some material benefit in mind?