by Kathy Howard
Doctors diagnosed Kaitlyn with leukemia just days before her thirteenth birthday. Family, friends, and the church immediately began to pray. Kaitlyn endured weeks of intense in-patient treatment. After multiple victories and set-backs, the doctors announced Kaitlyn was in remission. My dear friend Janet also endured years of intense treatments and long bouts of hospitalizations to battle a rare form of leukemia. Many believers – including me – prayed fervently for her physical healing. But Janet’s story ended differently than Kaitlyn’s.
Many Christians earnestly prayed for the physical healing of both my friends. God delivered one from leukemia’s grip. But God eternally healed the other by bringing her home to heaven. God had the power to heal both, but only physically healed one.
In Acts chapter 12, both Peter and James faced the threat of death for the sake of Christ. God physically delivered one, but allowed the martyrdom of the other. I don’t fully understand why God answers some prayers the way we desire, but not others. But I believe what His Word teaches. God is always able. He always cares. And sometimes God’s purposes include leaving us in our physical trials.
In the early days of the church, Herod Agrippa I was Rome’s appointed “king” over a significant geographical area that included Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. This stereotypical politician acted to benefit himself. Therefore, when his execution of James pleased the Jewish leaders (Acts 12:1-3), Herod planned a similar fate for Peter to further curry their favor. Herod thought he had control. But he was mistaken.
When Herod arrested Peter during the Passover feast, the church began praying. The believers did not simply pray once for Peter then check it off their prayer list. In Acts 12:5, their prayer is described as “earnest.” The adjective “earnest” describes a fervent, wholehearted, vigilant attitude and the verb tense indicates continuous action. They pled with God on Peter’s behalf. They urgently prayed and kept on praying.
Herod had taken extreme measures to prevent Peter from escaping. He was bound with two chains between two soldiers and two more soldiers guarded the door (Acts 12:6). But in light of God’s power, these efforts seem silly. When God deployed His angelic messenger to execute His escape plan, no amount of chains, guards, or locks could hinder God. The chains fell off, the prison door opened, and the angel led Peter out into the street.
Ironically, Peter experienced far more trouble getting into the house where the believers were praying than he did walking out of prison! The believers prayed earnestly, but not necessarily with expectation. They asked God to act, but did not look for His answer. Peter’s arrival surprised them.
God still works through the prayers of believers. What an incredible truth! The God of the universe chooses to work through the intercession of His people to carry out His purposes. Through prayer, God invites us to join Him in His work. And while we may not always understand God’s specific answer, we can always trust that His answer is good.
So, let us trust in the One who hears our prayers and not in a specific outcome. Let us boldly enter God’s throne room. Let us continue to pray earnestly. And as we pray, let’s expectantly watch for God’s answer.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.
Here’s more about “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts”: Pack your bags and join Kathy Howard for the journey of a lifetime. You’ll experience the powerful arrival of the Holy Spirit, witness the birth of the church, and walk the dusty roads alongside those first missionaries as they boldly share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. This volume of Deep Rooted — will show you how to interact with and apply Scripture, not just read it. These meaty daily devotions use a simple study framework designed to help you:
- Develop a regular habit of spending quality time in God’s Word
- Learn how to dig into Scripture on your own
- Foster a desire to share the gospel with others
- Depend on the Holy Spirit as you follow Jesus
Finally, a devotional with some meat on its bones!