I started reading through the book of Acts again. I wanted to get a glimpse again of dynamic faith in action. It seems the disciples, apostles, deacons and all the believers had such a simple faith that God would just show up in mighty ways – and He DID! But even with all the miracles they saw, sometimes they just could not see beyond what was “reasonable” to them. Their prayers were limited by their expectations of what God could do. Here is a great example from chapter 12.
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… When he realized this [that the angel had freed him from prison], 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. (Acts 12:1-7,12-16)
So Peter is in prison waiting to be executed and the church is praying fervently for his release. Then God answers their prayers – but not in the way they expected. You see, I don’t think any one of those Christians was asking that God would send an angel to open the prison doors. That wasn’t really reasonable. Much more likely is that they were praying that God would “move on Herod’s heart to release Peter.” Now that would be a much more likely and expected way for God to answer their prayers. So out-of-box was the angel scenario that when Peter did show up at the prayer meeting they dismissed the news as simply “Peter’s angel.” These folks could more easily believe in an apparition than in an angelic visitation! Sure they prayed and they prayed earnestly, but it seems they were praying within their experience of what God could or would do.
So I started thinking, are my prayers limited by my expectations of what God would do? When I pray, am I also telling God HOW to answer my prayers? Sure, He’s all powerful, but He also needs to be practical and sensible, doesn’t He? I am very much afraid that my prayer life is “In-The-Box” praying. I want to change that. I want to start praying that God would do wonderful, unexpected, outside-the-box things. I want think big and prayer bigger and see Him do bigger still. If nothing is impossible with God, then I want to pray for the impossible. How about you? Will you join me in Out-Of-The-Box praying and then we’ll be able tell our own versions of the angel scenario story?