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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Day 38: Acts 12:6-19; Prov 15:10-18 - Why Are We Surprised When God Answers Prayer?

Today's Reading: Acts 12:6-19; Prov 15:10-18

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 12:15-16, ESV

Why Are We Surprised When God Answers Prayer?

Yesterday, we saw the church responding to violent persecution with prayer. The church was praying for Peter, who had been arrested and was being kept in prison. Today, we see God answer their prayer in a miraculous way, and they are completely shocked and left in stunned disbelief at the power of God. This raises two questions in my mind, one historical and one still relevant today:

1. Is it true that ancient people were gullible, more willing to believe in the supernatural and the miraculous?
2. Why are we so often surprised when God answers our prayers?

The first question deals with a charge that critics of the Bible often level against the miracles recorded in Scripture, They say that ancient people living in a pre-scientific age didn't understand as much as we do and so they were more readily willing to accept miracles as labels for things they didn't understand. Today's passage directly contradicts such misconceptions of ancient peoples: The disciples knew what it meant for someone to be locked in prison and kept under guard, and they certainly were not expecting to see Peter show up at the gate of the house.

The second questions deals with the surprise of the disciples from a different angle: These men and women had seen God do miraculous things before. Many of them saw Jesus raised from the dead. Many of them saw Peter perform very Christ-like miracles. Why did they think it was impossible for God to bring Peter out of prison miraculously? Well, before we judge too quickly, don't we need to confess that we do the same thing?

We may not live in an age of such miraculous works as they did, but we have seen God answer prayers and provide for His people in truly remarkable ways. We have seen people cured of cancer. We have seen money come to pay our bills. We have seen people come to faith in Christ after years of rebellion. We have seen the Gospel advance into hard, unreached lands. Yet so often, when God chooses to answer our prayers directly and powerfully, we act surprised. We are as stunned as the disciples were at the report of Rhoda.

God is so good and so patient with us. He answers our prayers, even when they are offered up without much faith and with too much doubting. Though we are warned that those who doubt should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7), God still graciously answers and provides. Our surprise reveals both the depth of our doubt and ths strength of His grace!

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your generous kindness to us. Thank You for answering our prayers and extending Your favor to us, even though we don't deserve it. You are good! Strengthen our faith in You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Proverbs 15:10-18:

There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
    whoever hates reproof will die.
Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord;
    how much more the hearts of the children of man!
A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
    he will not go to the wise.
Heavenly Father, we need Your discipline.
    Our hearts are open to You, and You see the depth of our sin,
        and You know the layers of deception and doubt,
            and yet You love us, despite ourselves.
Let us not be hardened to Your reproof,
    and let us not forsake Your way,
        but bring us to continual repentance for our continual sin!

A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
    but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
Lord, Your grace and mercy make us glad all of our days.
    We always have reason to rejoice and never have cause to despair,
        because of what Jesus has done for us and what You are doing in us.

The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
    but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.
Father, give us understanding spirits that we may seek Your knowledge continually,
    and keep us from the folly and evil so prevalent in our world,
        and in our own flesh.
Let us feast continually upon Christ!

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great treasure and trouble with it.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
    than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
Lord, we have so much to be thankful for,
    and yet we can often envy the prosperity of the wicked.
Teach us that it is better to be right with You and have little,
    than to be under Your judgment in a house full of riches.

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
    but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
Father, tame our tongues and our tempers.
    May we be ones who quiet contention and not those who stir up strife.
Make us peacemakes, O God, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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