The Heart’s Cry: Praying on Purpose
“Oh Lord, we are powerless to change this situation. But we know nothing is impossible with You.” Desperate for an answer, Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark, might’ve prayed this way the night Peter was in prison. Soft murmuring might’ve filled the room as others echoed her words. King Herod had just put James to death, and now Peter had been arrested. The group gathered together this night understood the danger they faced. The fledgling church’s future hung in the balance. Would God answer their prayer for deliverance?
The infant church in Jerusalem knew the importance of constant, purposeful prayer. Since Jesus ascended to heaven, they had “joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Years later they still recognized the power of prayer. The story related in Acts 12 tells us they prayed “earnestly” for Peter after his arrest (v. 5). King Herod intended to hand Peter over to the Jews, just as he did with Jesus and James. The outcome would surely be death. The group meeting in Jerusalem prayed for divine intervention. Only God could rescue Peter from this situation.
How often have we prayed earnestly? Maybe we find ourselves praying constantly when illness strikes and there seems to be no hope. Our prayers can intensify when the world around us turns upside down. But how often do we give up praying when the answer doesn’t come according to our timetable? Ephesians 6:18 encourages us to keep on praying all the time. We should never give up because we can trust God to answer in the way that is best for our ultimate good and His glory. He knows His purposes. Sometimes they look like what we might ask for (such as with Peter’s release), and other times they don’t (such as with James’s death). But in both cases, God hears our cries and allows us to be involved in His purposes through prayer.
God answered their prayers that night in a miraculous way no one expected. Even Peter was astounded as an angel released him from his chains and led him into the street. When he finally realized what was happening, he went straight to the home where the believers were gathered for prayer. He couldn’t wait for them to hear the story of God’s miraculous escape plan. But when he arrived, they didn’t let him in! Rhoda, the servant who answered the door, told the group Peter was outside. No one believed it was him (Acts 12:6–17). They were shocked when they realized God had indeed answered their prayer.
How often do we pray but are surprised, even shocked, when God answers? This kind of attitude comes down to a lack of faith. We want God to act on our behalf, but we may not expect Him to do anything. Sometimes our situations seem hopeless . . . beyond help. In our estimation, we cannot see any way for things to change.
Jesus’ words in Luke 18 help us gain perspective. “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (v. 27). God is not limited by time, space, or understanding. He knows exactly how every situation will work out for the best. When we feel like giving up, we must press on with the hopeful expectation God will answer in His perfect time.
Christy Bell works with children and youth as student minister of Sycamore Baptist Church in Sycamore, Alabama.
This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of Missions Mosaic. To subscribe to this monthly missions lifestyle magazine, visit wmustore.com.