Scriptural Gem for July 2011

Read Acts 12:1-5. We see in verse 5 that the church was earnestly praying for Peter. The word translated 'earnestly' is the Greek word 'Ektenos' which means 'to be stretched out completely'. This gives us a picture of these believers stretching their hands out to God or perhaps even literally stretching themselves out on the floor before God in prayer. There are a number of other instances in Scripture where this word and image is used: Exodus 9:27-29, 2 Samuel 12:16, 1 Kings 17:21, Psalm 68:31, Psalm 143:1-6, and the most striking reference - Matthew 26: 36 - 39: "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." and in Luke 22:41-44: "He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

This issue of praying earnestly, of praying 'stretched out fully before God', could perhaps be seen as a 'recipe' for prayer and that God will answer these prayers because we are stretching ourselves out before Him and earnestly calling on Him. However, we need to look at what accompanies the idea of stretching onesself out before the Lord. We see that both David in 2 Samuel 12 and Jesus in Matthew 26 are expressing their submission to God at the same time. This is especially visible in Jesus' prayer "..yet not my will but Yours be done". In addition, we see that neither David nor Jesus have their prayer answered in the way they desired. In David's case, God does not raise the child to life, but blesses him with another (Solomon) and Jesus does not have the cup removed, but "...an angel came and strengthened Him". Similarly in the passage before us, after Peter is miraculously freed from prison by the Angel and eventually knocks on the door of the house where the believers are praying, the response is indicative of the believers' prayer being answered in a way that they were not expecting at all. Hence we find them saying to Rhoda "You are out of your mind" when she announces that Peter is at the door, and that it must be his angel (meaning he is already dead) and then finally expressing their astonishment at seeing Peter. We can only speculate on the content of their fervent prayers earlier, but what we can say with certainty based on their response that they were not expecting their prayers to be answered in such a way. The same goes for us in our prayers. Are we: 1. Stretching ourselves out before God, having come to the very end of our human resources and 2. Are we so submitted to Him that we leave the outcome to Him and do not try to twist His arm...Furthermore, we need to carefully consider how many of our prayers God has indeed answered, unbeknown to us, simply because we have been/are expecting them to be answered in a particular way. Open our eyes dear Lord...

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