And they said to her, “You are out of your mind.” Acts 12:15
Out Of Your Mind – Mainê! No, it’s not the smallest, coldest state in the Union. It’s the transliteration of the Greek word that means, “You’re insane.” It’s the root of our word maniac. “You’re raving mad.” Given the circumstances, it’s quite humorous. Maybe we all need to be a little more like maniacs and a little less like the ones who were praying.
Those who were fervently praying for Peter in prison weren’t doing anything wrong. Their prayers affected the marvelous outcome of this event. But what’s really hilarious about all this is that even while they were praying, they revealed the fatal human flaw. They didn’t believe it when God answered them. We don’t know what they expected, but we know that they didn’t expect Peter to knock on the door.
This is a good lesson for all of us. It teaches us two critical things about prayer. First, it teaches us that we are all vulnerable to doubt. Too many times we idolize the early Christians. We see them as more than human – as saints elevated above the common concerns and mistakes of ordinary believers. This incident paints a more realistic picture. In the midst of calamity, even the best of us allows doubt to enter into our expectations about God. We are all in the same boat. When you feel as though your prayers are just stumbling along, when you pray with real heart-felt intensity and at the same time worry about God’s response, remember these companions of Peter. God heard them in spite of their doubt. They weren’t ready for His answer, but they pressed through to His throne nevertheless.
The second lesson is even more important. God responds to prayer. God’s answers do not depend on our ability to embrace His reply. Even doubters can be surprised by the goodness of God. Prayer is about God’s character, not about His actions. Once we understand that God is good, every response is possible, even those responses that strike us as insane. These early Christians needed to learn that God’s goodness is at the center of every response to prayer – and it needs to be at the center of every request in prayer.
The rabbis teach us that prayer is our effort to prepare our hearts to accept whatever God provides. Prayer is the practice of contentment. Because God is good and He loves His children, He always answers our prayers with what best serves His purposes and our involvement in His purposes. Certainly we need to make our requests known to Him, but in the end, our prayers are about us, not about God. Our prayers bring our hearts into alignment with His will so that His answers are perfectly acceptable to us. I imagine that these prayer warriors had a good laugh after they discovered Peter was outside knocking on the door. That laugh must have been about themselves. God taught them to expect to see His goodness in the land of the living. God taught them that hope can be converted to present reality; but most of all, God taught them to trust Him. That’s what we need to ask in our prayers. Do we trust Him? Are we ready for God to respond as He chooses? Are we expecting to be surprised?
Topical Index: Prayer