Once the apostle Peter was miraculously freed from prison (see Acts 12:7-11), he went to the house of prayer to report the miracle to those who had been interceding for him. As Peter knocked, the group was still fervently praying inside. They had no idea how effective their prayers for their brother had been.
Indeed, Scripture says their prayers were “earnest”—meaning they were holding on to God and not giving up. This is the kind of prayer Christ calls His church to. It is persistent and passionate in its desire to see a loved one, friend or even a city set free.
But an interesting thing happened when these believers learned that their prayers had been answered: They didn’t believe it! A servant girl told them Peter was at the gate. “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!’” (12:14-15, ESV). Apparently they believed Herod had already killed him.
God is in the delivering business. He does the impossible with a single word and when He sets His people free, they are free indeed. But maybe you have noticed something in your own life that happens when you struggle with a problem. That is, God opens the first few gates for you—and then leaves the last one for you to open by faith. He supernaturally opened gates for Peter, but this last one required the faith and action of the man.
Why does the Lord do this? He knows that even with our most fervent prayers, we may still have a tiny corner of unbelief in our hearts. Yes, God is sovereign in His power but He wants His bride to be involved in His acts of redemption. Every genuine move of God throughout history has required men and women to stand up and say, “I want to be counted. I might be weak or shy, but God honors those who act in faith.”
Yes, it all begins with prayer. Fervent, effectual prayer moves God to open iron gates and set captives free. Peter’s story makes that clear. But this scene also shows that if we don’t act in faith to open that last gate, some captives will remain standing outside. So here is the last part of fervent prayer: faithful action.