Prayer Principles from the Story of Rhoda
Remember the last time you attended a prayer meeting? Did anyone mention a specific purpose for that prayer session, or was it just a "regular" meeting? Without a specific purpose for the prayer, it is easy to engage in mindless praying.
And did you ever make a specific prayer request and continue pleading with God? What do you imagine God says when we keep asking for an answer He has already given?
The Story of Rhoda
But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him...So Peter left the cell, following the angel...he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.
He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”
--Acts 12: 5, 9, 12-14 (New Living Translation)
The story of Rhoda demonstrates three basic prayer principles which deserves constant review. Although we think we know them, like the members of Rhoda's prayer group, we often act contrary at the very times when we need to apply them. So here, we review them again:
- Focus on the purpose for your prayer.
- Listen for the answer.
- Accept the answer no mater how it comes.
(1) Know Why You're Praying
In this prayer meeting, prayers were offered specifically for Peter's release from prison. He had been imprisoned by order from King Herod, who realized that persecuting the Christians made him popular among the Jews. No doubt, his popularity grew when he arrested the most outspoken and possibly the most popular disciple.
The believers were praying in the home of Mary, the mother of another disciple named John Mark, and on his release Peter headed there to join them.
Strange that no one else who was with Rhoda heard Peter's knock, let alone his voice! Except Rhoda, they all kept on praying. Were they praying just because they were there to pray? Did they intend to pray until the time they set for dismissal rolled round?
There is a time to pray, and a time to recognize the answer if the pray-ers know the purpose of their prayers. How many times have you continued a prayer of supplication when it was time to begin a prayer of gratitude for the answer?
(2) Listen for the Answer
An excellent prayer time practice is to be quiet and listen. “When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God.” (Ellen White).
That night a knock on the door was God's distinct voice, but only Rhoda heard it. The others were praying, without listening; and not listening for the answer is like turning off the cell phone immediately after dialing the number. That makes meditation very important; it is a state of waiting for God to impress our minds with what He wants us to know. It is wise to listen with undivided attention.
That night, God answered immediately. Sometimes He does not, but it helps if we keep listening. Listen for His answer during the performance of our daily duties. Listen for Him in the counsel of godly people. Listen to hear Him in a commendation, in a rebuke, through an interruption, through a knock on the door. Practice listening for God's answer!
(3) Leave the "How" to God
Song Lyrics to ''Rhoda"
Click here for lyrics as sung by Larnelle Harris.
Obviously, the believers did not expect a night-time answer. The business day was already ended. Praying through the night seemed like the perfect thing to do.
We have our preferences of how, when or where God will answer, but in sincere prayer we surrender those preferences to God. We submit the situation into His control with faith that He will answer according to His best interest (which in the long run, usually proves to be in our interest also). We submit with thanksgiving to His Omnipotence and Omniscience and accept His preference.
Prayer is acceptance of the truth God speaks about Himself: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways.” (Isaiah 55:8 NKJV) Prayer is our confession that we prefer God’s way.
That night in Mary’s house, God used Rhoda in her role as housemaid. She recognized the sound, having opened to many knocks before, but this time it was different. It was a knock that echoed the voice of God, telling her among other things that when we perform our earthly duties with a godly attitude, we are more likely to hear from Him.
We can identify with Rhoda's excitement. She began to proclaim the answer to their prayers, without opening the door for the answer to come in. How many times have we screamed and danced in anticipation of a gift? There is no condemnation for reveling in the joy of answered prayer.
If we learn to listen like Rhoda among the noise of other activities, we would have many more ecstatic experiences like hers.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the opportunity to serve today in the various roles we have been assigned. Please help us to realize that what seem like earthly chores can really be divine appointments with You. May we maintain a listening ear to hear You above the sound of other activities around us.
Please teach us to maintain a prayerful posture at all times, so that we may be aware of all Your miracles even while we perform our tasks. We thank You for whatever blessings including answered prayers we will receive from You today. In Jesus' name. Amen.