Do you pray with expectation? How do you respond when God answers your prayers? What if you witness a miracle and no one believes you? That’s what happened to Rhoda, a servant girl who prayed but no one else believed.
We meet Rhoda in Acts 12. The chapter opens by letting us know that King Herod decided to harass some from the church. He started by killing James, the brother of John, with a sword. He saw how it pleased the Jews, so he seized Peter as well.
But he captured Peter during the Days of Unleavened Bread, and he didn’t want to do his killing during the holidays, so he imprisoned him first. His plan was to wait until after Passover concluded to bring Peter before the people.
Herod was careful to secure Peter so there would be no means of escape. He delivered him to four squads of soldiers. He bound Peter to two soldiers and stationed guards at two different guard posts.
In the midst of this description of Peter’s imprisonment, though, verse 5 tells us that Peter was kept in prison, “but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.”
The Passover holiday passed, and on the night before Herod was to kill Peter, an angel woke up Peter, released his chains, and led him out of the jail. Peter wasn’t sure if what he was experiencing was for real or just a vision.
When they came to the entrance to the city, Peter watched as the iron gates silently opened on their own to let them through. They went down one street, then the angel disappeared.
By this time Peter had concluded that this was real and not just a dream. He knew for certain that God had delivered from the hands of Herod.
As soon as he realized what was happened, he headed to the home of Mary, mother of John Mark.
The early Christians were at Mary’s house, gathered in prayer for Peter’s safety. Rhoda was Mary’s servant. When she heard knocking on the door, she left the group and went to answer the door.
I’m sure she was hesitant to answer it. These were dangerous times they were living in. They were risking their lives gathering together to pray. What if it were soldiers come to arrest them just as they’d arrested Peter?
She must have called out, “Who is it?”
Imagine her surprise when she heard Peter’s whispered voice asking her to let him in. However, in her relief and excitement, rather than opening the door and letting him in, she instead ran to the others to share the good news, leaving Peter standing outside the gate.
She ran inside babbling over and over that Peter was at the gate.
But these same believers who were praying for Peter’s release, didn’t believe that it could actually happen. They insisted it was an angel and not Peter himself.
In the meantime, Peter continued knocking until they finally opened the door and saw for themselves that it was him.
He motioned for them to keep silent until they could get inside. Then he shared how the Lord had delivered him. He told them to go share with James and the other brethren. Then he went on his way to another place.
The next morning chaos ensued at the prison when no one could figure out what happened to Peter. Herod sent out search parties, and when he couldn’t be found, Herod ordered all the guards to be killed. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
The Rest of the Story
I love how God is no respecter of persons. This story goes against everything the world tells us about the position of people.
Herod was king. He did everything in his power to restrain this fisherman-turned-preacher. It was a surefire plan. But God showed that man’s power is nothing compared to His.
Where did Peter go as soon as he was released? To the house of Mary, mother of John Mark. God allowed this woman, this mother, to house the group of early believers. Women like her played a powerful role in the life of the early church. Though she may not have preached or served outwardly, she opened up her home and provided a safe place for the disciples to gather and pray.
And then there’s Rhoda, a servant girl. Though Rhoda lived at her home of service, this was late at night. This was her off time. She could have been sleeping, getting rest so that she would have the energy to serve the extra people staying in the home.
Instead, she participated in the prayer service. She may not have been an active participant. More than likely, she huddled in the shadows, observing from a distance.
When she heard knocking on the door, she instinctively went to answer it.
How can we not smile and feel joy at her reaction? This servant girl realized immediately that God had answered their prayers. In her excitement, she couldn’t wait to share the good news. Though we may make fun at her silliness of leaving Peter outside, this girl’s faith is to be commended.
God honored Rhoda by including her name in the Bible to be forever regarded as an example of faith. The names of those individuals gathered who prayed, then didn’t believe, is not recorded. Fortunately, their prayers were answered despite their mustard seed level of belief.
Which one are you? Do you pray with expectation, bounding with joy when God answers your prayers? Or do you pray defeated, going through the motions, but not really believing that God will do the miracle that you’re asking for?
In these days, especially, it’s easy to feel defeated. We’re overwhelmed by all that is going on, and though we go through the motions of prayer, we have no expectation of God hearing or answering our prayers.
Sometimes it seems that the older we get, the more hardened our hearts become. We’ve lived long and experienced much disappointment. We lose faith, convincing ourselves that we need to be realistic and not expect too much.
Oh, that we might instead have the faith of Rhoda, the young servant girl who prayed with expectation. May we pray hard, and when God answers our prayers, may we shout it from the rooftops.
Lord God, we come to You today, lifting our prayers to You with expectation, knowing that however grim the situation may look, that You are in control. Lord, I pray specifically today for those women who are struggling, who are losing hope and fearing that the situation is past redemption. Please comfort them, wrapping Your arms around them, and remind them that You have not forgotten them. They are not forsaken. Lord, we ask today for miracles, for You to do such mighty works that it defies all worldly wisdom. Give us the faith of Rhoda and allow us to be able to share with those around us the amazing things that You can do. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Tune in next week when we take a look at the other Marys. Mary was such a common name at the time, and we’ve looked at several Marys, but next week, we look at others, like today’s Mary, the mother of John Mark.
Rhoda Bible Study
Backstory: Acts 12:1-11
Her Story: Acts 12:12-19
Bible Study Review
- What inspired Herod to seize Peter?
- How did Peter get out of jail?
- What did Rhoda do when she heard Peter’s voice?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why didn’t Herod go ahead and kill Peter?
- Why did Peter go to Mary’s house?
- Why didn’t the others believe Rhoda?
- When you pray, do you expect God to answer?
- How do you respond to answered prayer?
- Do you ever pray for things that seem impossible?
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