Summary: How Does God Respond to our Prayers?
What Does God Say When People Pray
For thirteen extraordinary days in October of 1962, the world stood on the brink of an unthinkable catastrophe. Across the globe, people anxiously awaited the outcome of a harrowing political, diplomatic and military confrontation that threatened to end in an apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
There is an interesting late night scene in “Thirteen Days,” the movie that chronicles the events. Kenny O’Donnell, an advisor and friend of President Kennedy, is walking down the street and passes a Catholic church, when he sees a long line of people in front of the church. He looks to see why people are lined up when he sees a sign that says, "Confessions 24 hours. Pray for peace."
Kenny stops. Pauses. And then gets in line.
God’s ear is always open when we come to him in prayer. We don’t have to wait in line, and we don’t have to wait for catastrophe. Under any circumstance prayer is always the best thing to do. (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html ) Yet, can any of us deny that we are more likely to pray during times of deep distress.
The Psalmists knew the comfort from praying when distressed. He wrote: “ In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Psalm 18:6 NIV
In Acts 12, the New Testament Church was distressed. In Acts 12:1 Peter, one of the apostles and church leaders in the church of Jerusalem, was imprisoned. The verse says, “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.”
King Herod’s intent to persecute the Christians should not be taken lightly. Remember what happened in Matthew 14:6-10 between Herod and another prominent church leader? Let’s read it. “On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much  that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.  Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist."  The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted  and had John beheaded in the prison.”
Herod was a vicious man, he certainly was not to be taken lightly. He’d already killed James, John’s brother. Polling data told him the majority of the citizens approved of that action so he captured Peter.
Herod was serious about guarding Peter. He assigned four shifts of four soldiers to the detail, chaining Peter to two of them. Herod’s intent was to give him a fair trial then kill him after the Passover.
Peter was in a fix. He needed help. He needed a miracle. He needed God.
The church responded. “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Acts 12:5 NIV
Really, the church is at its best during times of crisis. Let someone’s house burn down, and we respond with prayer, and practical assistance. But that same person can sit in the same house for years, lonely, troubled, silently suffering and we may not utter a prayer for her or lift a hand to comfort her.
Why? We’re humans, and we tend to leave for another day what can be left for another day. What isn’t urgent is neglected.
This was urgent. Not only did the people love Peter, they needed him. He was their Pastor, so they gathered for “earnest prayer.” The prayer was earnest, no doubt, but it wasn’t terribly optimistic.
Do you trust in your God to answer your prayers during catastrophe? Do you think He will answer you, or do you think he will put you on hold?
As soon as Jeni noticed flames leaping closer to her South Surrey (British Columbia) home, she called 911. A recording answered and asked Jeni to hold.
"My wife was panicking," said her husband Hilmar. "There were propane tanks in our garage. She thought they might explode." Jeni thought she had dialed a wrong number.
"You don’t expect to call 911 and hear a message," she said. So she hung up and called again.
"All operators are busy. Please hold on and wait for the next available operator," the message said. She hung up and dialed a telephone company operator, who, after a couple of delays, connected her to the Surrey fire department.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum promised to investigate. "It’s always been indicated that you never get put on hold when you dial 911," he said. "Every second counts. We’ll look into this." (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html )
When we come to God in prayer, we never have to worry that He is unavailable. He is always there in our time of need.