This is a very interesting story on many levels. The most amusing part of it is Peter showing up at the door after being released from prison, and Rhoda the servant girl being so excited that she left him at the door to tell the others.
But as I look at this story, I can’t help but ask one question.
Why did God save Peter, but not James? Answer: we don’t know.
You have to believe that the believers prayed for James at least as much as they did for Peter. And you can’t say that it was a matter of having enough or not having enough faith when they prayed, because they clearly didn’t believe Peter would be set free despite their prayers. Had they really believed Peter would have been set free, they would have immediately run to the door to let Peter in. Instead, they wasted time debating Rhoda’s sanity.
You can’t really blame them for their lack of faith. After all, their prayers for James seemed to have been in vain. And they had probably had more faith praying for James than they had praying for Peter because of God’s deliverance of the apostles in Acts 5. Yet God delivered Peter and not James.
What can we get from this?
First, God will not always grant us our prayers no matter how much faith we have. Sometimes, what we desire is simply not his will. For his own purposes, he tells us no.
The question then becomes, “How do we respond to his nos?”
Will we keep trusting him though we are disappointed? Will we keep believing that his way is best? And will we keep praying despite our disappointment?
That’s what the believers did in this passage. Despite their disappointment, they didn’t give up on God. They didn’t get bitter.
Instead, when another problem came, they immediately went to God again. And despite their lack of faith, God in his grace answered and delivered Peter.
That brings up the second point. God is not limited by our faith or lack of faith for a certain request. Certainly, he prefers the former to the latter. But he is not limited by it. Because he is a God of grace, giving to us what we don’t deserve.
The key though, is that we continue coming to him, believing that he is good, and that he will do what is best. And though God will not always give us what we want, he will always bless that kind of faith. Because it is that kind of faith that pleases him. As the writer of Hebrews said,
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (6)