Expecting Snakes

I’ve been thinking about Acts 12:5-18 today.  In this passage, we’re told about how Peter was in prison, and his friends were praying fervently for him.  The night before he was to go to trial, an angel released him from his chains and led him out of prison.  When he went to the house where his friends were praying for him and knocked on the door, they didn’t believe that he was outside, and instead left him standing there on the doorstep for a long time!

At first, we think – why would they do that?  I mean, they’ve been praying like crazy for this exact thing, right?  Why wouldn’t they be like – we KNEW God was going to do this, that’s so awesome!!?  But if we’re honest with ourselves, we do the same thing from time to time. I know that I have anyhow. Whether it’s getting an answer to prayer and wondering if it’s too good to be true, praying while at the same time making “plan B,” expecting the answer to be “no,” or figuring that something will happen other than what we’re praying about, from time to time we all struggle with how God will answer our prayers.

In Matthew 7:9-11, we read, “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

I think that a big reason we struggle is that if we were really honest and transparent, sometimes when we pray for a fish, we wonder if we’ll be either left standing either with empty hands, or worse, with a snake instead.

One of the key parts of the passage from Matthew is about how God gives us “good gifts” when we ask Him.  The thing is, sometimes we think we’re asking for something good, but in reality, it’s not what is the best.  It’s kinda like if a child asks their parent if they can have chocolate cake for breakfast.  The child thinks it’s what they really want, but the parent knows that what they really need is something more wholesome.  It’s the same way with God.  Just as we expect our earthly parents to have our best interest in mind (including holding us back from things that are less than the best,) we should also expect that God will answer our prayers in a way that has our eternal best interest in mind.  Which, sometimes, means that we don’t get what we ask Him for.  But at the same time, sometimes it means that He answers our prayers just like we had hoped!

This simply means that we need to trust Him – that He really does have our eternal best interest in mind, that He is a good Parent, that He can see a much larger picture than we’re able to.  Matthew 6:8 reminds us that our father knows what we need even before we ask Him, and Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God has wonderful plans for our lives – plans to prosper us and not harm us, to give us hope and a future.  While that doesn’t mean continual peace, prosperity, and happiness, it does mean that God watches out for us and gives us the bread that we need – we don’t ever have to expect snakes from Him.

When we’re able to stand before God with open hands, trusting that He will give us what’s best, no matter what His answer is, we’re able to confidently open the door and rejoice about what He’s done!