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When things don’t go as planned

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

Acts 12:5

Things don’t always go to plan.

On Sunday last week we were reminded of this when we turned up to The Chatswood Club (our Sunday venue) but no staff were there to greet us and let us in! But if Covid taught us anything it is a) that WE are the church (the people, not the building) and b) the ability to pivot at short notice!

We worshipped in the open air, revelled in God’s promises, laid hands on children and educators returning to school this week, and then split up into multiple groups to enjoy fellowship over brunch.

Things don’t always go to plan…that's true for the regular rhythms in our lives (like Sunday services) as well as long-hoped-for and long-prayed-for things. I was reading through Acts recently and found part of a story highlighted to me that I hadn’t clocked before. Preachers love Chapter 12 where Peter experiences a miraculous release from prison, and then turns up on the doorstep of the prayer meeting which is praying for his release! But the bit I had often missed earlier in the chapter is that Herod “... had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also” Acts 12:2-3.

Almost certainly, the same gathering of praying believers who experienced the miraculous recovery of Peter, had only just grieved the loss of James as their prayers for his release weren’t answered the way they’d hoped. They had been praying, interceding, and knowing that God could come through, and yet had to cope with the disappointment and grief of James’ execution…the same people, and same God, who saw Peter released also saw James die.

Here’s what that tells me - that you can’t embrace the power of prayer without embracing the mystery of prayer simultaneously…you can’t embrace the power of love in a human relationship, without embracing the mystery and potential pain that vulnerability in love opens you up to. We don't don’t get one without the other, it’s part of the human experience. There isn’t an equation that solves that, it’s just trust…and faith is predicated on trust not on understanding.

I doubt that those disciples understood why James died, but they trusted the character of God to keep praying “…but the church was earnestly praying…” Acts 12:5b

This world that we live in is the same world Jesus inhabited - a world full of mystery, conundrum, and tension:

Jesus cleansed the skin of a leper, in a world where leper colonies went on existing.

Jesus rehabilitated one tax collector, while a bunch of other tax collectors continued oppressing the poor.

For every Peter story, there’s a James story.

For everything breakthrough there, there’s a question of ‘why not here?’

“…but the church was earnestly praying…"

We’re gathering to pray this Sunday night from 7:30pm at Quinn & Michelle’s place in Gordon (reach out for deets)…we’ll enjoy God’s presence, seek to discern His heart, pray in the Spirit, and ask for breakthrough in the lives of individuals, in the church, and the wider community. Perhaps there will even be a knock at the door while we’re praying…

But whether we experience answers in the form of magnificent intervention, or answers in the form of God reforming and reshaping our hearts, let’s be like the church in Acts and pray with earnestness and passion.

Big love and grace,




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