The power of unbelieving prayer. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it is something we see in Acts 12.
The backdrop to the story is severe persecution. "Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also." Acts 12.1-3.
This crisis prompts an urgent prayer meeting: "So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God." Acts 12.5.
What follows are dramatic events almost too bizarre to be real. Although heavily guarded by four squads of soldiers (verse 4), and bound by two chains (verse 6), an angel appeared and caused the chains to simply fall off (verse 7). Ordered to dress and leave, Peter obeyed and was led past several guards, right to the front gate of the prison, which "opened for them by itself." (verse 10).
Fully cognizant of the fact that his jailbreak was a matter of divine intervention, Peter showed up at the house of the prayer meeting. His presence was the source of utter amazement for the servant girl who answered the door (verses 13-14), but blatant unbelief on the part of those praying for him (verse 15). And this is where we see the power of unbelieving prayer.
Without question, it was good and right that the people of God gathered in fervent prayer amidst a crisis. However imperfect their faith, a mighty miracle took place.
The real lesson isn't that there is power in unbelieving prayer, but that prayer is always the right response in seeking to know what God is doing in present circumstances. The bigger issue is not our faith, but the actions and activity of God and Jesus. Prayer isn't so much about changing circumstances as about being changed amidst circumstances.
©Steve Taylor, 2019 --Used by permission