The Problem With Answered Prayer

and all blessings.

Acts 16:35–39

And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.”

So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.”

But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”

And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.

This is a perfect example of Christian eyes not getting distracted. Paul’s challenge to the magistrates looks nuts. It gains him nothing.

At least that’s what it looks like to secular eyes. Paul is putting his release at risk—and for what?

For the kingdom. Paul is happy to risk his good fortune in having all the charges dropped so that his reputation and his witness for the kingdom are restored. His personal safety is only important to the extent that it helps advance the kingdom.

And it wasn’t really risk anyway. Secular eyes see the universe as random and so see risk in most anything. Christian eyes see God as Lord of His creation. He may decide to put us through trials, but that’s not what the word risk means.

So, Paul keeps his focus through all the excitement. He’s happy about being released, but that’s not what’s important.

When you’re not distracted.

There’s another, advanced lesson in this passage.

Notice what the potential distraction was. It wasn’t Paul being in prison; it was Paul being released from prison. Since Paul was surely praying to be released, this leads to a curious rule.

You can be distracted by answered prayer.

The mechanism is like with riches; your ego kicks in, and you think you’ve got everything under control.

The rule about spiritual distractions is pretty much the same as the rule about distractions when driving. Distractions all have one thing in common.

They’re distracting.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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