Why am I still surprised when God answers my prayers?

For the past several months my husband and I had been praying faithfully about a certain situation and upcoming event. Finally, the day came, and we saw God answer our prayers in exactly the manner for which we prayed. I should have been elated! But, instead, my dominant emotion was one of surprise. I hadn’t expected God to act so precisely, nor was I then prepared with what would follow—the responsibility to do my part in God’s plan. I panicked, and, if I am totally honest, I questioned God’s timing. Really?

I am somewhat comforted by the realization that at the time of the early Church, the believers were not that different from me. In Acts 12, Peter is imprisoned for his faith. An angel of the Lord releases Peter from his chains and commands him to leave the prison. Upon realizing that the Lord has sent the angel, Peter goes directly to the house where other believers were gathered in prayer.

“And when he [Peter] knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer.  Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison…” Acts 12:13-17

At this time, both Stephen and James had recently been martyred for their faith. Were the believers thinking that Peter would be next? What were they praying for? Strength, perseverance, rescue? While we don’t know the precise content of their prayer, to their credit, they came together, and dedicated their time and efforts to praying. Curiously though, why then did they accuse Rhoda of being out of her mind when she told them Peter was there? Poor Rhoda! (But we do have to chuckle that in her excitement she forgot to let Peter into the house!) Why were they amazed when God performed a miracle and answered their prayers?

When I came to believe in Christ, He opened the prison doors and set me free. Time and time again, He has answered my prayers, so why am I still surprised when He does? Why am I not always ready for His answer? As I have reflected on my own reaction of amazement, I have realized that while it is great to pray, prayer must be more than supplication (that is, the action of asking for something). Prayer also encompasses my attitude, my heart. God wants me to pray with hopeful expectation that He will answer. And more than that, He wants me to be ready to continue to step out in faith on the path He sets out. That should be my gift to Him in return.