Have you had a “Rhoda” moment?

Acts12:12 As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. 13When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. 14On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. 15They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she insisted that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel.’ 16Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. 17He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, ‘Tell this to James and to the believers.’* Then he left and went to another place.

My aunt suffered a major stroke nearly 10 years ago at age 70 – the same age her mother, my grandmother, suffered a similar stroke.  But my aunt’s was actually more severe.  She was alone in her office, working overtime, fell to the floor and was paralyzed, unable to reach a phone or call for help.  She wasn’t found until the next morning when her co-workers arrived for the new work day.  She was fortunate to have even survived through the night.  The hours spent under the desk took a heavy toll.  The left side of her face was frozen along with the entire left side of her body which was paralyzed.  She could not speak or swallow.  In the first days after the stroke the family was having to make decisions about treatment, DNR, and feeding tubes.  None of us expected her to live for long.

But she did.  Though the left side of her body remains paralyzed, her face, her speech, and her mind are fully recovered – nothing short of a miracle, actually.  Her mind had gone to a weird space during the first year of recovery but today, now nine years later, her memory and cognition are all but normal for an 80-year old.

But.  She continues to consider herself un-healed and in temporary state of paralysis. She has her church community praying unceasingly along with her for healing.  She knows the Lord can heal and trusts he will restore her to full health. To my aunt, this means she will walk again.

I was surprised to hear this from her when we visited last.  My purpose in the visit was to begin to get her thoughts on how she wanted to mark her entry into heaven.  When she died, what kind of memorial did she want, where did she want to be buried, who would she like to speak and lead the service, what hymns or scriptural readings did she prefer.  She was happy to discuss, but she added that she was still waiting for the Lord to heal her so didn’t think plans for her death were urgently needed.  And she reiterated, “I believe the Lord can and will heal me, I trust he will, I pray to him everyday and my friends are praying, too.  I just have to be patient.”

“But Auntie,” I said, “you have been healed.  Your prayers have been answered.  You wouldn’t be here today able to talk with me about any plans had the Lord not heard your prayer, our prayers, your church community’s prayers, for healing.”

At that, we revisited the early days of her stroke.  She remembered not being able to swallow and electing for a feeding tube, which some had advised against because they thought it was prolonging a life that should have passed, naturally.  We talked about her mother’s stroke.  How she had suffered one not as severe as my aunt’s and survived, but never recovered any faculties. She lived on for 8 years nearly blind, unable to speak, unresponsive to any stimulation, total memory loss and in a wheel chair.  “You have been healed,” I repeated.  “Your prayers have been answered.”

So hard to see, feel or experience sometimes the answer to prayer.  It can be right at the door knocking loudly, and we don’t answer – don’t let it in – because it is not what we are expecting.

Today’s passage from Acts reminds me to stay alert and answer the door, and be especially on the lookout for answers to prayers I have prayed unceasingly and over a long period of time. For prayers I have asked others to offer for or about me or a personal circumstance.

peter-rhodaPeter’s people – his tribe – his church community – had been praying unceasingly for his release. And it happened.  The Lord sent an angel to break him out, to return him to his people and to the work he had called him to do.  It wasn’t Peter’s time to return to the Lord, but to God’s people.  And little Rhoda doesn’t even answer the door.

Gospel singer Larnelle Harris wrote a song about this story that I’ve always remembered. It tells the story of today’s passage so well.  The lyrics are here, below.  Please listen as you read.

The Holy Spirit will likely lead you to consider your own ‘Rhoda’ moment – when you haven’t answered the door, when you haven’t seen a prayer already answered, when you’ve almost given up on the Lord to hear you, when you think you just need to keep at the prayer and be patient, when all along he was knocking on your door.

“But, you have been healed, auntie.”

Praise God.

RHODA by Larnelle Harris

Peter was thrown in prison
Made a scapegoat for Herod’s wrath
So a girl named Rhoda met with the saints
To intercede on this behalf
Hearing their prayers God answered
Like time and time again
And while still in prayer
Rhoda heard peter call
But ran to announce him without letting him in

And all of heaven said

Rhoda open the door
Don’t turn and walk away
Here is the one you’ve been praying for
And God answers when you pray
Oh don’t waste the time
Just open the door and find
That your answer to prayer is there
Rhoda open the door

Rhoda was so excited
And she shared it through many words
Though her testimony wasn’t believed
She was convinced of what she’d heard
Peter kept right on knocking
With worry on His face
Finally Rhoda opened the door
And all of her doubters just stood there amazed

All of heaven said

Rhoda open the door
Don’t turn and walk away
Here is the one you’ve been praying for
And God answers when you pray
Oh don’t waste the time
Just open the door and find
That your answer to prayer is there
Rhoda open the door

Are you an effectual fervent prayer
Casting your mountains to the sea
Or do you pray like these friends of peter
Not taking God seriously

Heaven said

Rhoda open the door
Don’t turn and walk away
Here is the one you’ve been praying for
And God answers when you pray
Oh don’t waste the time
Just open the door and find
That your answer to prayer is there
Rhoda open the door

Well now, Rhoda open the door
Don’t turn and walk away
Here is the one you’ve been praying for
And God answers when you pray
Oh don’t waste the time

Just open the door and find
That your answer to prayer is there
Rhoda open the door

Tuesday Daily Office Readings: AM Psalm 26, 28; PM Psalm 36, 39
Job 12:1,13:3-17,21-27; Acts 12:1-17; John 8:33-47

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