Discourse 24 – The divinity of Jesus Christ and the power of faith.

The divinity of Jesus Christ. / Explanation – F. Weber 00, 2001-02-01

The denial of the Trinity, the false Catholic Trinity and the true Biblical Trinity. – Discourse 107

Is the Trinity only an activity of God in three persons? – Discourse 1072

(Texts in a black frame are quotations from visitors to this site or from other authors.)

(The divinity of Jesus Christ / Explanation FW00, 2001-02-01 +))

Question: In connection with this point (sc. the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in a single Person), I have a difficulty which bothers me. I can readily admit that there are many statements in the Bible from which we can very clearly recognize the divinity of Jesus – whether in direct form, in that Jesus is addressed as Lord and God, or in indirect form, in that he is revered and worshiped, and divine properties like eternity or the power to forgive sins are attributed to him. And yet there are also verses, like Mark 13,32, 6,6 or 11,13, which appear to show the opposite, that is, to show him as limited. How am I to make sense of this?

Answer: Well, we have to recognize that for the time in which he humbled himself Jesus gave up the independent exercise of his divine powers, and voluntarily entered a state of limitation and dependence on the Father. Thus, in the passages quoted, the Father did not allow the Son the use of his omniscience. Assuredly the Lord Jesus knows now – after his return to the heavenly world – the date of the Second Coming. Moreover there are very few such passages, and they characteristically and above all appear in Mark’s gospel – the gospel, that is, in which Jesus is to a special degree portrayed as the one who serves, the obedient servant who humbles himself (10,45).

+) This extract is taken from the Articles of Faith of the Evangelikal-Freikirchliche Gemeinde [Evangelical Free Church Congregation] of Tulpengasse, Vienna.

(F. Weber, Explanations relating to the Divine Trinity, articles of faith of the TUGA, https://www.tuga.or.at/ )

The question quoted here appears to have found a satisfying answer in the explanation given by F. Weber. There cannot be any doubt about the divinity of Jesus Christ – not least for the reasons he mentions.

(See also Discourse 26 "The Trinity: an unbiblical concept?").

If, however, we look at the scriptural passages he cites, the attentive reader will find that quite another question suggests itself. In Mk 6,1-6 we are told that in Nazareth, his home town, the Lord could do no miracles, because the people did not believe in him.

And He could do no miracle there.

Mk 6,1 Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him. 6,2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? 6,3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him. 6,4 Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household." 6,5 And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6,6 And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching. Mk 6, 1- 6;

The reason for their unbelief was the fact they had all known him from childhood up. "Is this not the son of Mary?" they asked, meaning by this, "How can this man, whom we have known for years, suddenly utter words of wisdom and do miracles?" And even the Lord was amazed at their lack of faith, and left the town.

The unprejudiced reader will naturally put the following question at this point –  if Jesus Christ was divine, how was it that he could not make this apparent to these people in Nazareth? But in the interests of objectivity we must then add – was it that he could not, or that he did not want to?

To get to the bottom of this question, let us take a look at the next passage cited above:

And when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

Mk 11,12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 11,13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 11,14 He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were listening. Mk 11,12-14;

This is the well-known story of the fig tree that bore no fruit, which was cursed by the Lord. The commentators have also frequently favored a symbolic interpretation of this passage, seeing the fig tree either as the rejected Israel, or else as the individual Christian who bears no fruit. But here we want to see this event just as the story relates it. The fig tree is quite simply a fig tree, the leaves are just leaves, and so on.

And here of course we may also ask why, if the Lord was hungry and wanted something to eat, it was not possible for him simply to cause figs to grow on the fig tree. But if we consider the report of the feeding of the five thousand, we can make out a quite different picture.

And they all ate and were satisfied.

Mt 14,15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." 14,16 But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!" 14,17 They said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." 14,18 And He said, "Bring them here to Me." 14,19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds,14,20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 14,21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. Mt 14,15-21;

There were around five thousand people who had been following the Lord from the city and from all the region. He had been healing the sick all day long, and in the evening they were all hungry and had nothing to eat. And here the Lord took five loaves and two fish and transformed them into thousands of loaves and thousands of fish, so that twelve full baskets of bread and fish were left over. 

In a second account of the same kind, we are told of four thousand men, without women and children, whom the Lord fed with seven loaves and a few small fish. Here too seven baskets full were left over.

And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

Mt 15,29 Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there. 15,30 And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. 15,31 So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. 15,32 And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, "I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way." 15,33 The disciples said to Him, "Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?" 15,34 And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven, and a few small fish." 15,35 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 15,36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 15,37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 15,38 And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. Mt 15,29-38;

These two examples show us that in the story of the fig tree quoted earlier the Lord certainly could have acted in the same way. The question why he did not emerges in the continuation of the story in Mk 11,12-14, a little later in the narrative.

Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.

Mk 11,20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 11,21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered." Mk 11,20-21;

When the disciples, then, were passing by on the following morning, they were not a little astonished to see that it was actually withered. This event alone answers the question whether the Lord could not have commanded the fig tree to bear fruit. Of course he could have done this – otherwise he would not have been able to cause this same tree to wither, either. But he chose not to.

And here we may now ask why he did not want to. The answer is to be found in the conclusion of this account, in Mk 11,22-25.

All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

Mk 11,22 And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. 11,23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 11,24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 11,25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions." Mk 11,22-25;

The Lord wanted, then, through this incident of the withered fig tree, to demonstrate to his disciples that everything they pray and ask for will occur, if they only believe that they have received what they ask. And here it seems important to point out that the words are not "that you will receive them" but "that you have (already) received them."

There are a number of similar accounts in the gospels of events through which the Lord wanted to demonstrate to the disciples that there are no limits set to faith. The two stories of the feeding of the multitude likewise fall under this heading, as does the account given below (from Jn 11,40-44) of the raising of Lazarus.

But because of the people standing around I said it.

Jn 11,40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" 11,41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 11,42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." 11,43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." 11,44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Jn 11,40-44;

Here it is probably a fair presumption that the whole incident – including, and in particular, the death of Lazarus – only took place in order to demonstrate to the disciples, and also to Lazarus and his two sisters, what faith is able to achieve.

As we can see, the Lord had the problem, here as well, that the two sisters, who after all knew him and loved him as if he were one of the family, at first reacted with unbelief when he told them that he would raise their brother to life again. This was then also the reason why he thanked his Father in heaven aloud, so that all the bystanders could hear him and believe that he had been sent by God. We can see, then, here too, that even the Lord could only perform miracles where he found faith.

The same implication meets us in other passages too. Thus the Lord also repeatedly pointed out that it was not his power which brought about a miraculous healing, but the faith of those who were healed which made it possible in the first place for such miracles to happen.

Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.

Mt 9,20 And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 9,21 for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I will get well." 9,22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." At once the woman was made well. Mt 9,20-22;

Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish."

Mt 15,21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 15,22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." 15,23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." 15,24 But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 15,25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" 15,26 And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs." 15,27 But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table." 15,28 Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. Mt 15,21-28;

And He said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has made you well".

Lk 17,12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 17,13 and they raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 17,14 When He saw them, He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they were going, they were cleansed. 17,15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 17,16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17,17 Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine – where are they? 17,18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" 17,19 And He said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has made you well." Lk 17,12-19;

And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well."

Lk 18,35 As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. 18,36 Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was.18,37 They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 18,38 And he called out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 18,39 Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 18,40 And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, 18,41 "What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" 18,42 And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." 18,43 Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God. Lk 18,35-43;

All these examples confirm what the Lord says in the previously quoted passage, Mk 11,24: "All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you". 

(See also Discourse 44: "Can faith move mountains?")

And if we see things against this background, we can recognize that it is not the "limitation" of the Lord which prevented him from doing miracles in Nazareth. It was rather the love and justice of the Divine Trinity, which leaves every human individual the free choice of believing or not believing. Just like the love of a human being, so also faith cannot be compelled.

But the following passages show us that even the apostles were not able to achieve such faith – which, in the words of the Lord, only had to be the size of a mustard seed.

Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.

Mt 14,25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 14,26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 14,27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." 14,28 Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." 14,29 And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 14,30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 14,31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Mt 14,25-31;

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible to you.

Mt 17,14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 17,15 "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 17,16 I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him." 17,17 And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me."17,18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. 17,19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" 17,20 And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you". Mt 17,14-20;

If you had faith like a mustard seed, this mulberry tree would obey you.

Lk 17,5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 17,6 And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’ and it would obey you". Lk 17, 5- 6;

Now we may well ask ourselves how it is – if faith only needs to be the size of a mustard seed – that in the last two thousand years or so not a single person has succeeded in "moving mountains"?

The answer to this question has many levels. On the one hand there must assuredly have been faith of this sort in some of our fathers in faith – starting from the apostles. But it would not have been true faith if they had trumpeted it abroad. And so those miracles which some of them were able to perform have not come to general knowledge.

On the other hand, we can see from the examples just quoted that if the disciples had problems with believing, the sick whom the Lord healed had no such difficulty. And this can be explained through the fact that these sick people had serious reasons for believing: they wanted to be made well again. The disciples, on the other hand, were not personally involved. They were not related to the lunatic, in the above passage (Mt 17.15), nor did the incident affect them on the feeling level in any other way. 

Lord tells us in the above passage (Mk 11,24), one of the most important preconditions for a prayer based in faith is that a person should "ask and request and believe that he has received what he asks for". And this, now, is a criterion that permits no sham "holiness". It is rather as if someone were to be told that he had won first prize in the lottery. Not that this would be impossible – it just happens that he has never played the lottery, and so cannot believe, either, that it is possible for him to have won something. We can see, then, that he quite simply has no personal motive for belief.

And it is just the same with Christian faith. If we have never concerned ourselves with God, if we have never been committed to God, if we have never let ourselves be used by God, then here as well a personal relation is lacking. We cannot believe that God might do something for us. And that prevents us from having faith – even a faith the size of a mustard seed.

Here these doubting thoughts of the individual human being in relation to faith seem completely irrelevant. We can see this from the two examples of the sick people who were healed. Most likely, they did not fulfill a single one of these preconditions, and were healed all the same, just because they believed that it would happen.

As it appears, God does not expect us to come up with any kind of advance performance: rather, we ourselves fail to find in our hearts the capacity of believing that we will be accepted by God without any such "performance". Here it can be very helpful to recognize that it is not our doing that miracles happen – rather it is God who reacts to our prayers.

And now we are repeatedly confronted with the argument that miracles no longer happen today. This assertion may be true to the extent that we plainly no longer find the dead being raised, or see loaves being miraculously multiplied. But if we look more closely at the situation as it was then, at the feeding of the five thousand, we can see that at that time too it was probably only the disciples distributing the loaves who were aware that a miracle had just occurred. The Lord, after all, did not suddenly "conjure up" a mountain of five thousand loaves and fishes: rather he took the loaves and the fishes and gave them to the disciples, and they distributed them to the multitude. The fact that the Lord went on repeatedly taking loaves and fishes out of this basket, although more than five loaves and two fish had been distributed long since, was something that the multitude of people  – who after all were further away from the scene of the action – were surely unaware of.

And today the situation is similar. A waitress who is going home from work, around midnight, and who misses the last tram, is annoyed at having to take a taxi. She does not know that if she had taken the tram home she might have been followed by a ruffian and robbed. A driver is annoyed on the motorway because the person in front of him drives too slowly, and in view of the heavy traffic he cannot overtake him. Two kilometers further on, he catches sight of a police car doing a speed check. If he had been able to overtake, he would certainly have been stopped and fined. Many, of course, will say in such a case either that they have had either "luck" or that "shit happens". But was that really the case? Or was it God’s guidance?

Those people who do not believe in God’s guidance do not believe in the God who guides, either. And if they do not believe in God, neither will they ever have asked anything of this God. So they will never have had this experience in their lives as yet either. It is rather as if a person who has never been in water were to assert that it is impossible by swimming to stay afloat. One might come to the conclusion that he is only saying this so that he will not have to admit that he is himself a non-swimmer.

We find several passages where the Lord assures us that our requests will be fulfilled.

If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

Jn 14,13 "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14,14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." Jn 14,13-14;

This, now, is one of those statements made by the Lord which confirm that the Father has given all power into his hands. The Son has come not to do his own will, but to do the will of the Father who has sent him (Jn 6,38). It may well be God who works all things in all, but it has pleased the Father to give all authority to the Son (Mt 28,18). So we should bring our requests to the Son, and in his name they will also be heard.

So that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

Jn 15,16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." Jn 15,16;

In that day you will ask in My name.

Jn 16,25 "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 16,26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 16,27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father." Jn 16,25-27;

Ask, and it will be given to you; for everyone who asks receives.

Mt 7,7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 7,8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 7,9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 7,10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 7,11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! Mt 7, 7-11;

In the above passage, in Mt 7,7, it is written, "Ask, and it will be given to you". There is nothing said here about our having to carry out any kind of performance in advance. And then, in Mt 7,8, the Lord says: "For everyone who asks receives". And as long as words make sense, "everyone" here means every single person. Without any reservation. For as the Lord says in Mt 5,45, our Father also causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Admittedly, the emphasis in this statement ("For everyone who asks receives") is to be placed not on "everyone" but rather on "who asks". Only the person who asks God for something will receive something in return. And only a person who believes in this God will ask him for something. And as a result, any one who asks for something is a believer at the moment when he pronounces his request – whether he himself wants to admit it or not. This request, in many cases, may even be nothing but an incomprehensible stammering in a situation of desperate need. But as Paul tells us in Rom 8,26, in such a situation the Holy Spirit himself will intercede for us with God.

The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Rom 8,26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 8,27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Rom 8,26-27;

And so it is in truth. Most people – including, and especially including, non-believers – do not realize how often their honest requests, uttered in the depths of the heart, have been fulfilled, or how often they have been saved from dangerous situations through the prayer of people who have faith. They think it is to be put down to their own efficiency, their cleverness or talent for organization. At best, here, responsibility may be attributed to "luck" or "fate". Nobody thinks of God in this connection.

For the believer, of course, it is a different situation. He recognizes the hand of God in his life – even if it is often only years later, when he looks back on his life and finds that long before he enquired after God, God had already been guiding him, and had set the points in his life.

But even before the fulfillment of his request the believer can know – in accordance with the promise in Mk 11,24, "Believe that you have received it, and it will be granted to you" – that his prayer has been heard. It is the Holy Spirit in us that gives us the assurance that the things that we request from God will actually take place.

It may be, for instance, the outcome of an operation for someone we love, or for ourselves. It may be the sorting out of a family or career problem, or that we need help in a critical financial situation. If we have prayed about the matter, we know that we will receive what we ask. Though it may, admittedly, be at a time and in a manner that do not necessarily correspond precisely to what we imagined when we made our request. But we can be sure at the same time that it will be the time and the manner which are the most appropriate as answering to our needs.

And here we then no longer have a problem about believing that we have received the thing we were asking for, but rather, more frequently, the difficulty of convincing our fellow human beings, in a professional context or in the family, of the fact that we – though outwardly and inwardly relaxed and without anxiety – are quite well aware of the problematic aspects of the situation.

A good example of a situation like this may be found in Acts 12,1-8.

On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping.

Acts 12,1 Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. 12,2 And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. 12,3 When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 12,4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. 12,5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

12,6 On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 12,7 And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, "Get up quickly." And his chains fell off his hands. 12,8 And the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me." Acts 12, 1- 8;

Here we are told that King Herod was persecuting the congregation and the disciples, in order to find favor with the Jews. He had already had James, the brother of John, put to death with a sword, and now he had also arrested Peter. The fact that Peter was led away by four squads of four soldiers each – that is to say, sixteen soldiers in all – is already remarkable in itself. But then, too, he was not just chained in prison, with soldiers placed on guard the whole night through at the door of the prison: there even had to be two soldiers sleeping with Peter in the cell, on his right and on his left. This shows that Herod was intending to kill Peter as well, and did not want to lose this opportunity of doing the Jews a favor.

The implications of this, of course, must have occurred to Peter as well: he surely knew what he had to expect. But in spite of this, the story tells us that the angel had to strike Peter’s side in order to rouse him, as he plainly was sunk in such a deep, sound sleep. We can see then, here as well, that Peter was quite aware of the seriousness of his situation, but the Holy Spirit gave him the assurance that God had acted already.

But of course it is not surprising that those on the fringes – in this case, the guards at the cell door, and in our situation today our fellow human beings in a domestic or professional context – can find no explanation for such an attitude. They cannot know that our problem has already been solved by our Father in heaven, even before we have prayed about it, as the Lord says in Mt 6,8.

For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Mt 6,5 "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6,6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 6,7 And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 6,8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." Mt 6, 5- 8;

In this passage the Lord also gives us good advice on how we should pray. We are not to "use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do": we are not to rattle off prayers we have learned by heart, while our hands are smoothing down our garments and our thoughts are already on our lunch. Any one of these persons who are supposedly "praying" would react angrily, if we were to engage him in discussion and speak with him in the same way as he is here speaking to God. So much the more will God reject a prayer of this kind.

Nor should we pray like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the church or in the congregation, in front of all men, and pronounce their prayers loud and clear so as to be seen and heard by all men. They have achieved, through this, what they wanted to achieve: they receive honor and approbation from men, and so have had their reward in full. In God’s eyes, such a prayer has neither value and nor effect.

When we pray, we should go into our inner room, close the door behind us, and then speak to our Father in heaven. Our God is a spirit, and so he can only be addressed in the spirit of the human being. So we do not have to take ourselves off to any place that has been "sanctified" either, in order to be able to pray in a way that will be "pleasing to God". God can be addressed at all times and in all places in the spirit, when we are alone with ourselves and with him, and wherever we may happen to be at the time!

Such prayers are pleasing in God’s eyes, and he will hear us and will grant our prayers. As the Lord tells us in the passage quoted earlier (Mt 6,8), our Father in heaven knows long since what we need, long before we ask him for it. It is not the case, then, that we must first persuade God to do a miracle for us. We only have to convince ourselves of the fact that he has done it already.