Persecution of the church continues. James is killed and Peter is imprisoned. The church is praying for him, but apparently not for his release, because they are so freaked out when it happened! Even Peter thought he was dreaming: “When Peter came to himself…”
Seriously though, there are plenty of times when we pray that we probably are just going through the motions, and we don’t really expect an answer. James 1:5-8 warns us about that kind of prayer:
“But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed around by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a double-minded individual, unstable in all his ways.”
The episode with Herod reminds us of the need for humility. How often to we act like our gifts, talents, and abilities are ours, and not from the God who made us?
It is probably worth noting that not everyone is released (James wasn’t), and not everyone is struck dead (even though there are a lot of arrogant God deniers out there). God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows and does what is best, and we need to trust Him, even when we don’t understand.