“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” Acts 12:5 (read Acts 12:1-11)
Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Why is that? Because as breath is with the body, with each inhale and exhale one’s life is sustained; so is the prayer line that fosters that interpersonal relationship between God and man. It is not only life-sustaining, but it’s soul-sustaining keeping that glorious love connection betwixt the two opened and flowing.
Prayer is and of itself a discipline where one places themselves at the feet of the Almighty; to draw near to Him; to get to know Him more. Yet, prayer is often as well a plea of desperation when the times and trials of this life are too hard to bear. When we are at the end of our rope; or, when we just don’t understand what is happening or the road we should take – we pray.
We pray because deep within ourselves we know that try as we might, we can find no better help. Nor, is there any higher intervention than that which comes from God. Therefore, through prayer, we seek the release of His help and power into our problems, our lives, and the lives of those whom we intercede for.
Prayer is, and becomes, that connective key where God and man meet to converse on an intimate level, recognizing His greatness and sovereignty in the midst of our humanness and weaknesses.
And, this is what the church was hoping for when they offered up prayers on behalf of Peter who was now in prison. By this time persecution was not a new thing to the church. Throughout the Book of Acts, there are uprisings against the faith. The idea of the church enduring hardship was not going away anytime soon.
As a matter of fact, James, one of Jesus’s original disciples, was killed in the process by the sword (beheading, some say). Then, seeking, even more, favor among men, Herod proceeded further in attacking the church and imprisoning Peter also.
The Bible tells us, “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him,” (Acts 12:5). This is the epitome of what it means when the Psalmist declared, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD. . .” (Psalm 121:1-2a).
Pain and suffering were taking place in the church but hope was not lost because their hope was not in the circumstances that surrounded them – their hope was in God who reigned above them.
Therefore, they prayed!
Don’t tell me prayer doesn’t matter; that it doesn’t make a difference. Yes, it does! God will literally make chains fall off and set captives free through the power of prayer (as He does for Peter here).
Unbeknownst to Peter, God heard their prayers and He was working on his case. Peter, shackled and asleep between two soldiers, was about to experience a miraculous breakthrough of a lifetime. He may have been appointed to be kept under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each; but, Peter had just one God that would step in and free him from their midst.
See, it doesn’t matter how bad they have you wrapped up, God can break through it all. It doesn’t matter how many chains and shackles the enemy will try to place on you, prayer to the right Source; to God alone, will free you from their hold.
Peter was getting an up close and personal lesson in this area. God sent an angel to come to Peter in the night. With light filling the prison house the angel stood before Peter and aroused him from his sleep by hitting him on his side. He spoke, “Arise up quickly,” (Acts 12:7). And, immediately his chains fell off.
Through the initial intervention of prayer, God was literally breaking chains off of Peter to set him free! You have to get happy about that and feel it in your spirit what God wants to do for His people. God will move and instruct His heavenly hosts to work on your behalf as He did for Peter through the power of prayer. Never underestimate the power of God. He can do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20).
The church was praying corporately and God was listening attentively, and He was working it out. When the shackles fell from his hands, the angel then instructed Peter to get himself together and put his shoes on and to follow him (Acts 12:8).
Acts 12:10 tells us, “When they were past the first, and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.” Amazing! You have to admire the beauty of it all coming together. God not only freed him, but took him past one enemy, and then another enemy. He took him through the prison and out the huge iron gate unknown to anyone. This blew my mind. None of the enemies had a clue to what God was up to in freeing Peter. I don’t know if they were all in a heavy sleep or not, but God did it. He freed Peter.
Peter’s freedom was spawned through the prayers of the church. Yes, God could most certainly move without the intervention of anyone. But, here in these verses, a special note was made to stand out that when they prayed; when they got together collectively and on one accord to seek for Peter’s freedom, that’s when the miracle happened. God wants us to know the importance and the power of prayer. He said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me,” (Psalms 50:15).
Prayer was a huge key at work in the moving and miracles of the first-century church and it should be a huge key at work in our current lives and ministries as well. Paul later teaches, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting,” (1 Timothy 2:8). There is never a wrong time or place to pray. And, when you pray – BELIEVE! Believe that He hears, and believe that He will answer as He sees fit.
Your prayers DO make a difference. There is power in prayer! “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).
God made the impossible happen for Peter and He can do so in the church today. People can be freed. Chains can be broken. Ministries can flourish through the power of prayer. Prayer never hurts anyone, but it can always help everyone. We are told, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit,” (James 5:16-18).
What can you do through your prayer life?
Trust and believe that your prayers are never wasted; that there is power in prayer. Prayer can reach where physically we cannot. Prayer can go behind the veil into the throne room of God. Think about that for a second and let it sink in. Didn’t the book of Hebrews tell us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)? This is done through prayer.
We are not alone in this life. Our way of viewing things and situations can become impaired in our day to day struggles. We may feel like we don’t have power to do anything; as if we are in the dark, but prayer offers a light of hope.
Whether falling on our knees or reverently and silently offering up with heart pleas and thanksgivings to God, your prayers matter.
We serve a God who wants to hear from us and invites us to pray. We will never know all the ins and outs of why God answers some prayers immediately, and why with some He chooses a different course. But, I do know this; prayer is never wasted, nor is it a waste of time. God hears each and every petition. He’s paying attention to the cause of His people. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like it’s not coming through for you like you want it to. God may have a greater course of destination in mind. Just hold on, keep the faith, and never stop praying. There is power in prayer!