The NT365 Experiment: Acts 12 (Prayer)
Our scheduled reading today is Acts 12, which is a fairly short chapter (25 verses) containing the story of Peter’s miraculous rescue from prison. He was imprisoned as a result of King Herod’s angry and violent campaign against some of the members of the church, a campaign which also included the murder of James (John’s brother). But, God miraculously freed him from his chains. Luke helps us to understand that God took this action out of his grace and providence and in response to the prayers of the people.
An Illustration of Prayer’s Power
“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (12:5).
After Peter was arrested, the church had a prayer meeting. They joined their hearts together at Mary’s (John Mark’s mother) house and offered themselves to God in prayer on Peter’s behalf. They earnestly sought God and begged him to do something miraculous and great. And, he did.
I want to mention four things about this type of prayer. Though they are not specifically stated in the text, they are implied nonetheless.
- This type of prayer is rooted in a belief in God’s ability to accomplish the impossible. Why would these Christians have joined together to pray in an obviously hostile environment if they did not firmly believe that God had the power to accomplish the seemingly impossible? They wouldn’t have. They wouldn’t have risked their lives if they did not believe that God could and would do this impossible thing of delivering Peter from the hands of the evil king. True God-honoring and empowering prayer is rooted in the belief that God can and will do the impossible.
- This type of prayer comes from an understanding of the personal grace of God. Not only did these Christians believe God could and would do the impossible, they understood that he is a personal and gracious God who always hears and responds to his people’s prayers. They knew that God would not turn them away, that he would listen to their prayers. And, they knew that he would answer them.
- This type of prayer is earnest. These believers were serious about their prayer to God for Peter. Their hearts were deeply motivated by their love for him. They were serious about praying together.
- This type of prayer is desperate. These Christians turned to their God in desperation. They were desperate for him to do something in this situation. We are not told that they prayed specifically for Peter’s release. Maybe they simply prayed: “Lord, if it be your will let Peter loose, but if not, please protect him and be gracious to him.” But, I doubt it. Given the way Luke follows verse 5 with the story of Peter’s miraculous deliverance, Rhoda’s reaction to Peter’s presence at the door, and the congregation’s response to Peter in praise to God (which Peter had to calm down for fear of them waking up the neighborhood), I think they desperately prayed for his release. And, I think (as already stated) they believed God would do it.
Modeling This Type of Prayer
Do you model this type of prayer in your life? Do you really believe that God can do the impossible? Do you pray out of your understanding of God’s personal grace? Do you pray earnestly? Do you pray in desperation?
Take a moment today and think through your beliefs regarding prayer. Think about how you can reshape your prayer life to be similar to that of the early Christians. Our prayer lives often lack power because we lack faith in the great and awesome power of God to accomplish the impossible.