12:5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. 6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. 7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
James is dead. The first serious blow to the church since the death of Stephen. Things have been turbulent to say the least but on the whole improving. Saul turned from the hunter to the hunted and the church has been growing. Then suddenly almost out of nowhere Herod steps into the war against the Christians and immediately kills one of the top three. The popularity it buys him drives him to seek another target. It is fascinating to me that Peter, a fisherman, is chained between two guards and has two sets of guards at two different points outside his cell. Why the excessive show of force? Peter isn't Samson. The church has never shown itself militant in any way. What is Herod afraid of?
Peter is in prison but... but the church is praying constantly.
There is so much we don't know. Did they pray for James? Was he arrested and killed so quickly that there was no time? Why the delay in killing Peter? Was Herod planning to make a big display out of his execution in order to gain as much popularity as possible?
Whatever the details were we know two things for certain. The church did not want Peter to die and they knew God was the only One who could save him so they prayed constantly.
Did you catch that?
The church did not want him to die and they knew only God could save him so they prayed constantly.
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane facing the cross He asked His disciples to pray for Him. They didn't. Three times He asked. Three times they didn't. Why? Because they didn't care about Him? No. They didn't pray because they didn't believe He was really facing death and they believed whatever was about to happen they could handle.
Prayer, true prayer, is what happens when we know someone is going to die if we don't pray and only God can save them.
Are we praying or do we still believe we can handle things? Are we praying or do we not yet realize that the battle is not against flesh and blood? Are we praying constantly because we know only God can save those we love from the prison house of the Enemy or are we still thinking we can help?
Jesus prayed every morning before doing anything. Are we less dependent on God than He was? Jesus knew His only hope and our only hope was believing in God. Do we know this?
Peter was trapped and helpless. The church was free but helpless. They prayed constantly and the deliverance was so dramatic that Peter himself thought he was dreaming.
If you love someone who is locked in the prison house of sin there is only One hope for them. Do you understand that? If you do, you are praying. If you aren't praying you are still thinking there is hope in some other source.