BELIEVE IT OR NOT
Lord, Your ability to deliver is unsurpassed.
Read Acts 12:1–19a
Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison
12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Don’t be in a hurry to turn to the passage. Pray and pray and pray… and listen.
‘But’ (see v 5) is a turning word. It implies that, contrary to all that has been taking place, a change is about to happen. Here, Herod is initially apparently in control. He arrests some members of the church, has James, the brother of John, executed, and imprisons Peter. Sixteen soldiers are placed on guard duty and Herod awaits the show trial after the Passover. BUT the church is praying in earnest (5).
What does earnest prayer imply? I’d suggest that it occurs at times of crisis, whether this be for an individual, as in this case, a community, a nation, or internationally. I can remember the Cuban missile crisis, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the Brexit countdown, as well as family illness and personal injustice. Prayer is all that is left. Earnest prayer also implies that there is a time commitment. Daily, hourly, and minute by minute, the situation is given to God, while at work or at leisure, while eating (or fasting), before and after sleep. There’s also the implication here that the church is gathered to pray, either silently or aloud. Prayer is the task of the whole church body.
Earnest prayer is, finally, believing prayer. It’s prayer that expects a response from God. He will act. Yet today’s passage illustrates, in a very comic conclusion, that such belief is sometimes a step further than we can go. God answers the earnest prayers of the church. Peter is, to his own surprise, miraculously released and goes to the house where the church is gathered. Poor Rhoda recognizes Peter’s voice, runs back to tell everyone, but leaves Peter outside the door looking anxiously over his shoulder. Rhoda’s sanity is questioned and, even when Peter is allowed in, the word to describe the church’s reaction is ‘astonished’ (16).
There’s always a crisis somewhere in the world. Program in the time to pray, whether alone or with others. Pray with expectation and praise God for His answer.
Lord, we thank You for all the promises in Your Word which tell us that You rescue Your people from their enemies.