Prayer Meeting Interrupted
Bible Reading: Acts 12:1-19
In his commentary on the book of Acts, Jack Andrews writes, “How important is prayer to you? How often do you practice praying? Do you talk more about praying than you actually pray? FACTS: The early church was used by God to reach their world for Jesus. They saw the power of God change hearts, save souls, rescue His children, and release those bound up by Satan. Entire cities turned to Christ and the whole world turned upside down! The early church understood the importance and significance of prayer. They spent much time together in prayer, many hours laboring in prayer and fervent dedication to prayer! The early church talked to God, pleaded with God, wrestled in prayer to God, warred against the powers of darkness in prayer to God. The church must get back to fervent and faithful praying! If we are going to be used by God, we must daily seek Him in prayer! Prayer was important to the early church! Is it important to you?”
In his persecution of the church, King Herod “killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:2-3). King Herod put Peter in prison with four squads of soldiers guarding him, “but earnest prayer for him was being made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5).
How distressing for the church! The Apostle Peter had been at the very heart and center of the great work the Lord had done in birthing and building His church. But now he was being held in a prison. And guarded by four squads of soldiers! What were they to do? It was a contest of good vs. evil. King Herod meant evil for the church. He had both political power, his mighty prison and strong soldiers. But the church was free to pray, and they did! It was as one commentator pointed out, “When every other gate is shut and locked, the gate to heaven is wide open.” That’s a good thing to keep in mind next time you feel trapped in some way.
So, there were many praying. They were not praying mechanically, or simply “going through the motions,” but earnestly, with fervor and a sense of urgency. Their prayers were specific. Specific prayer is powerful prayer. They wanted Peter released and they likely prayed for God’s peace and strength for him as well. We infer from the context they were praying for a long time. They kept on praying until the answer to their prayers showed up at the gate (Acts 12:14)! They’ve set a good example for us in how to pray when troubles come our way.
In his commentary on the book of Acts, Charles Swindoll gives two applications of this story focused on prayer: First, ask God for what you want—and be bold! Too often we temper our requests—even good, godly requests like the healing of a friend, or the restoration of a failing marriage—perhaps to protect ourselves from disappointment, or to pray responsibly, or to avoid presuming upon God, or to pray within the bounds of what we imagine the Lord’s will might be…Pray boldly for what is good. Don’t hold back. Don’t qualify your requests. God’s sovereignty isn’t threatened, and His goodness isn’t compromised if you plead earnestly—supplicate shamelessly—for good to prevail…Second, trust the sovereignty and goodness of God to prevail. The people in the home of Mary gathered to pray for Peter. We don’t know the content of their prayers, but some must have asked God for a miraculous release, just like the earlier release. Clearly, however, no one really expected to see Peter alive again, or they wouldn’t have been so dubious when he knocked. Still, they trusted God…No matter how your circumstances turn out after earnest prayer, assure yourself with these words—repeat them as often as necessary: ‘The Lord is right in all His ways’ (Deuteronomy 32:4).
“O believing brethren! What an instrument is this which God hath put into your hands! Prayer moves Him that moves the universe” – Robert Murray M’Cheyne
A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
That Word above all earthly powers
no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours
through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever!