Today, nearly everyone has a mobile phone or some wireless mobile device, and, as most of us know, the expense to own and use wireless technology can be quite costly. Then there is often the hassle of being careful not to exceed your plan’s data minutes, dealing with low signal strength and battery power, and let us not forget those infamous dropped calls.
There is, however, one super high-speed wireless network that offers free long-distance with unlimited minutes. You will never experience a dropped call or encounter a busy signal. Your signal strength will always be at maximum no matter where you are in the world, and batteries are not required. When you call, an attentive ear stands ready to hear every word that you have to say.
By now, you have perhaps figured out that I am referring to the world’s original, first-century, wireless network known as prayer. Christians should never take prayer for granted or diminish its results, and that brings us to our text, which is in the book of Acts.
Chapter 12 picks up where King Herod (Agrippa I) has James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, who together were known as the sons of thunder, put to death. The news of James’s death found favor among the Jewish people, and to put it in modern political terms, the king’s approval rating increased about ten percentage points, and wanting more, he then had Peter arrested.
Since Peter’s arrest occurred during the days of Unleavened Bread, and the king wanted to remain favorable among the Jewish people, he was careful to be mindful of their custom so his, so-called, approval rating would not decline. Therefore, Herod had Peter jailed and placed under heavy guard until after the Passover was complete. Yet, the Bible says, “…But prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5).
In other words, the church was interceding through prayer on Peter’s behalf with intensity, purpose, and unity. When a Christian has those three conditions all working in unison, his or her prayer life will be impactful. However, a common phrase we often hear today is, “All we can do now is pray,” which implies that after man has tried everything his way, now he will turn to God as his last resort. What Scripture does not say in this passage is that the church first tried to reason with the king, or the church made an attempt to break Peter out of prison. No! The church in Acts chapter 12 did not make prayer its last resort, but instead, the church made prayer its first line of defense.
Meanwhile, Peter was held in chains and under heavy guard — one guard to his left and one to his right plus two guards at the door. The king wanted to be sure that no escape for Peter would be possible, and yet all the while, the Bible says that Peter was asleep in the midst of it all. It seems evident that Peter had come along way in his faith since the days of his boastfulness and subsequent denials that he ever knew Jesus. Peter appeared quite content in the knowledge that his Savior and Lord was in complete control.
As the story unfolds, an angel appeared and set Peter free and led him past the guards and beyond the iron gate that opened all by itself. Here we have an example that shows there is no obstacle in your life that God cannot remove. Once Peter was clear of danger, the angel departed from him. When Peter realized that it was not a vision or a dream that he had experienced, but that the Lord had delivered him from the hands of the king, he went to Mary’s house and proceeded to knock at the gate.
When the servant girl, Rhoda, recognized the voice of Peter, she became so overjoyed that she did not open the gate, but instead, she ran to tell the others that it was Peter. However, when the others heard the news, they concluded that Rhoda was “out of her mind.” When she insisted, they then tried to explain it away as being Peter’s guardian angel, as the belief at that time was that a guardian angel looked the same in appearance as the individual whom the angel was assigned to protect.
It seems the church, being so dedicated and faithful to lifting Peter in fervent prayer, experienced a lapse in faith by not expecting God to answer their prayer in the affirmative. Scripture says, “When they opened the door, they saw him and were amazed” (Acts 12:16). The Greek word for amazed is Existemi (ex-is’-tay-mee), which means they were astounded, astonished, or thrown into a state of wonderment.
Now before we shake our heads or wave a finger at the church, each of us, at some point in time, has lifted a prayer to God only to say to ourselves something like, “God will never do that” or “that will never happen,” and what would Jesus say in response? He would likely say, “You who are of little faith, why do you doubt so?”
We live in a time when our community, our nation, and the world at large are all in dire need of faithful unified laser-focused intercessory prayer offered to God by the church. The urgency for doing so is all too real because time is getting shorter by the day. So, as we move forward, let us pray with the same fervency as our fellow believers of the early church did for Peter. Let us pray in the confidence and knowledge that God will respond to our prayers according to His will, His way, and in His perfect timing.
Now, let us pray.