“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5).
Prayer may seem to be just a say of few words addressed to an invisible force but it is more than that. In prayer one is not only in fellowship with God but also one can present a point of need to God for action. Not because God is unaware of the point of need, not because God needs to be reminded of the things that he needs to do but because laying the things that burdens us before God makes us acknowledge our inability to do it all, that we are merely mortals and we need Him, the immortal. And, prayer is one of the ways of continued fellowship with God, thus a means to the sustenance of the relationship between God and man.
Through prayer, we can lay our burdens before God and he will take care of it. It is for this reason that the scripture exhorts you to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.” Martin Luther. And “Prayer does not influence God. Prayer surely does influence God. It does not influence His purpose. It does influence His action.” S.D. Gordon. In Acts 12:1-14, we read a story in which a fervent prayer offered by the church for the incarcerated Peter yielded a miraculous result in which the apostle was delivered from a well guided dungeon miraculously.
Peter put in prison
The church was fast growing, from the three thousand followers of the Way who were admitted to the church on the day of Pentecost, the trend was immensely great. Luke describes it in these words; “and the Lord added to their number daily those who are being saved” (Acts 2:47). This saw the church growing from Jerusalem to Judea and the neighbouring Samaria and then to the uttermost ends of the earth. Miracles, wonders and signs were performed by the Holy Ghost through the apostles which shook the world around and many believed. The followers of the way lived a distinct life that would never be compared to any group, that sometimes it wasn’t easy to join them. And the life they lived was none other than the Way of Christ, that they looked like Christ. This made them to be baptised “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26). One ought to be a Christian because his life is being fashioned after that of Christ.
The growth of the church was a threat to some, especially some political and religious leaders who sought to persecute them. King Herod took to an offensive arrest of the believers. “He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also (Acts 12:2-3). Herod became much evil conceited, that he was willing to do anything against the church as much as it appealed to the mass. He had Peter put in jail, with the intention of bringing him out for public trial and eventually killed after the Passover. As Herod had Peter put in jail, the church didn’t move to the street to protest for their right, it didn’t move for a negotiation with Herod to have Peter released from jail, but it was;
Earnestly praying to God
The church took to the prayer room, the power house to have justice for Peter. They weren’t perhaps not sure what the God to whom they prayed would do, but one thing they knew for sure is that God will act. They knew they had to do their part of laying their burden to God and leave the action to God alone. And so, they prayed earnestly to God.
Men and women who are earnest in prayer are not those with a predetermined idea of what God will do in their situation but those who trust God will have his will prevail in it.
Ours is to pray, God’s is to have his will prevail. As the disciples prayed, God acted. Unlike in the case of Stephen who was stoned, and James who was put to sword, God comes to deliver Peter from the prison. The angel of the Lord appeared in the deep of the night to Peter’s delivery. The chains on Peter’s hands and legs fell loose, “Peter, wrap yourself with your cloak and follow me” said the angel. Passing through the first, second and the third (iron) gate, the angel disappeared. Was it a dream, no, it was real, rescue had come for Peter because some men and women were in the prayer room earnestly praying for him. Whether Peter was to be put to the sword, at least the disciples did their part to pray.
When we pray, God honours our prayer, he says “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3). When we search for his mind in prayer, he will show us the unsearchable things that we wouldn’t have access to without prayer. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
Jesus often prayed, he prayed before the few loaves of bread and pieces of fish were multiplied to feed more than five thousand, he first prayed. Before he raised Lazarus from the dead, he offered this prayer to God;
Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me (John 11:41-42).
Apostle Paul says; “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). Let us lift our burdens by lifting our hands to God in prayer. Let us not always be driven to a non-prayer approach whenever we are pressed hard, yes, you should abandon other approaches when in need as much as you ought never to abandon prayer. Prayer should in fact precede all other efforts we can make in every situation. We ought to pray, not as an obligation but because in it, we have the privilege to offer our weaknesses to God. “Prayer breaks all bars, dissolves all chains, opens all prisons, and widens all straits by which God’s saints have been held.” E. M. Bounds
A praying church is a living church, a prayer believer is a living believer. The more earnestly we pray, the more miracles we will see. The less we pray, miracles ceases and we begin to dispute whether miracles still happen today. Wake up O believer, it is time for you to pray, pray and pray because an earnest prayer yields miraculous results.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version (NIV).
Rev. Julius Izza Tabi is a pastor in the Anglican Church of Uganda, Ma’di & West Nile Diocese. Julius served as an assistant Chaplain and lecturer at the Arua Campus of the Uganda Christin University. He is currently a candidate of Master of Philosophy in Religion, Society and Global Issues at Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet alias the Norwegian School of Theology, in Oslo, Norway. For pastoral assistance you can email him or check how you can reach him here