Today’s Reading: Acts 12
Today we come to a challenging passage of Scripture. We are about to see two men in prison, yet those same men’s lives have a different outcome. And it seems there is something that happened that changed one of these men’s future. Let’s read the story:
About that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. (Acts 12:1-5)
Herod arrested two key figures in the first church: James and Peter. Both were imprisoned. James was put to death by the sword, and Peter was about to face the same outcome . . . but Peter was miraculously delivered. Something seemed to change Peter’s meeting with the executioner: “Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (verse 5).
Read that verse again: “But prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”
Could it be that God was showing us the power of prayer? James got a sword; Peter got an angel:
On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. (Acts 12:6-7)
I have to say this about the angelic visit in prison. Take a look this sentence: “He struck Peter’s side and woke him up.” Talk about the peace of God. If I knew I was going to die the next day, I would not be in such a deep sleep that an angel would need to strike me on the side and yell, “Get up.”
Why did Peter have the peace of God? Because he knew the promise of God.
This is really important. Back in John 21, Jesus made Peter a promise about his death:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!” (John 21:18-19)
He was telling Peter that he would not die young but as an old man who can’t even dress himself.
Peter knew a promise that Jesus made over him twelve years before. So Peter could go to sleep, because he believed God would get him out.
And God did. Puritan writer Thomas Watson said that “the angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.”
Could the difference be that God is showing us that prayer is intercession? That prayer gets people out of a death sentence. One gets killed, the other gets delivered. And the thing separating their fates was a praying church.
Peter was going to be killed, but prayer trumped Herod’s intentions. My prayer, our church’s prayer, can be a matter of life and death.
If Peter’s life depended on your prayer life or on your church’s prayer life . . . would he have had a chance? Or would he have faced the same fate as his companion?
A Christian lady lived next door to an atheist. Every day she prayed, and the atheist could hear her. Many times, he would harass her and say, “Why do you pray all the time? Don’t you know there is no God?”
But still she kept on praying.
One day she ran out of groceries. As usual, she was praying, and the atheist could hear her. As she prayed, she explained her situation to the Lord, thanking Him for what He was going to do.
The atheist was so annoyed with her praying, that he decided to get her. He went to the store, bought groceries, dropped them off on her front porch, rang the doorbell, and hid in the bushes. When she opened the door and saw the groceries, she began to praise the Lord!
The atheist jumped out of the bushes. “You old crazy lady. God didn’t buy you those groceries. I bought those groceries!”
His announcement started her shouting and praising God all the more. “I knew the Lord would provide me with some groceries, but I didn’t know he was going make the devil pay for them!”
Can your prayer life get someone out of jail?