The Power Of The Praying Church
Book of Acts Chapter 12
In today’s lesson we will see what happens as Satan loses one battle after another in trying to stop the Church.
The persecution of the Church began immediately after Pentecost. Christ Jesus had been persecuted and He had said all of His followers would be persecuted.
There is no doubt that we can expect persecution from false religion because Satan tries to hide the truth of God from all false religion!
Most all mankind, if not all, are seeking a god in their lives.
Most of mankind has moral values and they realize that plants cannot have moral values and though animals can show signs of affection and a degree of learning they also do not have moral values.
If man is then the highest level of life then most people believe that there must have been a Creator, a God!
The others just reject the truth!
Satan has taken advantage of these thoughts in all of mankind and uses all his power to try to stop the truth of God.
In Jerusalem the persecution of the Church began with the religious leaders who instilled a hatred of Christianity into most all Jews. They had failed and now the Church had expanded outside Samaria and was making it’s way to the uttermost parts of this world.
But now another enemy comes on the scene. Government officials had been used by these religious leaders to aid in this persecution but now an evil ruling government took it own it’s own to try to stop the spread of the Christian Church.
All during this period of persecution it seems that the Apostles had been exempt but that was about to change.
If we believe in “types” then we should be aware that these things are happening before our eyes even in America and in a great part of the world.
We have one truth that we can place our faith in and these are the words of Jesus Our Lord:
Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; [and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it].
And God also says:
Isa 54:17 [No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper]; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
This the truth of the Bible.
The “strength” of the Church and the “Power” of the Church comes through “Prayer” and we can see this again today. We have a God that listens to His people!
*****Act 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
This Herod was Herod Agrippa 1. He was the grandson of Herod the Great who was ruler when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and had murdered all the babies up to two years old.
Herod the Great had even murdered Agrippa’s own father Aristobulus. It was this Agrippa’s sister, Herodias who had married within the family to his and her uncle Herod Antipas who had murdered John the Baptist.
And it was the son of this Herod, Agrippa II and his sister Bernice, who also later witnessed the trial of Paul before Festus, before Paul was sent to Rome. He also had another sister named Drusilla who was married to Felix who had kept Paul in prison in Caesarea for so long a time.
Herod Agrippa I would do everything he could to make himself popular with the Jews to help him maintain his influence in Rome.
The Pharisees had a special admiration for this man so he decided to do away with the leaders of the Church.
*****Act 12:2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
James became the second recorded martyr, after Stephen, in the New Testament and the first of the Apostles to die for preaching the Word of God.
This James was the older brother of the Apostle John and we already know he preached vigorously and could stir up a commotion with his boldness.
Mar 3:17 And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:
James was beheaded which was one of the four capitol punishments of the Jews and considered to be the most shameful and the most disgraceful. This beheading was usually reserved for deceivers and all the Apostles were considered deceivers by the Jews.
Jesus had told this James that he indeed would suffer from the same cup as He!
Mar 10:38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
Mar 10:39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
*****Act 12:3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
Act 12:4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
This was all the encouragement that this Herod needed to proceed in murdering all the Apostles! If the murdering of James made them happy then surely by killing Peter would delight them even more. We can see that this King Herod fed off this feeling of power over the people.
God permitted the killing of James and God permitted the arrest of Peter. They placed Peter place under heavy guard but Herod knew he needed to wait until after the festival of unleavened bread was complete before he killed Peter.
The last time Peter had been arrested he had miraculously escaped, so this time 16 soldiers were assigned to watch Peter around the clock with two soldiers being chained to him at all times. There was no way for Peter to escape this time, or so they thought.
Of course this observance of “Easter” was a day that the Christian church observed, as the Jews still observed it as “Passover”.
We could ask ourselves why James had to die and not Peter, but all we can say is that it is still God’s plan and it is He that sits on the throne!
It is the throne of Heaven that is in control and not any throne that is on this Earth, just as we will witness one day soon when the Anti-Christ tries to sit on the throne of Jesus.
*****Act 12:5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: [but prayer was made without ceasing] of the church unto God [for him].
We must never under estimate the “power” of the praying church! Notice, it was not time to have just a general prayer in the church. It was time to have a specific prayer for the Apostle Peter, that he would be released and be able to continue in God’s work.
We will see that there is an obvious relationship between the prayer for Peter’s release from prison and the angel’s releasing him.
This prayer was probably not made in a single gathering place because of fear after James was killed but they gathered in homes and in little groups, each group praying earnestly and from the heart and without ceasing.
This prayer was specifically for Peter!
*****Act 12:6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
We can see that there was no way for Peter to escape by any, so called, normal means.
But we can also see that Peter was asleep. We will see that the Apostle Peter was sleeping so soundly that the angel had to awaken him by punching on him and lifting him up.
In spite of his circumstances and knowing he was to executed on the following morning, Peter had the peace of a man who knows that Heaven is his home and he was about to go there. This is the peace of God that we all should have.
The Bible says:
Psa 121:7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
Psa 121:8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
And God tells each of us these words:
Psa 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: [for so he giveth his beloved sleep].
God tells us that it is foolish to worry about our circumstances. We should be resting for the work ahead.
Remember, Peter had also been promised by Jesus, that he would live to be an old man:
Joh 21:18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: [but when thou shalt be old], thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
Now we might not know how old that would be but Peter was not that old at this time!
*****Act 12:7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
What are some of the things that angels do?
1.) They minister to God the Father.
2.) They ministered to Jesus Christ, God the Son.
3.) They minister to every believer:
a.) They can offer physical protection:
Psa 91:11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
b.) They can help provide a need in times of peril as they did to Elijah:
1Ki 19:5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
1Ki 19:6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
c.) They can offer encouragement as they did to Paul:
Act 27:23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Act 27:24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
d.) They can give us direction as they did to Philip:
Act 8:26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
And as they had to Cornelius about Peter:
Act 10:3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
e.) Angels may one day carry us home to Heaven:
Luk 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and [was carried by the angels] into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
f.) And in this lesson we see they assist in answered prayer!
But Angels will one day also minister to all unbelievers!
Mat 13:41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
Mat 13:42 [And shall cast them into a furnace of fire]: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
In order for Peter to be saved, from this peril, he had to do what this angel told him to do!
*****Act 12:8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. [And so he did]. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
Even in the middle of a miracle, we are expected to be civil and do the things that we can do. Peter needed to dress himself and put on his own shoes because it was time to get out of jail.
We are to do the things God has given us power to do and God will do the things that we are powerless to do!
And then we are to obey “the one” that God sends!
*****Act 12:9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
Peter felt like he was having a dream and that dream came with a vision.
His chains had just fallen off.
The soldiers were not aware of anything that was happening.
Locked cells and gates were just opening up.
Unbelievable things were happening that could not be explained so Peter felt that they must not be real.
*****Act 12:10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
These two wards were places inside the prison where guards were stationed and that iron gate was the entrance, or in Peter’s case, the exit from that prison where he had been kept.
Prisons were not outside the city walls at this time!
These gates just opened on their own. They did not have to open for the angel, so they were opening for Peter’s escape.
This angel did not leave Peter until Peter knew which way he could go to escape and it was at this time that Peter realized he had been saved from death!
*****Act 12:11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
Peter knew he had been delivered from the hand of Herod and from the Jewish leaders.
Peter was no longer confused!
Peter knew that his own people the Jews had expected him to be murdered just as James had been.
BUT, even the government could not stop what God had in store for Peter.
AND, the “power of prayer” is a force that is also unstoppable. These are lessons that we all seem to have forgotten.
The Bible says:
Psa 41:1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
Psa 41:2 The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: [and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies].
*****Act 12:12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
This probably a Mary we have not yet met, and more probably, a sister to Barnabas we have just recently met.
When Peter had gained control of his senses, he realized that his brothers and sisters may be gathered together and most probably in a place familiar with them all.
Peter knew this place and this family very well and had led Mark to the Lord:
1Pe 5:13 The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; [and so doth Marcus my son].
This was most likely the same upper room where they had been praying on the day of Pentecost.
The same room where they had observed the Lord’s Supper with the Lord.
It is very possible that Mark and even Barnabas had been in that house with them both of these times.
*****Act 12:13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
Act 12:14 And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
It is most probable that while this church, that met in Mary’s house was still praying, the answer to their prayer had appeared at the door!
Rhoda was so overwhelmed that she neglected to open the door, though she recognized the voice of Peter.
Peter had to keep knocking while the church could not believe their prayer had been answered.
*****Act 12:15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
Act 12:16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
They had been praying earnestly but they had no faith that their prayer would be answered.
This a great lesson for us all!
There are indeed guardian angels assigned to each believer:
Psa 34:7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
These people knew that Peter was not to be executed until the Passover or after it, so they were not referring to this as Peter’s spirit or the ghost of Peter.
And this could not ave been an angel or he could have walked right on in that house.
The lesson we learn here is that though they believed in fervent prayer, they had their doubts that God would answer such a prayer.
The Bible teaches us:
Mar 9:24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, [Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief].
When we doubt that our prayers will be answered then most times they will not!
As a child of God the Father, He has given us the “power” to come directly to His throne at any hour and with any need.
We are wasting our time and His time if we do not believe that Our Father can do the impossible, as this simple illustration we are given in this passage!
Remember Herod had murdered James, the brother of John.
He had intended to do the same to Peter.
The early church was driven to it’s knees and God, not only answered their prayer and released Peter, but God began to turn the tide against this Herod and these Jews.
More than just saving Peter happened that day because of prayer!
The Bible says:
Jas 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. [The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much].
In other words there is endless power in the fervent prayer of “faith”!
*****Act 12:17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord
had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he
departed, and went into another place.
The Apostle James was already dead, so this James was the half brother of Jesus, and even at this time this James was taking more responsibility in the church at Jerusalem and this James was also the writer used of the Holy Ghost to write the Book of James!
Peter disappears for a period of time at least until after the time of Herod’s death.
We will see very little of Peter throughout the remaining chapters but we will begin to see a whole lot of the Apostle Paul.
We know that Peter gathered his wife and went on the road preaching the gospel:
1Co 9:5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, [and Cephas]?
In fact Peter is on the short list of some that preached to the church of Corinth after it was established:
1Co 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; [and I of Cephas]; and I of Christ.
The Bible does not give us any evidence that the Apostle Peter ever visited Rome, and in fact, if Peter had establish a church in Rome then the Apostle Paul would not have had his yearning to go to Rome:
There is proof of this:
Rom 15:20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, [lest I should build upon another man’s foundation]:
The Bible encourages us to be in earnest prayer for those Christians locked up for preaching the “Gospel” and to have enough faith that God will use these people to grow the church.
Heb 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, [as bound with them]; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
Prayer can change lives and it is vastly important that we realize the power of prayer!
Herod who was the ruling government was shaken up by what happened!
The military was shaken up and blamed and at least 16 soldiers who then lost their lives!
Herod commanded a great search be made, but Peter could not be found!
Herod decided it would be best if he left Judea and he went back to Caesarea but he could not hide from God and in a short time his own life was ended because he did not give God the glory!