A Praying Church and God’s Power
Book of Acts Chapter 12
Our lesson today is about prayer.
If we are truly the children of God, then we know that our prayers to our Holy God are necessary.
In its simplest form prayer is having a conversation with our Heavenly Father.
We cannot talk to our Heavenly Father unless we have God the Holy Spirit living within us for, He will not hear us.
The one exception being the sinner’s prayer.
The ears of God are always open to the cries of the oppressed, especially those oppressed of the Devil.
We will not get an answer to any prayer that is not prayed in the name of God the Son, Jesus Christ!
Joh 16:23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Joh 16:24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
Why is prayer so necessary?
Jas 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Jas 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Jas 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Prayer is the source for receiving all things from God but especially help in our time of need!
Having a good prayer life is how we draw near to God because it is by prayer, we show our faith!
Heb 10:21 And having an high priest over the house of God;
Heb 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Heb 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
If our faith is wavering, we will not get an answer to our prayers.
Most of the attacks we have seen so far against the Church has been from the chief priests and elders of Judaism, but today we see where the politicians have decided to join in ridding the world of the Church.
We see some of our own politicians trying to do the same thing in our nation today and all around the world.
The Kings of the Jews were appointed by Rome during this time and most all of them were wicked rulers.
This grandson of Herod the Great, who was as wicked as his father and his grandfather found that he could gain favor with these wicked Jews if he persecuted the Church, especially the Apostles.
Now when I say the Jews, I am not talking about the people but only those that hated the Church and hated the truth of Jesus Christ.
So he rounded up James the brother of John and murdered him, for James had done nothing wrong except to preach Jesus Christ.
This pleased those wicked Jews so much that Herod decided to murder Peter and he had Peter arrested.
Ww should be able to see that the Apostles of the Lord Jesus had been free to go where they pleased.
The politicians had to be very careful with these type things because much of the people were on the side of the Apostles of Christ.
Herod had to pick the right time to kill Peter.
Peter was guarded by sixteen soldiers to make sure he did not escape.
These four-man units extended from battle formations.
Peter may have been in prison, but the Church had determined that the best thing to do for him was to pray.
Prayer should not be the last thing we think to do but the first thig we think to do.
Prayer is our greatest weapon against this evil, wicked, world.
We must keep in mind that there was great persecution taking place against the Church and believers were afraid for their lives in Jerusalem.
The Church at Jerusalem had become an underground church meeting behind closed doors and in hidden places.
The Apostles would still go in and out of the Temple but even this was about to end.
The whole Church was praying for the release of Peter.
*Act 12:5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him”.
Prayer for Peter was earnest and it was continuous, and probably in many private houses.
Peter was guarded by sixteen soldiers, probably four at a time and around the clock. The politicians were still embarrassed about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had never found the body of Jesus Christ.
They either had to accept the truth or make up some lie about our risen Savior.
We might ask ourselves why the Church met in earnest for Peter, yet we do not read of the same thing for James.
The only conclusion we can come to is that it was time for James to home to be with the Lord, but it was not time for Peter, the work of James being complete.
Now we must not get confused with this James the brother of John, and another James who is step-brother to the Lord Jesus Christ who will become the Pastor of the Jerusalem Church.
Maybe the Church had not gathered for James as they had for Peter, but we know that the Lord is no respecter of persons and James would be far better off than Peter and Peter’s work was not yet done.
Both of the wrists of Peter were chained to one of the wrist of two different soldiers at all times.
*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 will see that Peter knew what had happened to James but even being chained to two different soldiers and more soldiers standing guard, Peter was so content that he could sleep and sleep peaceably.
The whole Church was praying.
The Church was doing all it could, praying specifically for Peter’s deliverance.
The Church was praying fervently, earnestly, and continuously!
Crying out to God for sovereign deliverance of Peter.
This is the type of praying that we do not do enough of. I know I do not and not many of us practice fasting.
Peter’s only hope was truly for God to intervene!
Here on the night before he was to be executed Peter was so at peace that he could sleep even in his situation.
We see that the Lord Jesus Christ was meeting the needs of his servant Peter!
You see it is God’s “Grace” that gives us the strength and the peace to endure the persecutions of this world!
We cannot face the trials of this life without the peace that comes from our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ!
This is because we have confidence in the truth of God.
Isa 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Isa 26:4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
And behold the Angel of the Lord.
*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.
Next, we see a pattern of God’s miraculous work along with Peter’s obedience.
Peter could not have been delivered without his own obedience to the Lord and the Lord’s ministering angel!
We will notice as we read through this passage that this angel did not do for Peter what Peter could do for himself.
God will never do what we can do ourselves!
Peter had to obey the commands of this angel.
Anytime we find ourselves in communication with the Lord, the Holy Spirit, our Heavenly Father, or one of His angels, we need to obey any commands we receive.
We will also notice that once Peter was delivered and out of danger, he was left on his own to work out his own deliverance.
Php_2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Peter would return to the Church before seeking a better place to serve the Lord and escape the politics of Jerusalem.
Peter should seek the Lord in making any other decisions.
God’s deliverance involved only what Peter could not do for himself!
We should understand that Peter was full of confidence that he would live to be an old man but Peter still had to do his part.
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.
Joh 21:19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
We can see that Peter did not think he was old at this time.
Peter was so sound in his sleep that this angel had to awaken him.
The angels are not only ministering spirits, but they are for the deliverance of God’s people.
Psa 34:7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
A bright light shone in this prison though it was a dark and dreary place.
These guards who kept Peter must have been struck into a deep sleep by the Lord.
This angel awakened Peter by giving a blow to his side.
This angel helped Peter to rise up because Peter was between two guards and said “Arise up quickly” and then those chains that bound Peter just fell away silently.
Then the angel said for Peter to dress himself.
*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.
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.
Notice Peter was told to dress himself for Peter did not know what to do except to obey this angel.
We should understand that when we are helpless then God will help us, but God will not do what we can do for ourselves.
Peter had not awoken to the reality of what was going on around him and he still felt he was just seeing a vision or as if he was dreaming.
Peter continued to follow this angel.
As we follow this story in the Bible, we must cling to the fact that all these things were happening because of prayer by this Church.
To think otherwise would be to think wrong.
When we pray and we see the results of our prayer we must praise the Lord for what He has done.
We may not see immediate results to all our prayers, and we must remember, going home to Heaven is still far better than remaining in this world.
As long as we have a work to complete, we will remain upon this earth.
*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.
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.
We can just imagine Peter following this angel quickly through this prison and when those iron gates open under their own power, Peter began to realize the truth that he was being freed from prison.
It was only after they passed that first street in the city that Peter came to himself and this angel departed from him to go wherever the Lord would send him next.
Peter realized that none of this was a dream and that he was actually free.
Peter than fled the city because it would not be long before Herod would be seeking him again.
There is a lot of typology in this passage.
God’s deliverance of His people from the chains of sin.
The slumber of the Jews to the Word of God just two examples.
Peter was now fully awakened realizing what had taken place and Peter knew where the Church might be gathered.
*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.
What do we know about this Mary?
This Mary was a sister to Barnabas.
Col 4:10 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)
This Mary was also the mother of John who we know as Mark who became very profitable to the Apostle Paul after a rough start.
2Ti 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
We know that it was Peter who 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 is the only clear mention of this Mary in the Bible, but we can see that she was a dear sister to the Church.
She must have been a widow for her husband is never mentioned,
She evidently was the owner of much property and a huge house large enough for the Church to gather safely in her home.
This maybe the place that is called the “upper room”.
The best thing that can be said about this mother was the fact that she was a godly mother who helped her own her son to become a missionary.
Her home had a gate like many of the places we see classified as places of the rich.
Luk 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
Luk 16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
*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.
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.
Peter knocked at the door of the gate and a young lady named Rhoda came to the door.
We do not know if Rhoda saw Peter at this time but we do know she recognized his voice.
Out of her excitement she forgot to open the door of the gate and ran as fast as she could to tell the Church that Peter was free.
Peter also realized he was in great danger exposed to the people in the streets if someone saw him.
When Rhoda said that Peter was at the door, those within thought Rhoda was crazy and told her so.
It is a fact that we as the Church do not realize that God answers every prayer that reaches Him in Heaven.
Most of us do not give God the credit for answered prayers so, when we pray we probably do not pray with enough faith that our prayers will be answered.
This is what was happening at Mary’s house.
Maybe they prayed for James as they were praying Peter.
The one thing that makes a prayer happen is “faith”!
Mat 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Mat 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Someone finally goes to check to see if it really was Peter at the door and it was.
*Act 12:16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
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.
Peter was left standing at the door, still knocking, still worrying that someone would come by and see him.
Peter was now a wanted fugitive.
As soon as the door was opened Peter stepped in. He was comforted and all their doubts disappeared, and everyone was full of joy.
Peter quickly gave an account of his miraculous deliverance.
James the stepbrother of Jesus was now the Pastor at the Church in Jerusalem and James needed to know the Peter had been freed because of prayer.
James’ father was Joseph while the Holy Spirit cause the birth of our Savior.
Mary was the mother of them both.
We all need to believe this truth!
Peter then departed and the Bible does not tell us where Peter had to go for his safety.
We should clearly understand that the Lord God of Heaven does certainly answer every prayer that gets to Him.
Our job is to live our lives so that our prayers are always answered.
God will still answer in a way that suits Him according to His plan, but He will answer.
God is not ever going to say yes to every prayer we pray.
We are not always going to get an answer that we want.
God will answer every prayer of faith at His own terms.
No matter how God answers our prayers, we are to offer our thanks.
In fact, we just as well thank Him before time, because if we are living righteously then we know our prayer will be answered.
Not many remember to give God thanks for what He has done as He answers our prayers.
Whatever God does in response to our prayers will always be the right thing to do!
God must always get the glory for everything that He does!
Peter’s church friends and family were excited that Peter was free but Peter’s enemies were just the more confused.
We live in a confused world today because the Word of God is rejected.