We pray. God acts. If we as the “church” could really wrap our heads around this amazing way God acts in the lives of His beloved, we could, by God’s power in us, revolutionize the world’s thinking bent on everything but God. When we pray as the church, united with each other and to God in whom we say we fully trust and believe, God acts in ways that are beyond our ask, beyond our thinking, beyond our wildest dreams and aspirations! He is God! We are not.
Paul, who also spent a lot of time in jail for preaching Christ writes to the church about how to pray while he prays for the church!
“…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21, NIV)
Meanwhile back to God’s story…
The church gathered to pray for Peter at Mary’s house. They were united in purposeful prayer…asking God to save Peter from death planned after the Passover holiday by King Herod. Murder is power and popularity to Herod’s small-minded thinking. But Peter, jailed and heavily guarded, slept like a baby before the day he was to die. Peter, full of Jesus and His Holy Spirit living in him, has profound peace while he waits for execution. And the church continued to pray…
“I can’t believe it—this really happened! The Master sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s vicious little production and the spectacle the Jewish mob was looking forward to.” –Peter
Because the church is praying, God, who is able, does more than Peter and the church dream or imagine! God sent an angel to break Peter out of jail quietly and peacefully. Peter thought he was dreaming until he realized he was on the street! Friends, don’t you love how God works? I love this story of God’s actions!
WHILE the church is praying, Peter knocks on the door of the church. They don’t believe in the answer they have been praying for so they keep on praying and wondering.
Oh Friends, do we do that sometimes? While praying for the impossible to us, God is already at work answering but we don’t trust enough to realize that He is ALWAYS at work for us, not against us, and has already gone before us to answer? There are times we need to look up from praying and see what God is doing!
Peter keeps knocking at Mary’s door, the answer to their prayers has arrived! Finally, they let him in. God acted on their behalf and the behalf of the growing church. With God, nothing is impossible. God has done more than they dreamed in ways that actually started their thinking. God loves doing that, I think. Yes, I KNOW He does!
Peter’s first words to the church are “settle down and go tell the brothers”. In other words, get back to doing what God has assigned us to accomplish. (Great Commission—Matthew 28)
Herod discovers the jailbreak and blames the guards. “Off with their heads!” is his way of saving face. Herod is so overwhelmed with it all, he goes on vacation. That’s what humans do who do not know God or His power. God had enough of Herod when he took all the credit for the food supplies from Judea. As soon as the people praised Herod, God took over and struck him dead on his throne of lies and arrogance. (Yes, quoting Elf and smiling.) We do not and cannot, should not and could not take the place of God. Only God is God and we are not—ever!
AND THE BEST PART OF ALL?
“Meanwhile, the ministry of God’s Word grew by leaps and bounds.”
And the church continued to pray and obey. God acted on behalf of His believing church built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, His Son. Yes, and Amen!
ACTS—God’s Acts through His Disciples
Acts 12, The Message
Peter Under Heavy Guard
1-4 That’s when King Herod got it into his head to go after some of the church members. He murdered James, John’s brother. When he saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews, he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week, mind you—and had him thrown in jail, putting four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. He was planning a public lynching after Passover.
5 All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.
6 Then the time came for Herod to bring him out for the kill. That night, even though shackled to two soldiers, one on either side, Peter slept like a baby. And there were guards at the door keeping their eyes on the place. Herod was taking no chances!
7-9 Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. The angel shook Peter and got him up: “Hurry!” The handcuffs fell off his wrists. The angel said, “Get dressed. Put on your shoes.” Peter did it. Then, “Grab your coat and let’s get out of here.” Peter followed him, but didn’t believe it was really an angel—he thought he was dreaming.
10-11 Past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate that led into the city. It swung open before them on its own, and they were out on the street, free as the breeze. At the first intersection the angel left him, going his own way. That’s when Peter realized it was no dream. “I can’t believe it—this really happened! The Master sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s vicious little production and the spectacle the Jewish mob was looking forward to.”
12-14 Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice—Peter’s voice!—she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.
15-16 But they wouldn’t believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. “You’re crazy,” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn’t believe her and said, “It must be his angel.” All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.
16-17 Finally they opened up and saw him—and went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, “Tell James and the brothers what’s happened.” He left them and went off to another place.
18-19 At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. “Where is Peter? What’s happened to Peter?” When Herod sent for him and they could neither produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution: “Off with their heads!” Fed up with Judea and Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.
The Death of Herod
20-22 But things went from bad to worse for Herod. Now people from Tyre and Sidon put him on the warpath. But they got Blastus, King Herod’s right-hand man, to put in a good word for them and got a delegation together to iron things out. Because they were dependent on Judea for food supplies, they couldn’t afford to let this go on too long. On the day set for their meeting, Herod, robed in pomposity, took his place on the throne and regaled them with a lot of hot air. The people played their part to the hilt and shouted flatteries: “The voice of God! The voice of God!”
23 That was the last straw. God had had enough of Herod’s arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if there ever was one, he died.
24 Meanwhile, the ministry of God’s Word grew by leaps and bounds.
25 Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John with them, the one they called Mark.
Thank you for this true story of your provisions and protection! Thank you for allowing us to see your glory at work in the lives of the early church of believers in You. Thank you never changing through the centuries in your power, love, mercy and grace. Thank you for saving my soul and making me whole. Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do when your people pray in unity. Help us to love like you love as we help people find and follow you. To YOU be all the glory, honor and praise forevermore!
In Jesus Name, Amen