Acts 12:5-18 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.”
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.
14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the brothers about this,” he said, and then he left for another place. 18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.
Before I say anything else I want to say this: Never underestimate the power of a praying church. I believe one reason God’s hand is on this ministry is because of the commitment we have to corporate prayer and to lifting up the needs of this body and our community in prayer. If you aren’t on our email prayer chain, I encourage you to let us know today to add you by putting a note on the back of your blue card. Please include your email address when you do.
If you look at the book of Acts you will see that praying is one of the main things the church did. They didn’t have to coordinate it, promote it, teach on it, and invite people to come to do it. They just got together and prayed. Acts 2 tells us they were continually gathering for prayer. Let me also say that their collective prayer was offered in the context of deep fellowship. These people were doing life together. These people were in love with God and each other. It was an “All for one and one for all” mentality. They were in the Gospel spreading business together. Their love was real, genuine, and tenacious. If Peter was in prison, they were all in prison in a way with him through the ministry of prayer. If Peter was in trouble, they were all in trouble with him, and they went to battle for him and for themselves through prayer. That is the atmosphere here at TVCOG. We are all in this together. You are part of me and vise-versa. We may not know every person who calls TVCOG their home personally, but our collective heart is a passion for the things of God and for one another. When you pull a name out of that prayer pot to pray for a brother or sister or to pray for a request they have put on their blue card for someone else, you are demonstrating the togetherness we feel.
Churches have been guilty through the years of having a weekly gathering and calling it Prayer Meeting, but often prayer was something offered at the beginning and the end. It wasn’t usually a meeting just for the purpose of prayer. These early Christians got together just to pray. At a time when the church was intensely persecuted the church was intensely praying. And the Gospel spread like wildfire! During this Year of the Gospel we still have time to pray for the preaching of the Word, the sharing of the Word, the proliferation of the Word. We still have time to pray for souls to be saved and for the Kingdom of God to advance.
Every major move of God, every revival, has been preceded by an intense time of corporate prayer. God is faithful to His promises. He said in II Chronicles 7:14 that if His people who are called by His name would humble themselves and seek Him in prayer and turn from sin that He would bring healing and provide help where it is needed. There is amazing power when we come together in Jesus’ name to pray.
There are four main points from our text that I want to lift up for your consideration.
- Coming together in prayer produces peace. Don’t miss the powerful nuances in
verse 6: 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Let me just say that people who were named Herod in the Bible weren’t generally gracious, loving and warm and fuzzy. Like, if you were looking for a new hut in the outskirts of Jerusalem, you might research to find out if anyone named Herod lived in the neighborhood you were considering because you would be choosing a different location. People who found themselves in the vicinity of a Herod would likely come to a sad and untimely ending. This evil man, this Herod was the grandson of Herod the Great, who ordered the Bethlehem children to be murdered, and the nephew of Herod Antipas, who had John the Baptist beheaded.
But what does verse six say? The night before Peter was supposed to appear before Herod, Peter was asleep. Peter was asleep. Does that sound natural to you? Is that what you would expect to read? If you are appearing before Herod the next day, do you think you would drift off to sleep? That isn’t natural. Facing one of the most horrific days of his life, Peter was the recipient of supernatural peace. Not only was he appearing before Herod the next day which probably meant severe punishment or even execution, but he was chained to a guard on his left and a guard on his right.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have to have conditions just perfect before I can drift off to sleep. I have to have the sound of two fans and a white noise machine along with the overhead ceiling fan whirring. I have to have a body pillow to hold and my thin, flat pillow for my head. I can’t have any extra noise or movement. If you were to walk into our bedroom, you would think Thom and I were paying tribute to Ricky and Lucy Ricardo because we sleep in separate beds. That’s right. You heard it from the horse’s mouth. We have two beds in our room because I am such a light and sensitive sleeper, and I can’t handle someone turning over, or someone tugging on the covers, or sleep with someone who deals with the “Jimmy Legs.” I am a high-maintenance sleeper. There is no way I could have my arms in handcuffs and have someone on my right and my left and me be able to go to “La, La Land.” But Peter had visions of sugar plums dancing in his head under those conditions.
How was that possible? It was possible because God’s people were meeting together to pray for Peter, and he knew it. He knew he was part of a praying community. He knew what his friends in the Lord would be doing during his incarceration. He knew they wouldn’t go about life as usual. He knew they would drop what they were doing and drop to their knees on his behalf.
Philippians 4:7 tells us that prayer produces peace. It is a spiritual principle. Peter could sleep because Peter had received the peace of God which passes understanding, defies logic, and makes you relaxed in the most worrisome and uncomfortable of situations. Notice, that Peter’s peace preceded the release. You wouldn’t think that would be the case. You would think that once the release from prison happened that Peter would then relax and breathe a sigh of relief. That wasn’t the order of events. It wasn’t a natural order of events but a supernatural order of events that were orchestrated by God.
- Coming together in prayer produces release.
Look again at verses 7-9: 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison…
God sent an angel to escort Peter out of prison in response to the prayers of God’s people. How awesome! That is miraculous. That is supernatural. That is God intervening in a real and powerful way. Church, how many people do we know who are incarcerated by hurts, habits, and hang-ups today? How many people do we know who are bound to an addiction whether drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sexual addiction? How many people are struggling with mental and physical issues that are confining, restricting, and limiting their life? How many are in bondage to anger or fear or doubt and discouragement? There is power in prayer to help people experience relief and release. We need to come together and pray for release for those being held captive today.
We may need release in our individual lives today. I know we need release in our community and in our country and world. We need God to move and release people from all kinds of prisons. We need people to be released from the lie of the enemy. People are walking in darkness because they have believed lies that Satan has spewed. I truly believe that the devil himself is the biggest contributor to ungodly cultural mindsets. The Bible tells us that the “god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers (II Cor. 4:4). We live in a time where “good” is called “evil” and “evil” is being called “good.” That isn’t good, friends. In Isaiah 5:20 that idea of calling good evil and evil good begins with the word “Woe!” “Woe” is never a good word in the Scriptures. Things follow the “Woes” in Scripture that we don’t want to experience.
When I was growing up I could look to those who were mature in years and see a whole generation of senior adults who loved Jesus and were committed to living by the Word of God. However, this generation that is now growing up is looking into the seasoned generation and my generation which is now slightly seasoned, and today’s young people are seeing a completely different spiritual landscape. According to a report in 2014, during the last decade the number of adults who quit attending church increased by 30 percent, an increase of 38 million adults which happens to be more people than live in the countries of Canada or Australia. http://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2014/12/15/10-things-you-didn-t-know-about-unchurched-americans
We need a release from the laissez-fare approach to God in our world. We need a release from the cultural mentality that says “anything goes.” Everything isn’t “ok.” We need a release from believing that what we think or feel is what is supreme. God is Supreme. His Word is supreme. And only when we come together in prayer will we see the healing our world so desperately needs. Let’s come together and pray for a sense of rescue and recovery in our world!
- Coming together in prayer produces obedience.
We go back to verse 7 again: 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. That strikes me funny! Peter must have been sleeping very soundly if even the bright light from the angel’s presence didn’t wake him up. The angel had to kick him or hit him to get him to wake up. I don’t know if the guards were somehow kept from seeing the bright light, but I think it is hilarious that the angel had to punch Peter in order to wake him.
“Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.
Peter had to act quickly in a dangerous place. A prison break would surely cost someone their life if they were caught. Peter didn’t have time to give a list of reasons to the angel why it wasn’t a good idea to try to escape. He didn’t know what was going to happen next. He just had to obey what he was being told. He followed every instruction and followed the angel out of prison. It all happened so fast, he wasn’t even sure it was happening at all.
Why do you think Peter had the courage to act quickly even while he was still in a fog from being woken quickly out of a deep sleep? It was because of the power of prayer.
When we come together to pray, we are enabling people to obey the voice of God. We are partnering with God to give people courage to act decisively. We are helping people have the confidence to move forward in faith. Every time I give an altar call, I am asking every Christian to pray. Pray for strongholds to be broken. Pray for people to be able to have the desire and will to obey God. Pray for doubt to give way to faith. Pray for people to step out and answer God’s call.
- Coming together in prayer produces excitement and joy.
Acts 12:11-14 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.” 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
So, notice two things: The first place Peter thought to go when he came to himself was the house of Mary, the Mother of John. He wanted to go to the people who had been praying. He couldn’t wait to let them know their prayer had been answered. He knew they had been faithful to lift him up. He wanted to tell them the good news first!
Second, notice the time of day that these people were praying for Peter. It was the middle of the night. They had come together and stayed together to pray for Peter’s deliverance. They didn’t have a little one-hour bonfire and go home. They stayed together to pray together into the wee hours of the night. That kind of love and commitment gives me chills!
Now on to Rhoda. Rhoda gets an honorable mention in Scripture because she was excited! It is hard to think straight when you are overwhelmed with joy and excitement. I can identify. I remember when Thom whipped out an engagement ring and got down on one knee at our singles Bible study. I started screaming and flailing my arms about wildly and couldn’t stop. He finally said, “Would you shut up so I can ask you to marry me?” It was the most romantic thing he had ever said. J
I see myself in Rhoda, the girl who was so thrilled to know God had answered the prayer of God’s people that she forgot to open the door to let Peter in! She couldn’t think straight. As Warren Weirsbe said, “God could get Peter out of a prison, but Peter couldn’t get himself into a prayer meeting.” (http://www.sermonnotebook.org/new%20testament/Acts%2012_1-24.htm)
When we have prayed together and then see the answers of prayer together it is so much fun to rejoice together! I wish we had a record of every answer to pray we have encountered together. It would be so much fun to have a party where we just read those answers and rejoiced (and ate, of course).
As we move forward in our Capital Campaign, I want to tell you that prayer is the most important thing we can do together. Beginning this Wednesday, I will be in the sanctuary each Wednesday at noon to pray. I invite any of you who are available to join me. Pray for resources to miraculously pour into this ministry during this strategic time. Pray for what God would want you to commit to doing.
Let’s continue to come together, stay together, obey together, and rejoice together as we seek God in prayer.