TEXT: Acts 12:1-5
1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
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.
5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
We are in a series of messages titled “Praying Through the Bible: A Series on Every Passage and Verse Regarding Prayer in the Bible.” The purpose of this series is to encourage and motivate you to pray to the God of the Bible. We highlighted each of these over 500 verses and passages in the Prayer Motivator Devotional Bible. So far, we have completed 220 messages in this series.
This is message #221 titled, The Power of the Collective Prayer of the Church in the Face of Impossible Situations, Part 2.
As we return to this passage, we find the church at a critical moment. They are facing the specter of a new wave of persecution that has become all too real. James, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, has been killed. Herod the king has found that this pleases one of his major constituencies, the Jews, so he has decided to make it a new policy of his administration. He has followed through by arresting Peter, who was at this time the most high profile of Jesus’ disciples. But Herod wanted to make a spectacle of Peter’s death, so he decided to wait until after the Passover to have him crucified. Herod delivered Peter into the hands of 16 Roman soldiers who took turns watching over him in prison in a rotation of four-man squads. Herod thought he had the situation under control. He had Peter on lockdown; he had these Jesus-followers going underground. But that was Herod’s big mistake. His delay, if you will, gave God’s people room to work in prayer to God for him.
What did God’s people do when they heard the news that Peter was in prison? The Bible says, “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” Notice three things about the church’s action at this time.
First, notice the earnestness of their prayer. The Bible says they prayed “without ceasing.” However, the Greek word that is translated here does not have so much to do with how long or how often they prayed as it does with how fervently they prayed. The word is “ek-te-nos”; it means earnest and fervent. Dr. John MacArthur said, “This verb is related to a medical term describing the stretching of a muscle to its limits.” Luke, a doctor and the author of this book, knows all about this. He used the very same word to describe Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The church was serious about asking God to work on Peter’s behalf. Much of our praying lacks seriousness and earnestness. We just say words, but there is no real force of will behind them. We are, sadly, just going through the motions. Earnest prayer is effective because it shows that we sincerely care about those things which God cares about.
Not only did the church show earnestness in their prayer, notice also the Godwardness of their prayer. The fervency and earnestness of the church were directed to the right place. The Bible says, “Prayer was made unto God.” It might seem obvious, but we must choose to make God the central focus of our prayers. Sometimes, our focus is on ourselves, where we are only praying because we want something from God. Sometimes, our focus is on other people, where we are praying because we feel someone has offended us and we want God to resolve the situation by ‘dealing with’ the other person. Sometimes, our prayers are focused purely in self-righteousness, where we see ourselves as upright while we pray for the lost world, the culture going to hell in a handbasket, or the increasing secular influence in the government. God ought to be the central focus of our prayers. We can be reminded of this if we ask ourselves, how can God be glorified in this situation that I am praying about? Whatever the answer to that question is, pray with that in mind. When God’s glory is your central focus, you will be making the right requests in your prayer.
Not only did the church show earnestness in their prayer and Godwardness in their prayer, now notice the corporateness of their prayer. The Bible says, “Prayer was made of the church for him.” This was not just the pastor praying or a few deacons praying. This was the whole church praying to God on behalf of Peter. Too many churches have succumbed to the notion that there are only a few really spiritual people in the church, that there are only a few “prayer warriors” who can get in touch with God. The term “prayer warrior” is not found in the Bible. That is a misnomer (just like the term “servant leader”) — something extra-biblical that Christians came up with on their own. Prayer is not a spiritual gift and all Christians are commanded to pray without ceasing. Too many of us have abdicated our Christian responsibility to pray, falsely believing that others are more qualified or more worthy to do so. All of the church ought to be a praying church.
We see in the example of the early church an action plan for overcoming impossible situations. The action is prayer — earnest prayer, Godward prayer, corporate prayer.
Someone once wrote:
Let us work with the Lord through prayer,
Praying every time and everywhere.
He wants to use us to accomplish His will;
We will seek Him ’till His purpose is fulfilled.
Let us fellowship with God through prayer;
There is nothing else that can compare.
Lord, we realize there’s nothing we can do,
But all things are possible through You.
Let us fight on God’s side through prayer;
Over death, Christ’s victory we declare.
One with Him, we soar in prayer,
We fight as one for His kingdom everywhere.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.