So Peter was kept in prison,
but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5)
In Acts 12, Herod goes on a rampage and kills James and then proceeds to arrest Peter. How Peter is able to escape from prison is truly an amazing story. In summary, while he is sleeping between two soldiers, suddenly an angel appears who “struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his hands.” What a rude way to be awakened. But then we are told that the angel simply leads him past the sleeping guards, opening the gates ahead of him, and then leads him out into the city street and leaves him there. What so often gets overlooked in this amazing story is a little phrase in v.5—"but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” And then we are told in v.12 that immediately after the angel sets him free from prison, he went to the house of Mary “where many were gathered together and were praying.” Amazing things happen when God’s people come together in one place and pray. Yet often I have been disappointed by the very few who show up to prayer meetings. ‘If there is going to be some amazing Bible teacher, great!’ ‘If there is going to be coffee and donuts, I’ll be there!’ ‘If all we are going to do is pray, no thanks; I’ll skip that.’ I was once invited by a friend to attend a prayer meeting held at his rather large church every week. Four people showed up. I was one of the four, and I was not even a member. It is sad how often Christians say we believe the Bible is the very authoritative word of God, and yet we don’t believe Jesus when he says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (Jn. 14:13-14). Or, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (Jn. 15:16). Or, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Jn. 16:23-24). I certainly don’t ascribe to “name-it-and-claim-it” theology, but Jesus’ words must have meaning and weight. Otherwise, why did he say them? I don’t fully understand how prayer works, but I believe it does because Jesus said it does. So the next time you have an opportunity to join together with a group of believers to “just pray”, I hope you will, and then be amazed at what God does.
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