Acts 12:1-5: Prayer changes things.

“It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”NIV

This was another difficult season for the church (1,2). It brought an outbreak of persecution which saw James executed, but Peter supernaturally delivered. This mysterious pattern has been worked out through all church history, and it shows itself in Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter, which depicts some suffering by faith and others conquering through faith (see especially 32-38).

Our passage today tells the story of a dramatic arrest (3). Herod liked to please his public, and it looks like he intended that Peter should meet the same end as James. But he reckoned without understanding the sovereign control of God. This story was to end badly for Herod, not for Peter (19b-24), and James’ martyrdom was not wasted. The blood of Christian martyrs is ‘seed’ leading to further growth.

We are brought face to face with a dynamic reality – the church’s prayer life (4,5). The story goes that Peter was securely guarded. There was no way that he was going to get out of prison. But he did! The little word ‘’but’’ in (5) is such a big word in truth. It is a mighty adversative. It shouts that however difficult the difficulty, however big the problem, our God is greater, bigger, mightier. He will always have the last word.

Later on in the chapter we see Peter persistently knocking at the door (16), and eventually it was opened to him. To my mind, that is a picture of what the church was doing. Let all who pray fervently know that they have promises to undergird them (See, for example, Luke11:9,10).