Acts 12:6-19: A very human story of prayer.
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 round 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 has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.’ 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 named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognised 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 other brothers and sisters 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. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
Most people reading this story will be able to identify with it at some level. We believe in the power of prayer sufficiently to pray earnestly, and sacrificially (after all, it was the middle of the night and many people had met to pray). Yet when the answer turned up, embodied, on their doorstep, they couldn’t believe it! That is so human. They were like men who dreamed. They had to pinch themselves to see if they really were awake. They were! And Peter was alive, and out of jail. As you read the story through, it is obvious that Peter was not intended to escape, and the meanness of Herod is writ large in his treatment of the guards who, in his eyes, were responsible for Peter’s break out.
Jack Hayford wrote a wonderful little book on prayer entitled, ‘Prayer is invading the impossible’. It is, and in this chapter we see one of its gloriously triumphant campaigns against evil. The impossible was invaded and ransacked.
By the way, Peter’s composure in the face of impending death (6) is testament to the peace of God which transcends all understanding. God can keep His people calm where the rest of mankind might panic and quake with fear. He’s a wonderful God. Choose to walk in His peace today. He’s in charge – not Herod!
PRAYER: Lord forgive my unbelieving, believing prayers, and strengthen my faith. I believe, help my unbelief.