Power of Prayer (Acts 12:1-12)
“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” (Acts 12:5, AV)
One winter evening in the Chicago area, our small church had a Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer meeting. Unbeknownst to us inside the building, it began snowing. When we finished our time together, we went outside and discovered four or five inches of fresh snow had fallen. This was not shock to us who lived in the area, so people began getting in their cars and leaving. However, one person, in a panicked state, told us that he had lost the keys to the car somewhere.
We searched the inside of the building for the keys and could not find them. Then we began searching outside in the dark. We had to get down on our hands and knees feeling with our bare hands in the snow, hoping that we would find the keys. Our hands were beginning to sting from the cold, but we kept on for some time. Finally in a state of frustration and being cold, we gathered at the entrance to the building on the stoop. We commiserated and began making plans to drive the person home when someone had a brilliant idea. “Let’s pray that we find the keys.”
We formed a circle on the stoop at the entrance to the building and linked our hands as we prayed. I do not remember the exact prayer, but it was that the Lord would miraculously have us find the keys. When we concluded the prayer with an amen, we all opened our eyes. Because our heads were bowed, when we opened our eyes, we all were focused on the center of the circle. It still seems unbelievable, but we all saw it at the same time. The man’s keys were exactly in the center of the circle, just laying there on top of the compacted snow. We learned two lessons that evening. First that we should pray first and then act second. The second was that corporate prayer is powerful.
In this passage, Herod had James the brother of John killed. When he saw how this pleased the Jews, he sought to continue his vicious attacks on the believers by arresting Peter, with the intent of taking him to the same demise. He put him in prison, heavily guarded until the time came. The Scripture indicates that the church, the ekklesia, referring to the assembly of believers, made unceasing prayer for Peter.
As we continue to read the account, we find that God delivered Peter from the prison in a miraculous way by sending an angel of the Lord. The angel woke Peter, released the chains from him, and led him out walking right by the first and second guard, and through the iron gate that opened itself to the city.
There are three things that we, the church should learn from this account. First, we must pray corporately. We may pray individually, but there are certain things in which God intends to work through corporate prayer. There is power in believers praying together.
Second, we must pray with fervency and continuously. The phrase “without ceasing” in the KJV is the Greek, ektenes ginomene, which refers to making intense and continuous activity. In this case, prayer.
Third, the church must learn to pray first and act second. Too often we get the priority backwards. This was our problem that night in the Chicago area when we began searching for the keys first and then prayed only when we were frustrated and nearly frozen. Pray first, act second.